Sustainable Business Practices and Sustainable Organizations, a session moderated by Jeff Wharton, president of IMPulse NC LLC, at the American Public Transportation Association's Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop looked at four different approaches to sustainability.
Danielle Willis, the planning team leader/sustainability coordinator for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) , talked about leveraging sustainability through employee engagement for a competitive future.
Initially they looked at defining sustainable operations. Employee/stakeholder engagement usually comes afterward, Willis said, GCRTA wanted employees to be the initial priority to ensure buy in to what would be accomplished.
For the policies and procedures, it was important that there were no mandates; it was to be a voluntary initiative. When translating objectives to employees, words like mandate, adherence and responsibility were removed and were replaced with ever green environment and sustainable options.
A culture change was established and a sustainable work process was developed. And at the center of everything they did were the employees, the stakeholders. Willis said, "When we talk about stakeholders and engagement, engagement drives sustainability and sustainability drives engagement."
To get buy in from the top, General Manager Joseph Calabrese's team was each given gift bags of organic products with the note, "Have some treats/tea on me while you digest sustainability." And of course everything in the bag was made from recycled materials and all contents were compostable or recyclable. Also inside was a review summary of a sustainable and environmental commitment work plan, proposed goals, and an employee commitment pledge they were asked to sign.
At the beginning, two volunteers were selected to serve as green team ambassadors. Currently they have 42.
The areas of focus developed were to:
Prioritize sustainable objectives that were important to employees
Create an educational and learning environment
Build momentum for each performance indicator
Allow employees to influence strategies and goals
Create innovative methods to keep employees engaged
The program was kick-started by objectives based on employee-suggested activities. And, people that composted or recycled at home were used as leaders, sharing their knowledge and their enthusiasm. Willis talked about the monthly workshops and facility challenges GCRTA has to keep the momentum going. Posters throughout also help with buy in by providing educational information on the benefits, one of my favorites being an image of ice cubes with water splashing on it and the tagline "It's better to refill than to landfill."
This entire sustainability program, Willis said, is based on the people – planet – profit – business model. For information on the GCRTA 10-year sustainability plan, visit www.riderta.com/sustainability.
TransLink's sustainability governance was presented by Director of Corporate Sustainability Trish Webb. In Vancouver, she explained that they have taxations as well as revenues for funding sources. They already have a fairly transparent system to make it clear to people what they were doing with that money. Improving operations with sustainable practices is a practical step in utilizing the money in the best ways possible.
Nearly a year ago the organization went through major restructuring. They worked to align the operating divisions under a common mission, vision and values strongly focused around sustainability. This process has simplified the job of aligning them on their sustainability values and it has provided a better mechanism for working through initiatives.
The challenge now is integrating sustainability planning with business planning. The business plan is annual, transportation planning is every three years and sustainability needs to be in a similar frame so they can be refreshed every year, but looking out three years.