Feature Article - March/April 2008

Green Motivations

Incorporating Eco-Friendly Merchandise Into Your Program

By Emily Tipping

Motivation and Green Initiatives

When it comes to implementing an environmental responsibility program, offering incentives to motivate changes can make a big difference, whether you're looking to motivate employees to change their work habits (say, by recycling more and using less energy) or you want to encourage your suppliers to make their own manufacturing processes more energy-efficient and eco-friendly.

For example, at Xerox Corp., the Earth Awards program recognizes people around the world for achievements in resource conservation, waste reduction and recycling, and community development. On its Web site, Xerox credits the program for significantly raising employee awareness of the importance of environmental activities, and says it "saves an estimated $200 million a year through its environmental initiatives, proving that responsible environmental practices can also improve business results."

And the rewards can be simple. According to GreenBiz.com, teams taking part in the Earth Award program receive a plaque or trophy.

At IBM, which has received multiple awards for its commitment to the environment, innovators can win $50,000 according to GreenBiz.com, bringing greater visibility to the program, and increased participation from employees throughout the company.

Employees at Toyota's Tsutsumi Plant in Japan, where Prius hybrid vehicles are manufactured, are relied on for suggestions of improvements to help the plant pursue higher levels of sustainability. To do this, Toyota aims to enhance employees' environmental awareness.

The "Eco-point System" is one of Toyota's tools. "Employees who offer ideas that help to reduce energy and conserve the environment or who take part in environment-related events (such as beautification activities around the plant and the viewing of environmental-related films) are awarded points," Toyota reports on its Web site. "And outstanding employees can receive awards."

When Ripon College, a liberal arts college of about a thousand students located midway between Madison and Milwaukee, Wis., realized that it was running out of parking space, campus leaders decided against building new areas for cars. Instead, they are encouraging incoming freshmen not to bring a car to campus, with a two-wheeled incentive to entice them to leave their four-wheeled vehicles at home.

Dubbed the "Ripon Velorution Program" (RVP), this initiative will offer incoming students the option to sign an RVP pledge that they will not bring a car to campus for the duration of the academic year. Those who participate will be given a brand-new Trek 820 mountain bike, a Trek Vapor helmet and a MasterLock U-Lock to keep.

According to Ripon College President David C. Joyce, an avid cyclist, parking needs come in "a distant third to the health and fitness of our students, and responsible energy practices."

Joyce is confident that the college will sign up a rider for every bike, but said it's hard to change the car culture we live in. "That's not about to change, but a significant number of students learn that a car isn't a necessity at this stage of their lives, and that's good enough for us," he explained.

Like Ripon College, you can encourage people to lose their car addictions by making bikes part of your incentive program. They are especially effective when encouraging people to adopt more environmentally friendly modes of transportation, or as part of an employee wellness program.