SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Suzanne Henricksen created a community outreach program for her marketing department at The Clorox Co., which led to quarterly volunteer events.
Shoshannah Lenski headed a team that developed a greenhouse gas reduction strategy for her firm, the Boston Consulting Group.
Over at Best Buy, Hamlin Metzger helped jumpstart the company’s volunteer Social Responsibility Network in 2005. The group now exceeds 200 and Metzger recently became the company’s first senior manager of corporate responsibility.
They are all members of Net Impact, a network of students and professionals committed to corporate social responsibility, and are among 15 "intrapreneurs" who are successfully combining sustainability ideals with traditional corporate job functions. Net Impact, in partnership with eBay, today released a new report on the intrapreneurs titled, "Making Your Impact at Work: A Practical Guide to Changing the World From Inside Any Company."
The report identifies common themes that emerged in the intrapreneurs' stories and offers a model which others may follow for a variety of socially responsible projects.
All of the projects launched by the intrapreneurs started with a clear business case. A campaign co-led by Jason McBriarty to eliminate bottled water at Levi Strauss corporate meetings and cafeterias, for example, saves the company about $40,000 annually. Other projects boosted employee engagement, aided employee professional development, and created new business opportunities.
These projects wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if intrapreneurs hadn’t leveraged the power of their colleagues via teams and established metrics by which they measured progress.
"Understand your baseline," Lenski, of Boston Consulting Group, advised in the report. "Take the time to understand what people are interested in and where your company stands before you start implementing a project."
Delivering results depended on three strategies. First, the projects had to engage stakeholders. Henricksen of Clorox, for instance, relied on colleagues to spread the word about her community volunteer program.
"I just needed ambassadors to help me spread awareness of the project," she said in the report. "It is not much of a time commitment for them, but it is a huge help to me in terms of program participation and overall success"
Each project also required a variety of resources. Although intrapreneurs didn’t have funding to begin with, they secured needed resources and juggled the project work with their everyday responsibilities.
Finally, the projects needed scalability. Betsy Hansen’s efforts to reduce and phase out paper use in the promotion of Sun Microsystems’ JavaOne conference -- which shaved the event’s environmental footprint by 4.63 tons of paper and 13 tons of waste -- are now applied to all events whenever possible.
"After avoiding waste through our direct mailings for the JavaOne conference non-printing initiative, the principle became a standard across our events," Hansen said in the guide.
Aside from helping develop leadership skills for these intrapreneurs, the projects also led to new internal positions. In addition to Best Buy’s Metgzer, who became the company’s first corporate responsibility senior manager, McBriarty’s volunteer experience with Levi’s green team helped him land a job as the company’s director of strategic finance for sustainability and citizenship.
John Rockwell, a lead quality manager in U.S. restaurant design at McDonald’s, helped create the company’s first formal green building strategy and oversaw the construction of its first green restaurant. The project led to the creation of a new job Rockwell now assumes: sustainability manager in U.S. restaurant design.
"It is very rewarding," Rockwell said, "to have something that I am so passionate about and spent so much time to make happen become a full-time job."