Skip to main content

Building a Green Company Culture, One Day at a Time

<p>We want environmental sustainability to be a core value -- like quality and customer responsiveness. So how do you instill environmental considerations into every operation of a company? It requires a culture change, and that&#39;s always the hardest thing to do.</p>

At the highest level, my mission is to have the interdependencies between our business, the environment, and society are identified and explicit in our strategy, and to integrate consideration of the opportunities and risks from environmental and social developments into our day-to-day decision-making.

Lots of books on environmental strategy. Lots on why we want to engage employees. Tomes on corporate culture abound. Read all about setting goals and reporting. But how the heck do you instill environmental considerations into every operation of the company?

What we want is for environmental sustainability to be a core value -- like quality and customer responsiveness.  When confronted with a choice, it is the rare person at EMC that would neglect to ask what the impact would be on Total Customer Experience. Environmental considerations haven't achieved that level of consciousness yet, but we're working on it. It requires a culture change, and that's always the hardest thing to do.

But we shouldn't discount the value of basic blocking and tackling; of picking off well-established processes and consciously building sustainable thinking into them. Granted, there's an argument to be made that this is incrementalism -- that the transformation we need won't come from prettying up existing processes, but from fundamentally breaking them and building new ones built from first principles of ecology.

As it happens, I agree with that.

On the other hand, incrementalism has a role to play. Formalizing responsibilities is a statement to our employees that it's important to the company. It puts it front of mind every time a process step raises the issue -- and it may be the mind that has the next big idea. Though the changes may be small -- they can move an organization just enough to see the really big possibilities.

There are some things I'm hoping to do but haven't achieved yet - such as building environmental cost and value into all of our business case templates.  But here are some things that we are doing:

  • Environmental criteria are have been integrated into our structured process for evaluating new hardware designs.
  • We've added an environmental section into our standard M&A Due Diligence framework, so we have a sense for how potential acquisitions would affect our performance before the deal is done.
  • We've built basic principles into New Hire Training and are now creating a 20-minute online training module for all employees.
  • A document called "Principles of Environmental Sustainability" is under formal control and posted in the Corporate Policies and Procedures repository, and on the Environmental Sustainability site. It provides guidance in areas of waste reduction, energy consumption, reporting, etc.
  • This year, we added a Sustainability Innovation Award to our annual Innovation Conference competition.
  • We've built environmental criteria into our installation audits process.
  • We're incorporating environmental metrics into our Quality Management System (because after all, no matter how long it lasts or how well it performs, a quality product also minimizes its effects on environment and human health).
  • Environmental and social performance KPIs are included in our supplier scorecards.
  • Our Voice of the Customer surveys have started to include questions about our environmental performance, as well as our ability to help our customers.

One of our passionate employees is even working today to get her facility's Hallowe'en Decorations judging panel to incorporate material re-use into their rating system!

There's plenty more that I don't even know about. (Mixed feelings: I want to know about them, but how cool is it that it's happening organically?) And plenty more still to do. We don't need to invent it all -- so if you have suggestions, we're all ears!

Kathrin Winkler is senior director and chief sustainability officer at EMC Corporation.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Rick.


More on this topic