Anyone can start a sustainability group at their organisation and I encourage you to give it a go. You’ll most likely be surprised how popular it will be. And even if it won’t and if that’s the biggest blocker stopping you, just think – what’s the worst thing can happen? Probably that nobody shows up to your kick off meeting. If that ends up being the case – so what. The very least you’ve shown initiative. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum is the possibility that you’ll create a mini-movement and you’ll regularly receive positive feedback. This is what happened to me. Today I’d like to share how I made that happen and remember – so can you.
Before I list the tips and actions I’d like to highlight a rather crucial element. You’ll be more successful starting a sustainability group, or any other initiative for that matter, if that aligns with your values and purpose. If it aligns with your values you’ll be passionate and that will show through making it a lot easier for you to get people on board. For example one of my values is making a difference and that matches very well with trying to create a sustainability working group.
The first area I’d like to cover is starting.
Ask around if there is a group already. If you don’t know who to ask try HR or a similar function – they’re always happy to help.
If there isn’t a group, put in a meeting and share within your network. Also, when putting in the meeting be conscious of the language you use. For example a “sustainability” group will most likely get more interest than an “environmental” group.
In the kick off session explore what people are interested in. I’d advise to start the meeting by letting everyone introduce themselves and explain why sustainability is important to them or why they attended the session. That will help everyone feel included and make sure everyone has a chance to share their point of view. If nobody else attends you can still have a kick off session.
In short, just start!
Build a profile
The second area of focus is to build a profile for the group.
Once you know the areas you’d initially like to look into – based on the kick off session – start chipping away at them. It might also be useful to create working groups. Especially if you have more than 10 people and / or more than one focus. I cannot stress enough that it’s not sensible to try to address all of the areas in one go. Instead start small.
The first thing we did in our group was to map the sustainability information we had in the business. For that you might want to find out who in the organisation has knowledge of the relevant info. If you have any relevant policies ask who looks after them, or speak to the person ordering supplies. You can then start asking questions like do we monitor our energy consumption and if we do, could the group get hold of the data or who is waste management provider. Map that information to highlight where you’re missing information. Also, based on this newly mapped info it’s easier to decide what to pursue first.
Then, it would be sensible to find an area to tackle with tangible and visible outputs. In our organisation we had a canteen and we worked with stakeholders to reduce single use items – mainly plastics – in the canteen. Blue Planet II had aired few months earlier. Blue Planet II is a documentary series, presented by Sir David Attenborough, exploring the planet’s oceans and also highlighted the issue of plastics in the ocean. As it had brought the plastics issue into the mainstream consciousness it made it easier for us to implement the changes in the canteen.
Once you’ve seen that people are interested or the very least haven’t objected to the work that has been going on so far go bigger. Be bold. We organised a sustainability week for all staff.
In summary, just give starting a sustainability group a go. You’ll be surprised how many of your colleagues are interested. And even if there is just you it’s worth pursuing as you’ll learn about the organisation, you learn what might be the reasons people didn’t join and you’ll most certainly get to know people who you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Do you have a sustainability group in your organisation or community?
If you’re part of a sustainability group what is the most important thing you’ve done to get the momentum going?