A Green Road Map for Executives: Begin with an Environmental Mission
The first Green Travel Summit concluded last week in Newport Beach, CA. Their findings were released in list format and outlined the Top Ten Challenges to Greening Corporate Travel. The number one hurtle they identified is the same obstacle that slows down new initiatives across all industries. Corporate travel executives are having a difficult time defining a road map that will enable them to begin the process of making the products and services they provide more environmentally sustainable.
It is said the first step is often the hardest and I applaud the numerous initiatives already taken by those attending the inaugural Green Travel Summit. Now the excitement generated by such major players as American Express, the SkyTeam airline partners, and InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), has to be put into practice. And not just by those in attendance or even just those in the travel industry. Businesses throughout the world, including those in the most dire of straits such as GM and Chrysler, should start at the beginning and develop an environmental mission statement to help focus and guide their sustainability efforts.
An environmental mission statement is the sum of three pieces: Why + Goal + Success
- Why is this topic important to us? – We believe …
- What is our end goal? – We want to …
- How is success measured? – We envision a world ….
Taken separately, these three questions are important enough to spark conversation and suggest that change is in the air. When grouped together, they can light a green torch will illuminate the best path forward.
Why is this topic important to us? The reasons are almost infinite. There may be an operational problem that needs to be solved. Stakeholders may have become restless about the status quo and are requesting changes. Incentives may have been put in place by the government. Maybe other major players in the industry are already starting to move and you do not want to be left behind.
Whatever the reason, you have to be honest with yourself about why you are ready to begin going “green.” Very often it is a variety of factors. Each and every one of these should be documented and vetted because together they will enable you to figure out what is important to your organization. Understanding the reasons behind the change allows you to move with confidence and passion.
Why sample – “We believe developing environmentally sustainable business operations is a vital component in decreasing our company’s carbon footprint and reducing its impact on the natural world. “
What is our end goal? I believe that given the choice, most business leaders would elect to have their companies be as clean and efficient as possible. So, the ultimate aim for almost everyone is to be completely “green.” But how does that look in your business? Will travel be replaced by virtual meetings? Will your products be produced with 100% recycled material? Can your people work remotely 85% of the time?
These may seem like basic questions but they begin to lay out what needs to be done. Even within the same industry, travel for example, a hotel’s path to “green” differs from an airline’s which differs from a travel agency’s which is not the same as a cruise line’s. And the road GM follows will certainly vary from the one Chrysler chooses to drive down. Looking at what your business does to the world and defining all the areas in which you need to work will help bring your road map into focus. Keep in mind, your environmental mission statement is constantly evolving as your company and our world move ahead. Consider it progress when you have to edit it because you have accomplished your goals.
Goal sample – “We are working to assess the full extent to which our products and services touch the natural world. We will finish this process by August 1st, 2009. We will use the findings to develop a strategic green vision to be launched on January 4, 2010.”
Be bold. This is a time for action.
How is success measured? – Close your eyes. Despite the IBM ads that say otherwise, closing ones eyes is a great way to block out distractions and image the possibilities. Daydreaming is proving to be another effective method for developing creative ideas. So, choose your means and image the end.
Envision your customers, your employees, your office, and your suppliers. What are they doing in five or ten years? How about in 15 or 20 years? Image beyond today’s technology. How are your goods and services packaged, distributed, sold, used, and recycled? Who purchases them and why?
How sample – “We are striving to revolutionize our industry and change our world. We envision that our products honor the materials from which they are made and inspire those who use them. They can be recycled by simply leaving them out in the rain. They can last for a lifetime if stored in a safe, cool, dry, and sacred place.”
As I wrote above, the process of developing an environmental mission is a cyclical one. Your Why, What, and How should be revised annually and referenced often.
And what if your company already has an environmental mission statement?