With strategy in hand, how do we effectively plan, coordinate and manage program implementation? What kind of coordination systems could act as the glue to hold it all together?

Whether your organization is just starting a sustainability employee engagement program or currently has one that is in need of some revitalization, benchmarking and office rating systems are useful tools.  This type of framework provides a strategic (always back to strategy!), clear, consistent and effective avenue to implement your engagement strategy locally.

Benchmarking and rating systems help us establish:

  • Concrete and coordinated implantation framework
  • Tangible avenues for support from leadership and overall accountability, which could later naturally feed into KPI accountability at every level
  • Clarify office level goal setting and efforts for office sustainability / green teams
  • Concrete framework to track and measure results

Internal Benchmarking…

Traditionally benchmarking refers to operational comparisons with external competitors to gauge industry performance and best practice.  Since sustainability is based in local context, comparing sustainability performance with competitors can be like comparing apples to oranges.  Under these circumstances, traditional benchmarking systems may not be entirely useful outside of gathering general information and identifying trends.

Internal benchmarking allows an organization to compare departments, locations, teams, etc., to identify organizational best practice examples.  These examples coupled with a focus on strategic performance improvement goals, provides a foundation to create a meaningful sustainability rating system.   Rating system frameworks provide relevant criteria to strategically address performance improvement, organizational consistency, leveraging of efforts and resources and still allow enough flexibility to encourage ownership, creativity and innovation.

Office Rating Systems

Harvard has a Green Office certification program from 1 – 4 leaf levels.

Office rating systems are a concrete way to ensure employees understand the standard for achieving sustainability goals.  Rating criteria are mapped out and define what does it take to be a “1 star” (starter office) office versus a “5 star” (champion office)?

Building a network of regional “key multipliers” into the implementation structure provides regional contacts, communication, and tracking and support for local office teams or committees.  This includes a regional representative who regularly communicates, follows up with and supports local offices.

While keeping within overarching company goals, the criteria can provide renewed direction, motivation and concrete goals for local offices and teams to achieve.  This can be a useful approach for breathing new life into programs that have reached the dreaded “plateau” phase, no matter where each office is in their sustainability journey.

Rating Criteria

So what is trying to be achieved with this process?  Office rating systems are a way to supply offices with a strategic framework and concrete goals while allowing enough flexibility to remain relevant locally.  Based on benchmarking and your strategic goals what would you ideally like to see every office achieve?  Once this is determined it is necessary to map out the criteria; what does it take to be a “1 leaf” (starter office) office versus a “5 leaf” (champion office)?

Office rating criteria will reflect existing activities, engagement strategy, company goals as well as reporting and metrics.  Below is a list of a few generic criteria option examples:

  • Presence of a local champion or team
  • Presence of an office specific sustainability plan
  • Office is engaged in planning and solutions
  • Sustainability communication – frequency and avenue types (emails, bulletin board, operations meetings, etc.)
  • At least one initiative in # (or all) of the strategic sustainability areas of focus (ex: community investment, environmental performance, governance, employee wellness, economy (integrating sustainability in to services to clients, investors, etc.)

Basic Steps for Participating Offices

Once the rating system is created, what are the steps for getting offices involved?

  1. Each office should conduct an assessment based on the criteria in order to accurately understand where they are in terms of performance.
  2. Based on their assessment, encourage offices to share the rating with everyone in their office their and also involve all employees in the planning process to improve their office rating.
  3. Ideally, each location will create an annual plan to achieve a higher rating and measure their performance. 

Looking to improve upon your annual planning?  

Join us to learn more about the process of creating sustainability engagement annual plans, join us on Tuesday, October 11th at 12 pm EST, we will be hosting our SEEN Talks Session: Annual Budgeting and Planning. Just in time for the annual planning cycle, this session will provide a process for planning and budgeting for your 2017 sustainability engagement program in a way you can sell to senior leadership.

If you have any comments, ideas, additions to share please a comment below.  This discussion series is about learning from each other.  Hearing about your experiences is valuable to everyone!