Leaning Green

How to reap the benefits of sustainability

Excerpted from Fast Lane, Smart Business Los Angeles, May 2008, by Patrick Mayock

The next time you clock out, Jason Meugniot would like you to turn off your computer. It may seem like an odd request, but it’s just one of many rituals that he and his 75 employees at Guidance Solutions Inc. engage in on a regular basis.

Meugniot in Smart Business Los AngelesThe reason? Environmental sustainability.

“[The green movement] brings integrity to the business,” Meugniot says. “In today’s economy and business climate, integrity is essential to growth.”

At the information technology service company, the owner and CEO has embraced the employee-led initiative, which he says has contributed to the company posting $6.3 million in 2007 revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Meugniot about how to go green at your own company.

Q. How do you begin to establish an environmentally friendly workplace?

We put together an Environmental Toolkit that lists simple but key areas that we can look at to understand our carbon output and start the education process. We talk about hibernating or turning off our computers and using energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs, optimizing the AC usage, or [using] light sensors in restrooms.

We talk about things like carbon credits and working with other companies who are committed to alternative energy sources. We talk about looking at your suppliers. Almost every company purchases certain staple products: paper, electricity, telephone service. Guidance, for example, works with Internet hosting vendors who use solar power instead of diesel generators as a backup source of power.

In order to establish carbon neutrality or really get serious about carbon neutrality, we look at education, measurement and action around reducing waste, improving air quality, eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and finding renewable sources of energy.

Q. How can other leaders implement programs at their companies?

To start an effective program, you need to walk the walk. You need to be carbon neutrality. As the executive, you set the example.

I’d also say you need commitment at all levels. You can’t do it alone. Let the initiative live and grow. Don’t stifle the conversation. When I say conversation, I mean the ongoing conversation at the office or at the business about the environment.

Allow employees to share ideas. Allow them to set up blogs. Talk about it. Don’t just post signs around the office.

Q. How do you get employees involved?

Start with education. We provided, very early on, links to Web sites. We shared personal stories. We screened movies [about environmental sustainability] here at the office. We talked about the impact of our own carbon imprint and helped employees to determine what their carbon footprint was at home.

We have a Guidance Green committee. The committee meets regularly throughout the month. They lead various initiatives, and they collate information.

Use your core values to generate buy-in. The first core value is honesty, integrity and fairness. If we’re to have any integrity or fairness in our consumption of nonrenewable resources, we all need to be committed to the environment.

A key component in the program is not creating a top-down program. It’s really creating a program that’s created and even led by the employees. To create this momentum, the employees really need to be a part of it at the onset.

Q. Do you choose the committee, or is it run by volunteers?

The people who serve on our committee are not asked or chosen. It’s a voluntary committee.

Look for people with energy, with commitment to the environment. Look for people who are open to ideas and then sharing those ideas.

Q. How has this movement benefited your company?

It’s really made an impact on our employees and how they work together and the bonds and relationships that keep them together.

We also have prospects who call us out of the blue wanting to work with us because they’ve heard we have a green program. I don’t want to give you the impression that it happens every day, but we are working with clients today who sought us out because they were referred to us from someone who’s heard that we have a green program.

It also filters into recruiting.

As your employees are talking to candidates and new recruits, they’ll say, ‘This is an amazing company. We take a stand for the environment in the face of various circumstances, and I’ve never worked at a company like that.’

You’ll have employees talk to other folks about it, and it gives them a sense of pride in the company they work for, in the work that they do and in their relationships together at the office.

HOW TO REACH: Guidance Solutions Inc., (310) 754-4000 or http://www.guidance.com/

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