Moving One Step Ahead

Environment, Sustainability, Renewables, Conservation, Water Quality, Green Building — And How to Talk about it All!

Gaining Top-Level Support for a Green Initiative

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You’ve decided that your organization needs to go green. You have the support of most of the staff. You’ve started meeting as a team and have come up with a draft plan. You also know that to be successful, you’ll need the support of the top tier of your organization, whether it’s the CEO, executive director, board, or president.

Failure to garner top-level support for an environmental sustainability initiative could kill it quickly and quietly. But where do you begin? Unfortunately each situation is unique and will require a slightly different approach. The size of your company, the personalities involved, its mission and goals, will all determine the approach you should take. Fortunately, there are a few simple rules you definitely should follow regardless:

  • Don’t over-promise. While many initiatives do end up saving money, there is no guarantee that this will happen. So before you promise your board or CEO that going green will save millions (or even thousands) of dollars, remain as conservative as possible in your estimates. And if you’re not sure, don’t commit.
  • Show the value. While keeping in mind the above, be sure to site the benefits of going green. Both the measurable, like money and energy, and the not-so measurable, like increased customer loyalty, improved employee productivity.
  • Do your homework. To even begin to site some measurable statistics, you’ll need to at least have some idea of how much your organization can cut back and where. Homework also includes understanding where you will find the greatest value for your organization. Which brings us to …
  • Measure, measure, measure. Ideally you’ve started to track some of your company’s metrics – energy and water use, waste generation – as this will provide your baseline. These are the figures with which you will begin.
  • Site peer pressure. Find out what others in your industry are doing. Your customers, your suppliers, your competitors. Find a few that have made a commitment to sustainability and tell their stories. No one wants to fall behind the competition or fail on their customer’s expectations.
  • Ask for input. You don’t need everything written in stone, but do have a draft plan on which you can ask for input. Looking to the people within your own organization for ideas will generate enthusiasm and ownership, especially from the top.
  • Try pairing projects. If one strategy might cost money, but another will save it, then present them together. For instance, if you want to purchase more expensive renewable fuels, then pair it with energy efficiency measures that will reduce your energy use. Together, you might be able to show a neutral financial impact.
  • Keep it simple, but relevant. Your sustainability initiatives should feel like a natural extension of your company. And it certainly doesn’t need to be complicated. Start small, but think big.

Following these steps will not guarantee success in gaining support, but it will put the odds in your favor. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed, ask for forgiveness, not permission. Wait, I think I got something wrong there…


Author: Elizabeth Striano

Elizabeth Striano is a science writer and editor and owner of A Green Footprint LLC, which provides communications and sustainabiilty consulting services to environmental consulting firms, nonprofits, and a variety of businesses and organizations.

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