Long-term sustainable growth is important to building a successful company. In the final installment of her four-part series "Growing a Green Corporation: Meeting the Next Great Disruptive Challenge of the 21st Century," Brandi McManus provides a blueprint for building a green team. Here are Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of her series.

How to Build a Green Team: The First Step to Sustainability

In the first three parts of this series on how to grow a green corporation, we discussed why it is important to build sustainability into your business plan, how you might assess the positive and negative impacts of sustainability and the different levels of sustainability (or shades of green). So how do you take the first step? How do you create an environmental program with employee support and buy-in that creates lasting changes in your business?
Growing A Green Corporation
This four-part series covers ...
• Reading the Signs of Change
• Assessing the Impacts of Environmental Pressure
• Investing in Sustainability: Shades of Green
• Building Your Green Team

The best place to start is by collecting a group of individuals in your organization who have some passion about the topic of green or the environment. Let's call it your Green Team. But before launching this team, here are some ground rules to ensure success.

Rules of the Green Team

To begin on the path to corporate environmental responsibility, it is important to begin with a frank, executive-level discussion about where you are and where you want to be. Not every company will want to transform its business model to begin offering eco-friendly cars and renewable energy. However, it is possible that every company could fix the basics and take steps toward reducing its impact on the world.

Rule 1: Executive support - One member of the team must be from the executive staff to show not only executive buy-in but also have access to the management team so that decisions can be made quickly. The goal of this group member is to:
• Listen openly to ideas from the team
• Guide discussions toward actionable plans
• Set expectations for direction of the team and funding
Image by larar

Rule 2: Commitment
- The executive team must commit to reviewing the suggestions and discoveries of the team with the intention to take action. All your employees will be watching the actions of this team. If every idea is swatted down by management, then you may be doing more harm than good to morale. Make sure that this team is empowered to make real change in your organization.

Rule 3: Diversity - Other members of the team should be from different divisions and groups and hold positions. Have one person from sales, operations, manufacturing/quality, human resources, accounting and maybe even the receptionist. You can designate these members or ask for volunteers to get the most passionate and engaged people involved in your team.

Rule 4: Size
- Limit the size of the team to 10 to 12 people. While this number may seem small for very large organizations, it is very difficult to get anything accomplished in very large teams. However, while the team is small, it is possible to have the delegate from manufacturing create his own small team in his group to give him ideas to bring back to the group.

Rule 5: Unleash the creativity of your people
- This is one excellent opportunity to tap the resources that companies spend billions to recruit and retain. Encourage the team to think of creative ideas to reduce waste and energy or increase the durability of products. Make it clear that this is not just a cost-cutting exercise but a way to increase the value of your products while having an impact on the planet.

What should the team do?

In the first meeting, the team can start with a discussion of the http://www.greenbiz.com/feature/2009/03/23/investing-sustainability " target="_blank">four levels of green companies discussed earlier in this series. Are you a Level 1 now and want to be a Level 3? Are you a Level 3 now and just want to find undiscovered opportunities? Make sure that you get the opinion of every team member to see the perspective of the employees. It is possible that the company is already doing very good things that do not get attention.

Images by michelleho and larar