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Critical Steps for Sustainability Change Management and Long-Term Adoption

Today, many organizations are making sustainability goals and initiatives a priority, not a “nice-to-have.” The 2011 McKinsey Global Survey on The Business of Sustainability found that 57 percent of respondents say their companies have integrated sustainability into strategic planning; 67 percent say sustainability has been integrated into mission and values; and 60 percent say sustainability has been integrated into external communications.

As organizations work toward reducing their carbon footprints in a measurable, meaningful way, many look for technology solutions to drive and track their efforts. By adopting an enterprise content management (ECM) platform, for example, employees are able to store, process, manage, and archive documents electronically, enabling a more sustainable office environment while enhancing, rather than sacrificing, the way they do business.

Rationalizing and socializing change by emphasizing business benefits

Change is often not easy to implement – employees often have habits and processes built up over many years. Leaders experience the greatest success implementing change when they can demonstrate a case for improving the status quo. As Roger McClendon, chief sustainability officer at YUM! Brands said in an article (here), “You need to show the value added of sustainability and build a strategy around it, and then the organization will provide the resources.” In the case of ECM, “The Paper Free Office – Dream or Reality? 2012” survey conducted by AIIM among more than 450 information technology professionals and business managers found the following results:

  • Productivity of professional staff can be improved by 30 percent if they could find internal information and documents as quickly and easily as they find information on the web.
  • Customer service levels and response times can be improved by 33 percent if customer-facing staff could access and share all customer-related and case-related information, according to the survey, “Capitalizing on Content: A Compelling ROI for Change.”
  • The productivity of administrative staff can be increased by 33 percent through use of workflow, scanned forms and automated data capture.
  • Electronic forms save both paper and the costs associated with processing paper forms, which cost anywhere from 20 cents to tens of dollars per form to process. The average* reported cost per form or document is $3.63 and the median (half more/half less) is $2.00. (*excluding 12 over $20). And, an all-electronic filing policy could save nearly 8 percent of office space within five years.

Beyond easier access to documents, incorporating an ECM solution means electronic filing and fewer physical filing cabinets – and this can mean savings in the form of energy bills, office or warehouse space, and courier costs. It also means that employees can work remotely with less hassle and reduced commuting in cars, which reduces greenhouse gasses.

Below are tips to transitioning to a paper-light environment, to help leaders manage change and demonstrate the business benefits of implementing a sustainability program.

Steps to Sustainability Success

According to the EPA, the US uses about 71 million tons of paper and paperboard per year. The effort applied to transitioning to a “paper light” office has so many benefits, and here are some tips for getting started:

Educate employees. The decision to move to an ECM solution should include discussions at various team levels about why the organization is making a change.

–What effect will ECM have on the company’s sustainability efforts?

–How will it improve the bottom line?

–How can it reduce customer service time and improve satisfaction levels?

–How can it support compliance and disaster recovery processes?

Set attainable goals. When adopting a large-scale change, employees may initially be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the shift. Setting realistic, attainable goals, such as 15 percent reduction in paper use per quarter – or a goal that is reasonable for your business. This will help to maintain employee motivation and keep the project momentum on track.

Recycle as much waste as possible. This seems obvious; however there are still companies and building maintenance crews who do not recycle. Make requests to ensure that they recycle paper, plastic, and metal waste. Recycling one ton of paper saves almost 700 gallons of oil, 7,000 gallons of water, and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space a year!

Communicate. Regular communication about how the changes are impacting the organization will help ensure success. When team members feel informed and supported when they have questions and adopt changes more readily.

Celebrate an “Earth Day” even if your date isn’t part of a nationally recognized event. Gather employees to discuss some of the actions they can take to continue their mindfulness about resource use and provide them with re-usable cups, totes or other company items that will advertise your company’s green image while helping them use fewer resources.

Discuss and promote how they’ve impacted the bottom line and achieved goals. Encourage and reward employees for sharing their own experiences.

–How are they using the new ECM platform?

–What ideas do they have to help colleagues adapt quickly?

Discuss the “beyond the business” implications, including the company’s green image and how that is attractive to their customers.

Melinda Stoker is director of global marketing communications for Xerox DocuShare. Xerox Corporation has been a pioneer in sustainability since 1969, when it introduced the two-sided copier and helped charter the Energy Star® program. Through the years, Xerox has developed equipment, inks, recycled papers, processes, and technologies that reduce energy consumption, waste, and toxins (such as PBTs) throughout the supply chain. Xerox DocuShare enterprise content management is a powerful solution that enables you to achieve your sustainability goals by automating paper-based processes and providing secure access to important content from anywhere in the world. For more information, visit http://docushare.xerox.com/sustainability/sustain.html.

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3 thoughts on “Critical Steps for Sustainability Change Management and Long-Term Adoption

  1. Great article, Melinda! I’m glad you centered each step on employee involvement. Without your employees on-board and engaged in your company’s green initiatives, you’ll get resistance at every turn. This is the approach we take at Softchoice. I wrote a similar post recently about it here: http://bit.ly/M1zLBg. Another point I added in my post is that companies should also ensure members of senior management are also leading examples in driving sustainability.

  2. Melinda –
    What a thoughtful post. I hope that leaders copy your post and use it with their teams to discuss ways to make sustainability goals a reality.
    One thing I would like to add to the list, and that’s a broader exploration of the reasons why employees (and other stakeholders) might support these initiatives and why they might resist. And, I believe, you touched on some of the important factors.
    In my study of support and resistance in organizations (Beyond the Wall of Resistance 2010), I found three reasons why people resist.
    They don’t get it. (They don’t understand what this is all about. And that’s where education and experience come in.)
    They don’t like it. (This is an emotional reaction. They might fear that attention to sustainability will take away from work that they think is really important. They fear that this could somehow make them obsolete. They could lose power. Control. Face. And the list goes on. This emotional reaction is often overlooked.
    They don’t like you. (They don’t believe the leader(s) has what it takes to lead a change like this. They may see him or her as a flavor-of-the-month person who will move onto something else well before any goals are met.)
    The good news is that support comes from the opposite side of those three issues. People need to understand WHY this change is needed and then (and only then) HOW the organization plans to address those challenges. They need to like the idea enough to roll-up-their-sleeves and get engaged.) And they need to know that clowns are not running this circus.

    – Rick Maurer

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