Internal “green teams” help build and maintain momentum for sustainable initiatives, achieve buy-in from critical groups, and bring visibility and transparency to a company’s sustainability initiatives.

Green teams are usually formed in one of two ways: Leadership will designate a green team to support corporate sustainability goals, such as company-wide greenhouse gas reduction targets, or employees will form their own volunteer team to work together to support their company’s goals.

Responsibilities can include activities such as:
  • creating new waste management or recycling policies;
  • educating other employees about company initiatives; and
  • identifying opportunities for energy or water reduction.
Getting Started
Sustainable facility operations require input and ongoing coordination from a variety of company stakeholders. A green team should consist of employees from across the organization with a broad range of expertise and backgrounds.

First, designate a green team leader who is responsible for recruiting additional members via email, signage, the corporate intranet and other communication vehicles. Invite those who are personally interested in social or environmental causes. Seek out people with the expertise needed to accomplish the company’s goals.

At the first meeting, ask for suggestions of activities the team might undertake and have members agree on a purpose statement that conveys how the group’s effort will support overall corporate business goals and objectives. The team also should assign roles and responsibilities, as well as the best way to communicate with each other (and how often). Most important, establish a timetable for deliverables.

Next, the team can begin to brainstorm the activities it will undertake that support the purpose statement and the company’s sustainability goals. These activities can include building-specific actions, community-focused efforts or even global outreach.

For example, a company in Atlanta that manufactured contact lenses and glasses started an outreach program to provide used glasses to low-income individuals abroad. This aligned with the company’s core business while providing social benefits to underserved populations. Another option is to identify local environmental issues where the company can make a positive impact in its own community.

After brainstorming , the group should narrow the list to a manageable number. There is no point in making a laundry list of activities that won’t get done; instead, choose three to five key activities about which members are most enthusiastic.

Implementing Initiatives
For each activity, involve the people with the authority to make go/no-go decisions, including management advocates and sponsors.

As a new green team, it’s important to prove the value of the group’s efforts early on. Focus on low-hanging fruit, such as increasing recycling efforts, sustainability communications and education efforts. Establish baselines and track key performance indicators along the way for progress reports to management.

Communicating Results

Be sure to celebrate the team’s successes and communicate them to executives to gain their continued support. Methods for sharing the group’s  progress with the rest of the company include:
  • a green e-newsletter;
  • posters and signage;
  • reports at all-staff meetings; and
  • a section on the company’s intranet where activity reports can be uploaded.
The team also should coordinate with the marketing/business development department to communicate achievements externally to customers, clients and investors through social media, press releases or the annual corporate sustainability report.

Building Momentum
After momentum and support has built for the green team efforts, consider more costly initiatives that require higher-level decisions. Lighting retrofits are a great place to start by changing out T12 or T8 light fixtures to more efficient T5s or LEDs. These projects typically have about a one-year payback.

Other green team activities could include:
  • starting or expanding a composting program;
  • expanding the company’s community outreach program; and
  • gaining third-party certification such as LEED EB:OM or GRI.
Consider conducting an annual retreat to revisit the team’s mission statement and goals. Are they still applicable to the organization or do they need revision based on changing circumstances? Does the team still have the right type of expertise or should other members be recruited?

Green teams are extremely valuable assets to companies because they provide the staffing needed to successfully achieve sustainable goals. Because there are many opportunities for green teams to make a contribution to the company’s sustainability programs, it’s important to keep up the momentum. Celebrate successes, communicate with others, continue learning what motivates members, and, most importantly, have fun.

Candice Goldsmith is associate green building consultant for Paladino and Company. For more information, visit