Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Looking for No-Brainers

Thanks to an email I received from an employee at one of our distribution centers, we've identified an unnecessary process that, when discontinued, has the potential to save the company thousands of dollars in paper and postage costs.

Since I sit at the corporate level, I don't have insight into the day-to-day operations of our business units, and this is one of my biggest challenges as a CSR practitioner. How, then, do we uncover all these inefficiencies that can help reduce the company's environmental impact and save money? I've been in my role for approximately a year and a half and in that time, I've received close to 200 unsolicited calls or e-mails from employees around the world with ideas (and complaints!) and it's all thanks to shameless self-promotion.

I'm lucky to have an internal communications team that sees value in CSR and they've been very generous with real estate in company newsletters, our intranet and internal articles. When I first arrived in my role, my position was featured in an intranet article that announced a point person for CSR and sustainability. In our employees' minds, there was now a concrete person to direct inquires. This, however, is a blessing and a curse. While some ideas have the potential to have a significant impact, I find myself responding to and researching many other employee concerns about temperature control and recycling, often in locations across the country.

Beyond that first introductory article, our weekly company news round-up has featured more than a dozen articles on CSR in the past year. We've highlighted volunteer activities, employees who've brought to light a significant environmental opportunity and other accomplishments. This steady stream of internal communication has helped to reinforce the idea that we're working together to get things done. Ideas will be granted an appropriate audience and we will move toward resolution.

At the same time, you have to maintain an "every little bit helps" mentality or you'll go crazy. I recently spent several hours working with employees in Florida, North Carolina and Texas, trying to figure out how to digitize a process and reduce paper usage. I thought this might be a breakthrough that would result in saving tons of paper and a whole lot of money. The result? Approximately $50 in savings per year. But, the employee who brought this idea to my attention was so grateful for the help in getting rid of some unnecessary paperwork.

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