You've re-thought your recycling system, installed recycling stations with clear, simple signage, you've fired everyone up in a company-wide meeting, and everything is set for your recycling rates to rocket through the roof.
But nothing happens. Your new, clearly labelled waste streams lie forlorn and empty, and general waste is overflowing.
The problem is that you can fire up your staff and make it as easy for them as you possibly can, but nothing will happen if their mindset doesn't change. What you need is a green champion.
What is a green champion?
Simply put, their job is to change the mindset in your company; to create and maintain a culture of recycling and waste reduction. They're not a law-enforcer; not some-one who nags everyone to put their rubbish in the right bin. They lead by example and encouragement. They are a member of the team, not a manager. They are not a police officer, but a cheerleader.
What does their role include?
This can vary depending on how much recycling already happens in your company, but let's assume for now that you're starting pretty much from scratch, and have just launched a drive to increase your recycling rates. You've installed new recycling stations, educated everyone as to recycling, and launched the campaign at a motivational company-wide meeting.
What your green champion - let's call him George - will do now is keep the fire burning. He will be on the look out for people among the staff who aren't recycling as much as they could be, and find out why. He will strive to squash any negative feeling about the campaign, and will do his best to maintain the feeling of duty that everyone had when they walked out of that fire-up meeting.
If George does his job, there will come a time when staff mindset changes and recycling is simply a habit. But that doesn't mean George's job is done; there are always greater heights to strive for. George can now start new drives on other issues around creating less waste and reducing impact on the environment. Some initiatives could be:
- Promoting re-usable coffee cups and water bottles.
- Installing a water cooler so staff can re-fill bottles with chilled, filtered water.
- Encouraging staff to be more economical with their printing; do we need to print anything in this digital age?
- Adjusting printer settings; a lot of printers have a 'draft' setting which uses a lot less ink but is perfectly good enough quality for most office use.
What you will find now is your company's environmental sustainability just keeps improving. If George is worth his salt, he will create a culture in the company of all staff making their own commitments to improving the company's sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. What started as a campaign to increase recycling rates can turn your company into industry leaders in sustainability and circular economy.
What are the qualities of a green champion?
George's role is essentially change management, which is probably something you've had to deal with before. Some essential qualities for this are:
- Unwavering energy and enthusiasm for the campaign
- Excellent interpersonal skills; a good listener, empathetic, with clear communication skills and the ability to build rapport
- Creativity in execution - ability to be flexible in dealing with resistors to the campaign
- Excellent facilitation skills - ability to coach those who are unsure of themselves
What are the day-to-day duties of a green champion?
These will vary according to the stage of the campaign, but let's stick with the example of George and your recycling campaign.
Closely monitoring recycling levels
- Keeping track as much as possible of individual performance
- Encouraging resistors and those who are unsure of themselves
- Congratulating those who are doing well or improving
- Publicising achievements of individuals and overall performance of the company
- Noting particular efforts to reduce waste by staff members and sharing these ideas
Communicating with management
- Acting as a link between the leaders of the campaign and the staff
- Keeping management clearly in touch with the progress of the campaign at ground level
- Allowing management to celebrate achievements at company meetings and in company communication channels
- Working with campaign leaders to come up with ideas for pushing the company to greater heights in sustainability
- Being a constant positive force for the campaign
- Keeping negativity at a minimum in conversations among staff
- Changing staff mindset around recycling and waste reduction
- Creating a culture of sustainable behaviour among all staff
How to find your green champion
After reading this post, you may have a clear idea of who your 'George' is, but you may have a blank mind. To make this work, it's vital that you find the right person. Of course, they need to be as closely aligned as possible to the qualities listed above, but here are a few key things to bear in mind:
- They must be passionate. This is by far the most important feature. They need to have limitless passion about environmental sustainability.
- They must be willing. They have to throw themselves whole-heartedly into their role if they're going to be successful.
- They must be likeable. They need to be a good people person who is able to go around telling people to recycle without causing offence or annoying anyone.
Hopefully now you've got a good idea of how to appoint and train a green champion. Time to sit back and watch your recycling rates rocket through the roof!
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