Editors' Take

Advice for Designers

Show them how they will profit from improved environmental responsibility. E.g., reducing waste disposal costs, reducing liabilities for costs of future cleanups or lawsuits, reducing the cost of complying with regulations, improved efficiency, etc.

Speak to marketing personnel to gauge the potential of greener products with your customers. How will your existing customers respond? Could improved sustainability attract new customers?

Investigate the attitude and activities towards sustainability of rival companies. If they are performing better, they may be gaining a competitive advantage. Try to identify what this advantage is and use it to persuade your business that they need to respond to if they are to keep up.

Don’t assume that your company is inherently bad. Many companies have good environmental policies and understand the importance of sustainability, but don’t know how to put their good intentions into practice without harming the business. It is your job to show them.

There are also people in companies that are doing things to improve the businesses environmental performance without intending to, and sometimes without even realizing.

Find out what your organizations real attitude to Sustainability is. Some companies that present themselves as being environmentally responsible turn out not to be so good when viewed from the inside, while others that may appear to pay no interest in environmental issues may perform well. What they tell the public doesn’t always accurately reflect what they are doing.

Remember that environmental issues apply to all organizations, not just those that are profit driven. Even organizations such as charities and NGO’s whose primary purpose is to do good, may not recognize and fulfill their environmental responsibilities.

Upper management usually makes the value system in organizations. Read company policies and reports to identify this value system and then use it to sell your ideas to them. Make it clear that you are helping them to achieve their goal.

Middle management can be resistant to good ideas from below, so think about how your ideas could make them look good, and sell it to them that way.

Don’t act like an environmental protester. People will not take you seriously, and you could lose the credibility required to instigate change.

Find someone more senior than yourself who is open to the idea of environmental responsibility and may be able to realize the financial benefits. Preferably someone who is respected in the organization. Get them excited about the potential, so that they will be self-motivated to help make the change.

Is there an environmental manager/engineer in the company? Work with them to find ways that you can help each other improve the company’s environmental performance.

Investigate sustainable design issues such as LCA, materials, regulations, design strategies, green marketing potential, etc. Become an expert, and you will know to persuade people that they will benefit by changing, and to show them how to improve.

Be patient. Change can take a long time, particularly in large companies.

Don’t be put off by the difficulty of making changes. Small changes in a big company can, in fact, have a significant overall impact.

Should you only work for green companies? No, change can be made most effectively in enterprises that need change. The worse the company, the more they need you, but the harder your job will be. Also, if you become successful in a “bad” company, you may get promoted to a position where you have real power, and then you can make real change. There are many different roles to be played in working towards sustainability, and people are needed “on the front line.”

Being on the inside of an industry that needs change can teach you a lot about the way that it works, valuable information if you are to succeed in changing it.

Real sustainability requires everybody to take responsibility for making it happen, at every level of an organization, so try to get people interested.

Keep a written record of everything you have done to achieve change. Learn from your mistakes. This record will give you something to show if you get an interview with a company that wants you to be green.


The author mike

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