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Lessons in Culture Management from Interface & Virgin Unite

Two types of memories stand out from GLOBE 2012, a renowned bi-annual Vancouver event that took place this spring: deeper connections forged with old friends and new connections established with others who we can now call new friends.

Those connections may have occurred while relaxing on a couch between sessions, sharing a bite over lunch, relaxing at a bar in the evening, debating after a seminar about the topics presented or even at the airport waiting to catch a plane home. GLOBE is about much more than the topics discussed or the people who attend; it’s about everything that comes together to make this a must-attend event for the sustainability professional.

It’s the culture that makes GLOBE something special.

Culture & Change Management

It is no surprise that when we discuss the recipe for sustainability leadership the answer always comes down to the same variable – culture. Focus on culture change and your employees and stakeholders will find the answers to your toughest environmental and social challenges. To paraphrase Bill Clinton in the 1990s – it’s the economy stupid. Focus on the economy and you’ll win elections. Focus on corporate culture and you’ll become a sustainability leader.

Heard the Interface story? In case you’re thinking “yes, heard it many times and while it’s a great story filled with insight and inspiration, we’ve learned all that we can from Interface,” there’s more.

In a panel discussion titled People Power: Improving performance Through a Corporate Culture of Sustainability Leadership, Erin Meezan, VP of Sustainability at Interface, and Jean Oelwang, CEO of Virgin Unite, shared stories of their cultures of sustainability with the GLOBE audience.

Interface: A Culture of Learning

Meezan described a company that is built on a culture of learning. Every employee in the company is asked for their feedback and thoughts. How can we be more innovative? How can we disrupt the status quo? How can we move forward with greater positive impact in the world?

She talked about Innovation Powwow’s and Global Idea Summits where ideas are not only shared but consciously harvested. Is that happening at your place of work?  Imagine how you would feel if you were asked tomorrow, “I want to know your perspective and I plan to share it with everyone around the world.”

Virgin Unite: Screw Business as Usual

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One thought on “Lessons in Culture Management from Interface & Virgin Unite

  1. The actual news? : Virgin Screws The Climate. As Usual.

    Here’s Branson talking :
    “We need to create incentives and a tax structure that encourages clean energy investment. Companies, even those not working in environment, should invest just 1 percent into clean energy.”
    Sir Richard Branson 2006 Keynote luncheon at CGI (Clinton Global Initiative)

    “A global impact economy is one in which governments, corporations, entrepreneurs and investors team up to solve the big environmental and social problems of our times” – (Virgin’s) Carbon War Room

    Here’s Branson acting:
    “The amount of resistance to the EU’s plans shows that the European Commission needs a Plan B in case there is retaliatory action,”
    Virgin Atlantic Mar 12 2012 – joining a law suit *against* the European Emissions Trading Scheme

    Virgin Atlantic offer no alternative, they’re not making the emissions right some other way, they’re just fighting for the power to use our atmosphere like an open sewer. Because some of their international jet-set passengers might not like the CO2 fees. Poor babies. It seems that having gone to CGI, and said all the right things, when he has the smallest risk of the smallest impact to just part of his business he fights against everything he ‘committed to’.

    As I wrote to Bill Clinton : “If you can’t hold your attendees responsible then you are running a shell game that damages the environment by creating an illusion of progress and provides cover for polluters like Virgin Atlantic.
    Tell Branson to pick a side and stick with it.”

    The Carbon War Room (previously called Creating Carbon Wealth) has done nothing but create greenwashing for Branson – while maybe getting other people to come up with green profit making ideas for him. There’s nothing wrong with that – except that his businesses are actually trying to *stop* the EU from reducing CO2 emissions. Maybe ETS needs to be better but, for god’s sake, you don’t shoot the only person marching forwards while you sit on your ass making big speeches about how everyone needs to get moving. As soon as they work out how you can profit from it.

    I feel so strongly about this (Branson was a hero of mine) that I created a petition : http://signon.org/sign/tell-branson-to-pick.fb6?source=c.fb&r_by=176535

    PLEASE consider writing about this – it’s what green journalism is about.

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