Typically, Green Teams are self-organized, grassroots and cross-functional groups of employees who voluntarily come together to identify and implement specific solutions to help their organization operate in environmentally sustainable ways.
Your team’s approach should be created and implemented in ways that reflect the team’s dynamic. A green team is sometimes started by an active employee, sometimes mandated from above, or a combination of the two. Below you will find information to help you get started:
1. Get support from top-level management
The best place to start is by getting the approval of top management to create a team that will look for ways to improve sustainability at work. Management’s role will be to sort through the ideas and decide what’s actionable.
More and more organizations view corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a sound investment and there is growing demand for products and services that are brought to market in environmentally friendly ways. Your job as a green team will be to clearly present the actions you’d like to take and the benefits they will have for the organization and greater community. Find ways to keep and bolster your grassroots energy!
2. Seek representation from all departments
In order to reach as many staff as possible, particularly within large organizations, it is important to have representatives from each department, with each person acting as leader/champion and within their respective area. It’s much easier to reach your goals with broad participation and collective enthusiasm and accountability for reaching your goals.
3. Seek committed and participative members
Green teams discuss and share ideas for initiatives, events and activities that will improve sustainability practices at work. Team members will act as the eyes and ears of the organization, making observations and suggestions about ways to improve and implement sustainable practices at work. Enthusiastic, dedicated and active members are needed in order to keep the momentum going. The more people, the merrier!
4. Establish a structure with defined meeting times and guidelines
Creating a structure for a green team will look different in each organization. Some teams may be more comfortable operating in an organic fashion, while others may require some assistance in getting started and retaining membership. Whatever form your team takes, it’s very important to have regularly scheduled meetings where you can share ideas, discuss expectations, and set and review goals. If some are unable to attend regular meetings, the team might consider proposing a more specific role for those people, one that compliments the role of the team.
Find ways to engage others that work for your organization – emails and posters may work for some organizations, others may find it more helpful to embed a discussion about sustainability issues into regular office meetings.
5. Foster collaboration, welcome ideas
Be inclusive and respectful of all team members. This helps to encourage members to share their ideas and have their voices heard. This mutual respect encourages co-operation, greater participation among members and collaboration towards the greater goals of the team and organization. Be sure to reach outside of the green team for inspiration: engage other employees (at all levels) to learn what ideas they may have, and follow up with them. This demonstrates your commitment to making all stakeholders a valued part of the team.
6. Create a shared purpose, goals
Encourage people to contribute according to their needs, interests and preferences. Meetings are a welcome place for an exchange of ideas that lead to action. When defining your goals, consider how your team will measure success. Keep focused on the goals and outcomes of the meeting and discuss interesting ways to spark employee engagement and inspire action.
7. Define a plan of action
An initial step of the green team is to gather data about sustainable practices currently enacted in the organization. For example, to get started have a discussion about the following:
- What resources are available to the team (human and financial)?
- What possible barriers there are to the group’s success?
- What (if any) initiatives were tried in the past that did or did not work?
- What are our goals? How will we measure our success?
These steps help to shape the team’s action plan by creating identifiable goals and working towards achieve them.
8. Active and results-oriented
Consider incorporating items from the following list into your green team’s action plan. This helps the organization understand your team’s goals, responsibilities:
- Identification of members (and leader(s) if applicable)
- A commitment from top-level management to support the team
- Areas on which the team will focus
- Current metrics and opportunities for savings
- A description of how the program will benefit the organization, the community, and the environment
- Encourage idea sharing and participation from employees outside of the core green team.
- Explain that the success of the program is dependent on participation from all employees.
9. Shares and celebrates success
Always show appreciation to your green team members! These employees are contributing their time and ideas and it is important they are recognized, valued and even rewarded at times. For example, your organization might consider rewarding the team with small tokens of appreciation such as a mug, re-usable bag or even a bonus work-from-home day, which provide encouragement to make better choices and continue living sustainably. Find ways to communicate your success and progress to non-green team members – maybe through a green team newsletter – it might inspire them to join you!
10. Be positive and engaging, make it fun!
One sure fire way to get people on board with your message is to make it fun. Consider a contest or challenges between departments with small prizes for the winners. Look for simple, low-cost activities such as sweater contests (ugliest, funniest, craziest, etc) in the winter to drive home the point that you can reduce energy use and costs simply by wearing a sweater. Take advantage of existing events, such as Earth Hour and Earth Day to help spread your message.