Making it work
3. Make it easy: One of the things we routinely hear from employees who are looking for ways to get involved in our company’s sustainability work is to make it easy for them. This isn’t to say that solving the planet's energy and environmental challenges is easy, but employees want to know that the time they are committing to employee programs will have a meaningful impact. There are a number ways we address the challenge of making it easy, including the following practices and initiatives:
- With a flexwork policy and technologies like Skype, Lync and online collaboration tools, our employees can work from home effectively, helping cut back on daily commuting. Other alternative commuting incentives include free public transport passes, subsidized van pools, and free bike storage and maintenance.
- In our Puget Sound offices, employees can take the Connector bus to and from work, helping eliminate roughly 39,200 miles of travel each day or approximately 9.9 million miles each year. The campus also has 12 electric vehicle charging stations for employee-owned electric vehicles.
- We have a robust recycling and composting program and as part of this initiative, we’ve replaced our kitchenware (such as plastic cutlery) with compostable products made from corn and potatoes. By actively recycling and composting, our employees have cut waste from our Redmond campus cafeterias in half, helping us inch closer to our ultimate goal of creating zero waste.
- Newly-purchased IT hardware at Microsoft such as laptops and PC’s must be EPEAT registered and meet ENERGY STAR 5.0 standards.
- We have the first U.S. corporate campus to achieve The Certified Green Restaurant™ status, giving employees plenty of sustainable, locally sourced meal options.
4. Be strategic: Not every investment we make in reducing our company’s impact results in a lower carbon footprint. There are a variety of scope-related reasons for that, but suffice to say, we think there are important symbolic investments that send a signal to employees that sustainability is a priority. Take our compostable cups, for example. Several years ago, we replaced the orange polystyrene cups found in many of our cafes and kitchenettes with a compostable version. At the time, it was difficult for us to calculate the impact this would have on our waste stream. However, the impact it had on employees was significant, and justified the expense. In fact, nearly every employee you talk to on our Puget Sound campus still associates the green compostable cups (and now flatware) with our environmental commitment. And it just so happens that in fiscal year 2011, our total waste diversion rate was greater than 80 percent overall and 95 percent in our dining facilities, making this an investment that has been both strategic and impactful.
5. Report your progress: Microsoft has been diligently reporting its carbon emissions and energy use through the Carbon Disclosure Project for the last seven years. But when it comes to employee engagement, we’ve learned that sharing our progress and best practices along the way allows us to unlock new levels of understanding about the resources we use and helps us further reduce our impact on the environment. For example, through our Energy-Smart Buildings Project, we are achieving significant gains in building efficiency by changing the behavior of building occupants by displaying information about energy usage so that occupants know how their own actions can further reduce energy consumption. Couple that with our Sustainability Champions program and we believe we will reduce plug-load energy consumption by an additional three to five percent. This, of course, brings us full circle to our goals of increasing awareness and empowering our employees to align their efforts with our corporate sustainability goals
We recognize that employee engagement is an important part of a successful environmental sustainability strategy and that it is an even more critical component for Microsoft and others to unlock their full potential. We welcome your thoughts about our approach. What’s working for you and your organization?
This article was originally published on Microsoft's Green Blog.