This week, Emily Barton, Motorola’s Global Manager for Strategic Environmental Programs, contributed a guest post to the MS&L Chicago blog. As a panelist at our Sustainability Leaders Roundtable next week, she shared her initial thoughts on sustainability, metrics, communication challenges, and more.
What are the best metrics for developing a sustainability plan and to measure your organization’s success?
This is a really timely question- I’ve been in the process of putting together long-term goals for 2011 and beyond, as I’m sure many sustainability managers are. Benchmarking is really important. Many companies have a long history dealing with operations metrics and resource management like water and energy, and issues like waste. Now more companies are looking outside of these typical buckets and into their supply chains at metrics applicable to product design and supplier standards and setting benchmarks. These go beyond operational goals and can be challenging to measure and even more challenging to manage. In these instances, identifying numeric targets and tying key performance indicators to where the impacts exist can be very important. Still, stakeholders and external audiences look to us for traditional metrics—so we strive to do both and try to push ourselves to measure our sustainability progress more outside the standard operational goals.
How are initiatives between sustainability departments and communications teams integrated?
It wasn’t as integrated as it is now. Today, both teams really must collaborate to get good results. For example, five years ago, our environmental report was mainly written and published by our environmental, health and safety department that managed the process. Now our communications and public affairs departments are managing the development of our corporate responsibility report, getting key inputs beyond just EHS department, and handling the process of distributing it out to the right stakeholders. It’s really important that both groups are working as a team.
Do you see any differences in sustainability planning or marketing regionally? For example, how does the Midwest differ from the East or West coast in sustainability strategies?
I see more differences between countries, since I’m the global manager… we don’t set strategies on a regional basis. However, I have noticed a difference from an internal corporate level. For example, if you have a West Coast headquarters, there may be a higher expectation from employees in a corporate campus setting that you’ll have sustainable practices in place- from the cafeteria to the containers that you source. I hear a lot in the news about Google and their sustainable food initiatives at their headquarters. This focus is more embedded in the work culture on West Coast. We definitely see the value from an HR perspective. Organizations are often approached by the HR department to have a stronger sustainability message to help bring in top talent. It’s important to tell talent that we have a strong sustainability point of view during the hiring process.
What kind of challenges do you see in communicating sustainability plans and initiatives to different audiences?
One issue that I see internally and externally is having consistent and accurate messaging. There is definitely an educational aspect here. We need to ensure that PR and communication teams understand the technical side. There may be a negative stigma attached to “eco-marketing” in some cases, so we work with our communications team to develop clear key messages upfront on a particular subject in an effort to assure the messaging is consistent so the subject matter experts don’t have to look at every piece of collateral. I always insist on keeping the message simple and stating the facts in lieu of defining our products with catchy terminology. For instance, instead of going on about how a product is green or sustainable, I like to put forth information about the attributes that will lead the customer or consumer to that conclusion. Personally, I know there is a lot of controversy around Cap-and-Trade, and topics like renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets can be confusing. We invest time with the communications team around subjects like that—it is a critical time in this market to have a strong, accurate sustainability message.
About Emily Barton, Global Manager for Strategic Environmental Programs, Motorola
Emily is responsible for Motorola’s Climate Change Strategy and other related activities. She is the President of the National Association of Environmental Health and Safety Management (NAEM) Lake Michigan Chapter and has held environmental positions at Waste Management, the State of Massachusetts, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Emily received her masters in Environmental Engineering from Northwestern University.
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