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Workplace sustainability: Taking your environmental passion to the workplace and beyond!

A little while ago, I attended CivicAction’s Race to Reduce Energy Savings event in Greater Toronto. Property managers, the region’s utility companies and even the City of Burlington’s Mayor were there to discuss ways to champion energy reduction in commercial buildings.

I was joined by Living Planet @ Work champion, Jeannie White, Manager of Human Resources at Symcor, who spoke about how the Living Planet @ Work program helped her lead workplace sustainability initiatives at work. Her presentation had me thinking about the need to have more workplace green champions and green teams share their perspectives at business sustainability forums like these.

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Jeannie White speaks about Living Planet @ Work and engaging employees in sustainability. © Jeannie White

Making it real through employee engagement

Jeannie was part of a ‘Making it Real’ section which focused on the impact of grassroots action and engagement. As an HR manager, she highlighted the need for employee involvement through education, interactive activities and strategic communication. Her presentation made clear that buildings can spend a lot of time and resources on large scale energy efficiency initiatives. However, to reach optimum use and savings, you cannot neglect occupant (employee) use and the opportunity to involve this group in the process.

Brad Henderson, Senior Managing Director of CBRE Limited and voluntary Co-chair of CivicAction’s Commercial Building Energy Initiative, also spoke of the need for employee engagement and leaders like Jeannie:

“While capital and operational improvements are important parts of an energy reduction plan, collaboration between landlords and tenants and between tenants and their employees are the next frontier for significant energy savings. Jeannie demonstrates the type of innovative leadership that we need to see in every organization. We need to encourage more leaders to step up to champion sustainability in the workplace.”

Success and spreading the word

Symcor’s Toronto green teams have seen plenty of success over the past few years. They have hosted Earth Hour activities and Eco Fairs, implemented employee education around waste were recently honoured with Living Planet @ Work’s Transformation Leader of the Year Award (2012).

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Jeannie receives the 2012 Living Planet @ Work Transformational Leader of the Year Award on behalf of Symcor at WWF’s Annual Public Meeting. © WWF-Canada

Part of this success is having someone like Jeannie to champion the environment internally, but then taking it a step further by sharing experiences with strangers (or anyone who is willing to listen)! Besides sitting on the company’s sustainability committee, Jeannie has shared best practices at the Greenest Employer Conference,  as an ECOExecutive, at Living Planet @ Work webinars and of course, Civic Action’s recent Energy Savings event.  These messages soon become the ripples in the water that catalyze change and motivate others into immediate action.

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Posing with panda. © WWF-Canada

I spoke with Jeannie to learn about her motivation for speaking out in the community as an environmental ambassador:

“As business leaders, it is imperative that sustainability be a goal for both our business and employee engagement. We all have similar challenges and by sharing, we can continue to grow and make a difference for the planet. If you are passionate about conservation…share it…Passion is contagious! Through sharing your organization’s experiences you will have a sense of pride and so will your employees. We can all learn from one another through joining groups like WWF’s Living Planet @ Work.”

As an HR manager, Jeannie’s expertise is valuable to those who are starting out on their sustainability journey, those wanting to better engage employees and their company’s HR department.  In fact, at the Energy Savings event, Jeannie was approached to speak at an organization’s upcoming HR meeting to discuss the Living Planet @ Work program and how to engage employees in green actions.

Her commitment to sharing her passion is certainly contagious and here at Living Planet @ Work, we’re sure lucky to have her on our team!

Interested in becoming an environmental ambassador and sharing your best practices? Join our growing Living Planet @ Work community, inspire others and share your story with us!