In today’s economic recession, companies are under tremendous pressure to provide products and services at the lowest possible cost. How can companies remain competitive and reduce their impacts on our environment? Many companies are finding that Pollution Prevention, also known as Lean Manufacturing can not only help lessen their impacts on the environment but is simply smart business.
Implementing a pollution prevention program requires an upfront commitment and long-term follow-through. By forming a Green Team at your facility, your company will make an important first step towards evaluating current programs, creating facility-wide environmental goals and an action plan to implement those goals.
The following steps will provide the framework to create a Green Team and implement a pollution prevention program at your facility:
Step 1: Developing a Strategy for Winning Senior Leadership Support
To get a pollution prevention program off to a good start, you should have the “buy-in” or support of the business owner or upper management. With this commitment, you are reassuring employees that your pollution prevention program is supported at the highest level of your company.
When introducing the idea to senior management, consider discussing how pollution prevention projects can prevent or reduce cost over-runs and enhance your company goals.
Step 2: Selecting Green Team Members
Pollution prevention programs require strategic planning. Choose members for your Green Team that will be dedicated to promoting pollution prevention efforts, such as solid or hazardous waste reduction, environmentally responsible purchasing or using energy and water efficiently in your company. The size of your team should be consistent with the size of your company. Try to have a representative from as many departments or operations as possible. Consider including regional representatives, if your company is large, as a point-of-contact for all employees in that region.
The team will be responsible for working with senior management to set immediate and long-term goals and an action plan; gathering and analyzing information relevant to the action plan; promoting the program to employees and educating them about how they can help; providing information on how the company benefits from the program, as well as environmental benefits; monitoring the progress of the action plan; making improvements as needed, and reporting to senior management about the status of the action plan.
Having a committed team leader is essential to the Green Team’s success since implementing a pollution prevention program requires coordination between senior management and all departments within your company.
Step 3: Establishing a Green Team Mission Statement
Create a Mission Statement or Statement of Environmental Principles (Environmental Principles) for your company to help define and guide your environmental efforts. Once again, commitment from senior management reassures employees that the Environmental Principles and action plan are supported by the highest level of management within the company. Be sure to inform all employees about your company’s Environmental Principles and the goals of your program. Post your company’s Environmental Principles in the entrance to your facility, company Website, and other prominent locations throughout your facility to demonstrate your company’s commitment.
A copy of Intermountain Healthcare’s Environmental Principles can be found at the end of this document.
Step 4: Developing a Baseline
If you don’t know what your company’s energy and water usage is and how much waste your company generates, then you don’t have the information that you need to support your pollution prevention programs or celebrate your successes! Your team leader should oversee all data collection and management for quantifying specific waste streams, such as office paper, and determining energy and water usage to establish a baseline. A baseline will be used to identify opportunities for improvement and to assess progress of your action plan. A facility-wide audit may be necessary to identify how specific data is collected, and initiatives already underway.
Step 5: Identifying Opportunities for Improvement, Prioritizing Efforts and Setting Goals
Start with a small pilot project. It is easy to take on too many projects all at once since there are a lot of great ideas out there. Begin your pollution prevention program with a small project with a short payback period, such as, switching to energy efficient light bulbs. This will help you gain additional support and credibility. You can then expand your program little by little over a period of time, such as three to five years or even longer depending on resources and other company goals.
Try to set goals that are specific, measurable, and can be completed in a specific time period. For example:
- Increase purchase of reusable products by 25% by the next fiscal year.
- Reduce packaging waste or total solid waste by 20% in 12 months.
- Reduce energy or water use by 10% in 12 months and 5% every 12 months for next 3 years.
- Reduce purchases of products that are disposed of as hazardous wastes by 10% by the next fiscal year.
Step 6: Developing an Action Plan
Once you have identified opportunities for improvement and prioritized your efforts, an action plan should be developed that includes specific policies and procedures for at least the immediate projects. This action plan will be essential to move your environmental efforts forward.
In your action plan, outline any changes in infrastructure that are required. For example, if a recycling program is being adopted, then you will need to provide recycling bins near printers, with trash cans located farther away. Do you have the right equipment and enough room to increase your recycling types and volumes? Do you have storage space that can be transformed into a company store to encourage reuse of office supplies, furniture, electronics, and batteries?
Include a list of administrative needs, such as Request For Proposal (RFP) and contract language for recycling vendors, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) vendors, or energy auditors. Include pollution prevention program tasks in job descriptions as needed.
Step 7: Determining a Strategy for Tracking, Evaluating, and Reporting a Team’s Progress
Just like any other strategic goal for your company, it is imperative to track the progress of your pollution prevention program. Use a software program to track the data that was gathered when you determined your baseline and then assess your progress towards meeting your goals. Including success stories of the company’s pollution prevention program in an annual report or meeting is a good way to maintain momentum and demonstrate commitment to the company’s environmental goals.
Request feedback from employees both during and after a specific project is initiated. Incorporate feedback into the action plan to prepare for the next project or to improve the current project.
Step 8: Initiating an Education and Awareness Effort
Develop an education program that includes an initial education effort to provide information about the goals of the program and a description of the immediate projects. Provide information about how employees can participate in the effort. When a specific project is initiated, make sure that all affected employees are trained as education is a critical part of implementation.
When new employees are hired, provide information on your pollution prevention program and specific projects so they’re familiar with your company’s goals and practices.
Provide a way for employees to give feedback and suggestions to your Green Team. This could consist of a suggestion box near your notice board or an on-line computer program. Set up a system for evaluating the suggestion or feedback, responding to the employee, and using it to improve the program or a specific product, if possible.
Designate a member of the Green Team to manage all communication efforts for the program to maintain a clear, consistent message to employees.
IHC’s Green Strategies Idea Tracker
At Intermountain Healthcare, an electronic database, named the Green Strategies Idea Tracker, was created to organize and review all “green” suggestions received by staff via their regional Green Strategies Team representative. All ideas are reviewed by the Green Strategies Team and a response is sent to the staff member that generated the idea.
Step 9: Launching Your Program
Post notices in key areas of your business to educate staff on new policies and progress reports. Consider developing a notice board located in a central location that can be used to post new policies, progress reports, and success stories. Continue monthly or more frequent meetings with the Green Team to review ongoing efforts, make adjustments as needed, and collaborate on new initiatives.
Post signs or stickers to educate staff on simple ways to reduce energy and water usage, and use resources more efficiently. Signs can include: reminders near printers to double-side print as often as possible, notes in break areas to encourage staff to use non-disposable mugs and cups, reminders near thermostats to use air conditioning and heat in moderation, and reminders near light switches to encourage staff to turn off lights when they leave a room.
Step 10: Sharing and Celebrating Successes
Provide information on your company’s progress in newsletters (preferably on-line) and meetings. Make sure to equate your company’s successes in terms of the number of trees spared, energy and water saved, or the amount of waste diverted from the landfill via source reduction, re-use, or recycling.
Give rewards and recognition to Green Team members and key members of your company when you celebrate your successes. Be sure to share your company’s goals and successes with your community. Your environmental program goals and successes can be an effective marketing opportunity.