ebayIn a recent interview, Annie Lesroart of eBay, shared with us how eBay implemented a fast, ambitious and effective strategy to go green. From forty employees, the program expanded to hundreds of thousands of eBay buyers and sellers (including people who don’t even work at eBay!) How did this happen? And how can it happen for you?

by Chris Jarvis, Senior Consultant for Realized Worth, Follow Chris on Twitter @RealizedWorth

The change began over pizza and soda. A group of employees from a company known for its innovation and leadership could not help but notice the irony of the styrofoam cups in their hands. Turns out that styrofoam constitutes as much as 30% of landfills worldwide. A discussion ensued around what it means to be green, each of the employees deciding something had to be done. Without approval, mission or mandate, and with very modest ambitions, these employees formed the “Green Team.

Their first endeavor? Eliminate styrofoam cups from the break room.

From this modest beginning, the eBay Green Team has grown to include more than 2,300 employees in 23 countries. As a recent judge on a panel for the 2010 JustMeans Social Innovation Award, I had the privilege of reviewing the eBay Green Team’s application. Not surprisingly, the Green Team won the award for ‘Best Employee Engagement Strategy’ – and show no signs of slowing down. Take a look at the website to see just how impressive their work is: http://www.ebaygreenteam.com/green-at-ebay

Recently, at the Ceres 2010 conference in Boston, I enjoyed a fascinating conversation with eBay’s Annie Lescroart about the project. She outlined four key steps that enabled the eBay Green Team to succeed. I recommend these steps to any group of employees wanting to see their company become more green and sustainable.

Just Do It

The group of forty employees who decided to take action didn’t wait for permission. They determined the steps that could demonstrate their easy ability to go green and allowed the program to grow itself.

Look For Quick and Easy Wins

Lescroart said that after an handful of initial successful projects, the company was open to bigger projects. Recently, with the leadership of the eBay Green Team, eBay has constructed the largest solar panel in San Jose, CA. It is San Jose’s largest with some 3248 panels.

Make The Business Case

At some point, the Green Team needed to demonstrate that going green and buying solar panels made business sense. At that stage, the executive level leadership was able to support the effort and fund the program with proof in hand. And remember it’s far more convincing when you make the case on both an emotional and rational level. Using only numbers won’t convince anyone to change; using only a great story won’t offer clear direction. You need both. For more about how to help change happen, read Switch[See The Business Case for Environmental and Sustainability Employee Education]

Tie It To Core Values

eBay prides itself on innovation and creativity. The company also has a strong sense of the inherent ‘goodness’ of their people and the need to allow everyone in the company to contribute in meaningful ways. The Green Team built their approach utilizing these values and before long the CEO was challenging all 15,000 employees to submit more ideas on how to make eBay a greater company.

The Outcome So Far Has Been Pretty Substantial:

  • 8,200 lbs of e-waste collected at SJ e-recycling drive in May 2009
  • Employees in North America rode over 3,500 miles during Bike to Work Week in May 2009
  • 650 kW San Jose solar array takes 18% of our energy consumption at that campus off the grid; green building features at same site deliver energy savings of approx. 39%, smart irrigation system expected to save at least 8 million gallons of water, or 25-35% of the building’s irrigation needs – all innovations and impacts directly attributable to Green Team actions.
  • Supporting a Net Metering bill that was signed into law in Utah; the bill allows businesses and residences to sell excess power generated from reusable resources back to the local utility.

In addition, the eBay Green Team has looked for ways to influence their community of buyers and sellers (over 90 million strong) towards similar activities. One key strategy has been social media. Utilizing Facebook (3,079 fans), Twitter (3,000 followers) and, of course, eBay (110,000 Green Team members), the message to “buy, sell and think green every day” continues to gain momentum.

What do you think? We’d love to hear from you.

Email Chris at chrisjarvis@realizedworth.com

© 2010, cjarvis. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: cjarvis (6 Articles)

  • http://www.AffiliateGroundz.com CJ

    Nice to see someone who actually cares!
    Styrofoam cups are the biggest waste of resources. Just give everyone their own cup and let them wash them! hahaha

    CJ