Bring people-profit-planet, the proverbial triple bottom line, to your workplace. Even if you don’t work in sustainability in your day job, there are opportunities to fuel your passion by starting a sustainability club. While fewer resources exist online about how to start a sustainability club at work, general guidelines may be followed for starting a school environmental club.
There are some differences for the workplace, however. Whenever starting, be sure to check with your Human Resources department about what is permitted. Here is a quick guide to help you get started and tips on how differentiate from starting non-professional sustainability clubs.
Discover your interests
Sustainability is a very broad subject, and also covers Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) areas. You will want to start by defining what it is that you are interested in. Some major sustainability areas include recycling, energy conservation, or better water resource use. If you live somewhere scenic, starting a hiking club may be a good idea. ESG investing is a growing area of interest; if this appeals to you, be sure to check out our ESG investing blog post. (LINK HERE)
Find the need
To start a successful club, you will want to find others who share your passion. You may gauge interest in the early stages by putting up a flyer with a broad subject line about sustainability. If allowed, you could also send out an email to fellow team members. Again, check with your HR department.
If you can match your interests to needs at your job or in your community, this will help your company get on board with your idea. Companies are increasingly interested in community engagement. If you are working with an architecture firm, for example, you may want to start a club on smart energy or water efficiency.
Depending on the size of your company, there may already be a club network there. Be sure to research what is already in existence.
You may not be ready to start or a club, but you can still contribute. One option other than starting from scratch may be to revitalize an existing club or work with one to help expand it. Alternatively, if you were in a club in college or high school, you may be able to expand that chapter to your workplace. Or you could build on a school club even if you were not involved. Check out the Home page blog – Earthteam and U.S. EPA Student Center.
You could also start with just projects. Starting with a single project with like-minded parties is a sure path to success. You can volunteer with one-off events. Your existing company may hold special events for Earth Day, April 22, or be working with Black Lives Matter.
If there is a physical space at your work, you could build something to showcase your efforts and gain more interest. For example, gardening: building a butterfly garden, native species garden or a raingarden are great ideas.
Start a new chapter of a club
If you are not familiar with sustainability clubs, a good resource is the Environmental Club Network of Greenspan. It is a global, alphabetical listing of clubs covering topics including animal welfare and environmental awareness. Another good resource is JobStar’s listing of environmental clubs. These environmental organizations meet the interests of professionals working within a particular sustainability area. Visit each association’s website to learn more about specializations, membership costs, and requirements.
One club is the Environmental Information Organization, or EIO. With COVID and people returning to work, the EIO could be a good club to explore because it can address environmental air quality concerns. The EIO is billed as a multidisciplinary membership concerning environmental and occupational health hazards in the built environment to property owners and operators, interested professionals and the public.
Several clubs are already in existence that may offer you the opportunity to start a chapter at work. Just search for the name of your club and the term “professional chapter”. For example, Net Impact is a non-profit that focuses particularly on sustainability and business and has great resources to start a chapter. The author of this post personally started a chapter with their help.
If you are already working in the environmental space, you may want to start a chapter dedicated to sustainability professionals. Some may even provide money to start a chapter; one such organization is National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP). NAEP says it can provide its “start-up” kit, mentors that have recently completed the process in other states, contact information for other NAEP members and environmental professionals in your state, seed money, and more.
Find a champion
If you have a leader in your company interested in sustainability, they can help promote your club or project. There may be an executive who is a cyclist, so then starting an alternative commute benefit program may be a good opportunity.
If no sustainability initiative is in existence, you may check with leadership to see if they are interested in starting something. If your company wants to implement a recycling program, this would be a good reason to start a club for the same purpose.
Aligning with your company interests can help the company as well. More and more businesses are publishing sustainability reports, or noting their ESG accomplishments in existing annual reports. Your club may contribute to their goals.
If you want to learn more on how you can contribute professionally in sustainability, check out our blog post on (insert link) “How to become a sustainability specialist.” It has more resources related to this topic.
No matter what you choose to start, making any contribution to sustainability will help make your work more meaningful and go beyond just bringing home a paycheck.
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