Every day at the office, employees at your company face choices with implications for the environment and the company budget. "Am I going to power down my PC during my lunch break -- or leave it running?" "Should I print this entire twelve-page document, single-sided and in color -- or just print the four pages I need, double-sided and in black and white?"
A surprising assortment of factors will influence their decision, and many of them may be based on groundwork you've laid for them.
Yes, there are good technology solutions out there, such as PC-power management tools and print-monitoring software, that can force employees to make some prudent green choices. Ultimately, though, technology can only do so much to combat the kind of wasteful tendencies that become ingrained in employees' daily routine. More often than not, those tendencies result from a company's culture more than a person's aversion to be greener.
Fortunately, companies are finding ways to encourage employees not only to be more mindful of the choices they make but to truly drive change that leads to a meaningful corporate-cultural shift toward sustainability.
"People are inspired and intrigued by a culture that they see as having creativity and meaning and a higher purpose," says Christina Page, director of climate and energy strategy at Yahoo. "You can inspire your employees by tapping into their creativity and desire to make the world a better place."
At first blush, it might seem that the environmental effect of printing a couple of extra color copies is unimportant or that leaving a system or lights or A/C on for a few extra hours is negligible.
Thing is, small acts of waste can scale significantly. Let's say a non-green choice costs 50 cents, be it in paper, ink, watts, gasoline, whatever. If you have 500 employees, and each makes just one non-green choice per day, you're looking at $250 being tossed in the can daily. At the end of the year, that's $62,500 worth of wasted resources (assuming 50 five-day work weeks). That affects your bottom line and your company's impact on the environment.
Planting green seeds
So what are companies doing to foster a greener mindset among employees? Let's look at Fujitsu. The company last year launched an internal program called Eco2Cost, through which the company trains employees on the environmental and financial impact of conservation measures, then encourages them to submit specific proposals to cut waste through reduction, reuse, and recycling.
The program is based on a concept called Mottainai, used by Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. It means "how wasteful that we do not take advantage of the full value of things."