CR from the Ground Up: Why No Idea is Too Small

Nov 13, 2013 12:30 PM ET

CR from the Ground Up: Why No Idea is Too Small

Heather Meloy is a member of the PwC US Corporate Responsibility team and focuses much of her time working with the Green Teams and with Earn Your Future, PwC’s youth education initiative. She has been with PwC for six years and resides in Atlanta.

A few months after joining PwC in 2007, our Chairman sent a firm-wide communication about PwC’s corporate responsibility commitments. I loved that PwC clearly cared about the impact we make in our communities beyond financial giving. But I felt like the efforts weren’t “real” in ways all our partners and staff could see in our everyday actions. My manager encouraged me to voice these concerns through the “Ask Me Anything” button at the bottom of our Chairman’s emails. When I clicked the button, I suggested adding a simple reminder to consider the environment on our email footers to encourage us all to print responsibly. A couple of months later, all PwC partners and staff around the country were given several options for adding environmentally friendly email customizations to the bottom of their emails.

Did this happen because of me? Who knows. It wasn’t an earth shattering idea, but I felt good when I saw that change go into effect. Knowing my voice was heard left me inspired and empowered to seek other ways to improve how we approach environmental responsibility.

Now six years later, I’m part of the Corporate Responsibility team working with our national Green Team network. Green Teams provide opportunities for anyone at the firm to address environmental issues specific to our organization, local offices, and individual teams such as reducing waste and identifying more efficient commuting methods. Ultimately, we will only meet our carbon reduction goals if we commit to changing daily habits that are most material to our footprint. Our Green Teams are critical in finding innovative ways to make this happen – creating an ideal alignment by connecting personal interests with our business and environmental strategy.

During the past several months, 15 Green Teams competed in our annual Green Challenge, where they earned points for activities that advanced environmental efforts. In an organization of our size, there is no “one size fits all” model for environmental responsibility. While we did provide a few suggested activities to serve as inspiration, such as electronic device recycling drives or planning recruiting events, everyone was encouraged to craft their own activities and ways to measure impact. The results were inspiring.

During the challenge, our teams made a significant impact in their offices and local communities with initiatives such as a new recycling program that diverted 475,000 used coffee packs from landfills and teaching over 700 students about sustainability as part of our Earn Your Future initiative. Still, the most rewarding aspects were the ‘aha’ moments – the moments when someone realized they could create positive change. Most of the time, the best solutions aren’t overly complicated with a lot of details. They’re as simple as creating a sign letting others know what needs to go in the recycling bin, teaching groups how to use video conferencing technology, or rewarding people for carpooling.

Yes, it’s as simple as suggesting an email footer be added to the end of your emails.

What ideas do you have to create positive change? Take charge – we all have a role to play.