Knowledge

How to Successfully Build and Lead a Corporate Green Team

The sustainable transformation of the business world is in full swing: more and more companies are committing to net-zero emissions and developing sustainability strategies. But when it comes to implementing major sustainable changes internally, many companies regularly reach their limits. 

And that is despite the fact that the current generation of top talent is evaluating their job offers based on the company's social and environmental commitment. 

So enabling and supporting employees who want to get involved in sustainability-related topics can not only contribute to climate action but also to a higher attractiveness for potential and existing employees in the war of talents.

A great way of promoting this involvement is the foundation of so-called Green Teams. This will not only engage employees, but above all drive real impact in the company when it comes to sustainability efforts.

What is a Green Team?

A Green Team is a group of employees meeting regularly to identify opportunities to improve sustainability in their company and develop actionable solutions that help their organisation operate in a more environmentally sustainable way. 

Typically, the initial focus lies on the sustainable improvement of office operations, but it can also address the inclusion of customers, employees' private lives or corporate sustainability on a larger scale. 

Sounds great? Then let’s talk about how to successfully set up a Green Team.

How to Successfully set up Your Green Team

1. Get Management Commitment 

Before the team can really start to act, it should be clear that management supports the idea and gives the Green Team full support to exist. It should be discussed in advance which authorities the team has to implement ideas and what time budget the members can invest in the work. A supportive management team should also underline the importance of its Green Team. It can be a good idea for management to take over the communication of the Green Team from time to time - either internally to other employees or externally to the public.

2. Coming Together: Diversity and Responsibilities

When assembling your Green Team, make sure that it is made up of members from different departments of your organisation. This ensures that all areas and levels of the company are considered.

Also, it is recommended to keep the group relatively small. The more participants the team gets, the more difficult it will be not only to find regular appointments, but above all to ensure that an open exchange takes place in which everyone gets a chance to speak.

Within the team there should be a clear distribution of responsibilities and accountabilities. Make sure that tasks are evenly assigned, otherwise one could quickly be tempted to sit back and let others do the work. 

There is, of course, no hard and fast rule for the frequency of Green Team meetings. This is totally dependent on each member's time available. However, a weekly or bi-weekly meeting schedule may be appropriate at the beginning. Once all responsibilities have been clarified, the frequency can of course be reduced.

Especially with busy schedules it can be tempting to work on Green Team related tasks or set meetings outside the working hours. You surely can talk to your colleagues about the Green Team or share ideas during lunch, but official Green Team meetings and the work related to it should definitely take place during working hours. This is enormously important not only for the members themselves, but also for other colleagues and management to show the importance of the Green Team. The Green Team should not be something that can be done "on the side", but something that is of great importance!

3. Evaluate Where Your Company Stands

In order to improve your own business activities, you first need to be aware of where your company stands in terms of sustainability. If you haven't already done so, now is the time to calculate your company's current carbon footprint. Only those who know the current status quo can set measurable goals for the future and, in retrospect, draw conclusions whether measures taken by the team were successful.

Of course, we at Planetly are happy to accompany you on this path. Additionally, you can also look at common emission driving areas and aim to implement some quick changes: Where do you get your electricity from, what is your travel policy, how sustainable are your suppliers etc.

Our Green Team here at Planetly also started with a status quo check. We looked at our carbon footprint from 2021, identified our biggest emission drivers and also collected input and ideas from all Green Team members for actions they would like to take in the company. 

4. Align Green Team Activities with Your Company Culture

When building a Green Team, you should always keep one thing in mind: Not all companies are the same and therefore tips that might work for one might be harder to implement in another one. Be it a fast-moving startup or a large international company group - a Green Team can make a great impact in all of them, but the successful implementation can be different depending on the type of company. 

Let’s assume you’re working in a start-up consisting of just a few employees with flexible structures and a low level of bureaucracy. Here, it can make sense not to invest too much time in planning, as the company's way of working is one that thrives on actions and fast pace. Implementing some first EasyWins like introducing waste separation in the office fits these quick actions and will attract the attention of the most employees. 

In a larger corporation, on the other hand, things can look very different: 

Perhaps the focus here is strongly on the company's strategy or on theoretical models? In this case, it may make sense not to plunge directly into the operational work, but to first assign the measures of the Green Team to these strategic pillars and to link them to mission statements and to the various fields of action. As many corporate strategies today include sustainability anyway, this can often be done easily. Classifying the Green Team in the overall picture of the company and pointing out its place in the corporate strategy can be very useful here in order to gain acceptance from other colleagues and management. 

It is, however, important to keep in mind that this is not only black or white: such an embedding in the corporate structure can also make sense for startups and, at the same time, even if it is initiated via the strategy, the immediate implementation of two or three smaller measures is possible. The only important thing is that you know your own company and have a feeling for how best to implement changes.

5.  Actions, Actions, Actions

Let's talk about the most important thing: the measurements and activities a Green team can undertake. In everyday office life, there are so many ways you can reduce your company's carbon footprint easily and without making big changes. 

Often these are things that have long since become a norm in most homes. Here is a first small list of starting points that you will probably find in almost every company (of course there are many more):

  • Switch to online meetings
  • Establish a sustainable travel policy
  • Reduce plastic
  • Separate waste
  • Think before you print
  • Turn of electronic devices when not needed
  • Provide sustainable office snacks
  • Encourage cycling to work

6. Communicate and Keep Employees Motivated & Engaged

Awareness and Knowledge Sharing

The members of the Green Team can be the ones to initiate these measures, but of course they should be implemented by all employees of the company together. Therefore, it is important to communicate the activities of the Green Team internally and to encourage employees to participate. Regular meetings or knowledge hours can also help to share the Green Team's knowledge about the company's footprint or the climate crisis in general and raise awareness about these issues. Only if people know why certain measures are being taken will they support them. This can, of course, also work through fixed time slots of the Green Team in already existing company meetings. 

At Planetly, for example, the Green Team introduced a regular format - the Planetly Climate News - hosted by the Green Team in our bi-weekly All Hands meetings. We use this format to share good and bad news around climate change to keep the teams up to date.

Communication

Find good ways for your employees to be intrinsically motivated. 

It can also be fun to make your own company more climate-friendly: How about a small challenge, for example, in which the different departments compete against each other? Which department manages to cover the most kilometres by bicycle in a month? This playful approach can also serve as a communication tool: You could put little notes on your office walls reminding people to separate waste or to turn off the lights.

Planetly's Green Team at work

Celebrate Successes

It is not only challenges and problems that need to be shared, but also all the small successes and positive developments of your teams’ journey. Share internally what is going well, what has already been achieved through Green Team actions and celebrate these successes, however small they may be: this will keep everyone motivated to continue in the future!

Planetly's Green Team sharing updates on Slack
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