Your Employees Are the Key to Your Company’s Sustainability Strategy

By Diane O’Connor, vice president for Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability for Xerox

Diane P. O’Connor
“… if we involve employees in the development of sustainability initiatives that also tie to revenue, we can broaden their thinking.” — Diane O’Connor, vice president for Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability for Xerox

Your corporate sustainability program will live or die by your employees. That’s the finding from  Ernst and Young’s 2011 report, “Six growing trends in corporate sustainability.” The survey, which Green Biz participated in, found that employees are key stakeholders – and often key cheerleaders —  of corporate sustainability efforts.

Traditionally companies engage employees in sustainability initiatives that clearly tie to profit and loss on the balance sheet.  Often times, we unintentionally limit employee sustainability engagement to the confines of their own workplace.  They pursue efforts to reduce energy, waste, water, and other environmental impacts of the company’s facilities and work processes, and learn how environmental impacts influence operating costs.

However, I have found that if we involve employees in the development of sustainability initiatives that also tie to revenue, we can broaden their thinking and maybe even increase their job satisfaction level.   When we give the employee a new point of reference for the goal (revenue), we broaden their sustainability awareness, and their appreciation of the customer experience with our products and services. By playing the role of the “customer,” an employee may find ways to improve the product, and that should lead to an heightened customer experience.

We are taking that approach with a sustainability calculator we introduced at Xerox, which helps companies calculate the environmental impact of their printers and copiers. The Sustainability Calculator is something we created so anyone can optimize office workflow and processes. It was born because our customers kept asking for ways to discover the environmental benefits of their actions, in addition to the financial benefits. The calculator estimates the environmental footprint of the print profile of the workplace.  Xerox designed two versions of the Sustainability Calculator. The complete version was designed for medium-to-large business, and to assist us in inventorying equipment and running the numbers. (A scaled-down version of the Sustainability Calculator for smaller businesses or the general public is available to use for free.)

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Xerox’s Print Awareness Tool lets your employees voluntarily track how their efforts support company-wide print reduction and sustainability goals.

Our Next Gen Sustainability Calculator

Our customers gave us great feedback that inspired our next-generation calculator that was just announced late last year.  Our customers told us that they wanted a tool that would “talk” to the employees about their individual print behaviors and steer them to a more sustainable option.

After several months of development, we launched Print Awareness Tool. It is the first calculator to measure the impact of print decisions at the user level.  It has graphics and visuals to display the environmental and cost impacts of an intended print action. It suggests a more preferable action from a sustainability perspective. The tool can be personalized to include tips to reduce printing, and it lends itself to gamification.

Taking a cue from our customers, we are installing the Print Awareness Tool on the laptops of our own employees globally, beginning with our salesforce. This will allow us to engage our employees in a sustainability effort that is directly tied to revenue, and to allow them to experience what our customers experience.

The Xerox 2014 Report on Global Citizenship highlights the company’s milestones and achievements and details our global impact across five major focus areas: Sustaining Business, Evolving the Workplace, Serving Customers, Preserving the Planet, and Caring for Communities.

I like to think of this as how we “walk the talk” with regards to sustainability – one printer page at a time. I’m interested hearing what you are doing to engage your employees in your sustainability efforts. See you at #CSRChat with Susan McPherson on Feb. 12.

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