Managing Environmental Impact with a Global Framework and Local Execution

by | Sep 14, 2011

Environmental management poses both challenges and opportunities for companies with operations around the world.

The challenges can seem onerous when you consider variations in local environmental issues, regulations, infrastructure capabilities, culture and other factors.  The opportunities, however, come from identifying results that organizations can achieve locally, and providing employees with the tools, resources, inspiration and framework to implement them.

In a global organization with many operating units in many places, the most important component for creating an effective environmental program is a global framework that sets the course, outlines goals, and creates a sense of shared commitment and responsibility.

It’s important that this framework has the flexibility for local execution. For example, a company may set global goals for reducing energy, water, waste and carbon emissions, but the way that local operating units contribute to those goals can vary widely. An older facility may present opportunities to upgrade to more energy-efficient equipment, while a new facility may not. Or a facility may be located in a city with abundant sunlight and robust financial incentives that make solar energy attractive.

Environmental responsibility is an issue that transcends borders, cultures and languages. Regardless of where an organization operates, it likely can find passionate environmental champions among its employees. Identifying these employees, organizing them into “green teams,” and empowering them to be catalysts for change are major steps toward integrating sustainability at the local level.

Consider a facility in a city without municipal recycling – an engaged and empowered green team of employees can change that barrier into an opportunity by working with local organizations to develop a collection and recycling solution.

Education and knowledge is the key to empowering employees. Employees are better equipped to identify environmental solutions unique to their local circumstances if they are provided with resources about sustainability goals, guidance, best practice examples and other environmental educational materials.

It’s also important to make environmental management part of the company culture. All employees should know that their actions contribute to the company’s commitment and goals. One way to do this is by incorporating simple actions that employees can take as part of their everyday job functions, even if those actions are as simple as turning off lights when they are not being used.

Take, for instance, a hotel company where housekeepers can reduce environmental impact through their daily job requirements, from using less water to clean the bathroom, to using less energy by adjusting thermostats and closing drapes to avoid excess heat gain or loss.  The hotel chef, on the other hand, can reduce resource consumption in different ways.

It is important to help employees identify these actions and establish a process that integrates them into job training and operating procedures. An added bonus is that establishing these behaviors at work makes it more likely that employees will establish similar behaviors at home.

And of course, measuring and tracking against goals is critical.  Setting aggressive targets and ensuring accountability across the organization allows a company to maintain focus, commitment and motivation to execute its environmental strategy.

Brigitta Witt is vice president of corporate social responsibility for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, responsible for optimizing Hyatt’s environmental and social programs and policies.  The company launched Hyatt Thrive this year, its global corporate responsibility program to help the communities in which it operates reach their full potential.  Hyatt subsidiaries manage, franchise, and own more than 450 properties. The 85,000+ members of the Hyatt family strive to make a difference in the lives of the guests they encounter every day by providing authentic hospitality.

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