Citigroup, UPS, Interface and Shaw on Culture, Engagement and Leadership

Focusing on the technical and operational aspects of sustainability will only go so far.  Companies need to apply a dual strategy where they simultaneously build organizational capacity while moving through stages of sustainable development.   This means building the muscle needed to succeed in becoming sustainable.  Organizational capacity is about enhancing leadership capabilities, acquiring and developing expertise, transforming the culture and applying organizational design practices to align the structure, processes and people practices to strategy. 

Speakers from Citigroup, UPS, Interface and Shaw and others at the Green Initiatives Conference this week in Atlanta told how engaging others, aligning the culture, managing talent and fostering leadership are all critical in their sustainability journeys. 

Michelle Erickson PhD, Initiative Director, Sustainability & Research for Citigroup stressed the need for a whole-system approach where educating and engaging employees is key in the company’s award-winning Green IT Program.  Achieving energy savings, reducing the company’s carbon footprint, improving efficiencies, lower costs and bringing greater customer and employee satisfaction has also resulted in a huge culture change for Citi.

Jeff West, Director of Environment for Shaw Industries spoke of the commitment of leaders and the company’s Growth and Sustainability Council which is comprised of the executive team and the 14 business unit leaders.  Shaw also engages cross-functional teams to work on goals for individual areas such as water, waste, post-consumer waste and more. 

Steve Leffin, Director of Global Sustainability for UPS mentioned how technology is playing a role in changing the behaviors of drivers.  UPS has a strong culture that values customer service, efficiency, community relations, continuous improvement and excellence.  The role of culture in sustainability came through loud and clear as Leffin described some of the decisions that needed to be made on investing heavily in new aircraft with the expectation of a strong ROI, while also partnering with the EPA to test new hybrid electric vehicles.  In the latter case, the ROI is not yet there, but UPS believes, according to Leffin, that “industry must support innovation.”  In the company’s quest for continuous improvement, he added, “we reserve the right to be smarter this year than last year.” 

InterfaceFlor’s SVP and GM, Claude Ouimet’s dynamic presentation emphasized “the Power of One”, where each employee can make a difference and is expected to be part of the company’s journey to Mission Zero (carbon neutrality).  Interface realized long ago that changing the culture requires first changing how their people think, not just what they do.  Ouimet went further to talk about the importance of talent, the alignment of purpose, the company’s brand and reputation, and employee engagement.  “Sustainability doesn’t happen without innovation,” and innovation requires “tapping the intellectual capital” in and out of the organization.  The Power of One is precisely what started Interface on their sustainability mission.  It was one customer who asked one question about the company’s position on the environment.  It was one CEO, Ray Anderson, who said – we are going to do this, let’s figure out how together. 

Leadership, culture, engagement, innovation, talent, culture, behavior and collaboration are all part of building the organizational capacity needed to turn sustainability strategies into reality.  Contact us to learn how.


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