Climate Corps 2010: Pairing a Green Plan With a Corporate Culture

EDF Climate Corps

Climate Corps 2010: Pairing a Green Plan With a Corporate Culture

Image CC licensed by Flickr user crazytales562

In a press release issued just three weeks prior to the start of my EDF Climate Corps fellowship at J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (JCP), the company publically announced its environmental goal to “reduce facility energy consumption 20 percent per gross square foot by 2015.” 

A goal of this magnitude may seem daunting to most companies, but JCP’s long list of energy management conquests demonstrates that this is just another day at the office for one of the world’s leading retailers.

Already with 141 Energy Star qualified stores and counting, more than $130 million invested in energy efficiency facilities upgrades, the world’s third largest LEED Gold certified headquarters building, and a recently LEED Silver certified store in Fairview, TX, JCP is looking to other means to tackle its new energy reduction goals: employee engagement.

This is where I come in. While the majority of the 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellows will be scouring their respective company buildings for capital projects such as lighting retrofits and HVAC upgrades, I have been asked to design a strategic initiative to engage the approximately 5,500 corporate associates in JCP’s Home Office building. The goal will be to incentivize and motivate the associates to think, act, and behave with energy conservation at the forefront of their attentions.

Over the last seven weeks, my project has taken me to the four corners of the company. I’ve visited stores from San Jose, Calif., to Waxahachie, Texas; interviewed Home Office associates in departments from product development to engineering and women’s accessories; and even crossed paths with supermodel-turned-fashion designer Cindy Crawford and five-time Olympic medal winning gymnast Nastia Liukin!

My research into JCP’s corporate culture has revealed three primary ways that associates view the environment:

Heart -- These associates don’t just do environmental awareness, they are environmental awareness. Caring for and preserving the environment is an integral part of their core values, and they fully expect the company that they work for to also exhibit similar morals.
Hand -- These associates were educated on environmental awareness at a young age and have since adopted behaviors such as recycling and energy conservation. Their environmental stewardship is no longer deliberate, but rather reactive and permanently ingrained into their everyday routines.
Head -- Understanding that resources are limited, these associates exhibit behaviors based largely on sound rationale and logic. Their decisions weigh heavily on finance (cost savings) or convenience (time savings), with the positive externality of environmental benefit filling an important but lower priority.

Having properly segmented my target audience, my next step will be to craft the messages that must be delivered to each group. Each message will be derived from the idea of energy conservation but translated into a different language.

The “Heart” segment: Special attention will be given to JCP’s track record of environmental stewardship and how individual energy saving behaviors can add up to make a big impact on the environment.

The “Hand” segment: Providing organized, reliable, and consumable information surrounding energy saving behaviors will be crucial.

The “Head” segment: I must make the business case by presenting compelling, financially-driven evidence that energy savings will have a positive effect on JCP’s bottom line and bolster overall company health.

Even though my time with JCP will come to an end long before the tactical execution of this program, it’s still exciting to know that the seed I plant will have a lasting effect on the company, its associates and its commitment to energy efficiency.

Yih-Wei Chien is a 2010 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at J.C. Penney Company, Inc., an MBA/MS candidate at the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan, and a Net Impact member. Further coverage of the Climate Corps program is available at GreenBiz.com/edfclimatecorps. This content originally appeared on the Environmental Defense Fund Innovation Exchange Blog.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user crazytales562.