The key factors for the successful evolution of green teams in generating enterprise value, and ultimately sustainable business transformation, were identified as:
1. Strong Executive Support
Buy-in at the highest levels of the organization means that green teams are aligned with the company's goals and the companies themselves view sustainability as an issue that is an important part of their business values and foundation. Executives must view their work on an equal footing with new product or service development or launch. In short, the competitive advantage of effective green teams must be understood and embraced.
2. Close Alignment with the Company's Sustainability Goals
Providing a specific charter for alignment with the company's overarching sustainability goals ensures that green teams understand what they can do specifically to support these goals and increases employee engagement and sense of purpose. This line-of-sight alignment helps to prevent green team participation from being merely something else the employees need to get to, and helps drive their work to the core of the enterprise.
3. The Presence of a Centralized Leader
Structured guidance and governance provided by a centralized sustainability leader ensures greater green team alignment with the company's sustainability goals and provides a conduit for capturing the green teams' ideas back into the corporation.
4. High Diversity Amongst Team Members
Green teams are more successful both in the planning and execution of initiatives when they include representatives from different business units and departments who can provide diverse perspectives and insights to an overall holistic operation. New employees should be included, as well as those with diverse cultural and corporate experience, including time spent working abroad.
5. Systems for Creating, Measuring and Tracking Initiatives
Formal measurements, indicators, systems and processes are necessary to quantify the outcomes of the green teams and to capture ideas that will drive product and service innovations, increase operational efficiencies in the workplace, and keep the business on the cutting edge of its industry. The expected impact or outcomes, measurably defined, for these green teams needs to be considered and defined at the outset.
Employee-led green teams will continue to inspire, lead, transform and contribute enterprise value to corporate operations. But a green team is no different than a working mothers group or any other type of team -- they all need systems and tools that will allow them to channel their ideas into existing business systems, and to do so in a way that can create user-generated change.
This reinforces the basic foundational concepts of sustainability management: Enterprise transformation for sustainable value has to be systemic and exist within the frameworks at the core of an organization, not at the fringe.
Change can be cosmetic and transient. It is externally driven and can easily be reversed. Transformation is core, fundamental, and lasting. It comes from finding shared sense of purpose through meaningful collaboration, from within enterprise, and as such represents evolution of culture.
Our research also stands as an excellent reminder that change management, business transformation and sustainability fundamentally require the same rules of engagement to succeed and sustain over the long term. So, while employee-led teams' focus or passion may differ, operational support and systems, and an underlying culture of innovation at the core of the organization must be granted so that ideas can become tangible, actionable initiatives that create generative change.
Edward Quevedo is a partner and the chair of the Sustainability Practice Group at Paladin Law Group. Leilani Latimer leads Global Sustainability Initiatives for Sabre Holdings, a leading provider of high-performance travel solutions.
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