Companies that have gone down the road to sustainability say there are different paths.
Some corporate sustainability philosophies are driven from the top, and others take form organically, with help from a range of executives working at different layers.
Among companies that have stated sustainability goals, about 60% have environmental groups comprised of employees accountable for the goals, according to the “Vault Guide to Green Programs” study from Vault.
Just over a third of firms assign a corporate sustainability executive to head the environmental group, while another 30% hold accountable a whole corporate sustainability department, according to Vault.
At the root of a good sustainability program is an effort to revamp a corporate culture, with the means to promote it internally, said Bev Oster, president and creative director at Oster & Associates, a marketing agency in San Diego that has focused on sustainability messages for the past several years.
“For many companies it’s a rebranding that helps companies add more potential customers through advertising and public relations. You have to sell it internally first, though,” she said.
SureHarvest, Soquel, Calif., has worked with companies who have sustainability programs at different stages. It has operated in the sustainability sphere since 1999.
“The best corporate programs we’ve seen are driven by senior management,” said Andrew Arnold, senior consultant.
C.H. Robinson Co., Eden Prairie, Minn., has a steering committee for sustainability at its corporate office that reaches out to green captains at each of its 230 locations, said Bud Floyd, vice president of produce marketing.
Each business sector has a representative on the dozen-strong committee, which he said meets quarterly.
“When we were getting started, we met on a monthly basis, but now we’re up to speed,” he said, adding that various business units meet about sustainability efforts on an ad hoc basis.
In late 2009, Ag-Mart Produce, Plant City, Fla., formally instituted its 17-member sustainability group, said Kevin Delaney, director of sustainability and productivity.
The desire for a sustainability strategy came from the top of the company, Delaney said.
Village Farms International, Eatontown, N.J., also uses a group approach to sustainability, because it does not have a designated sustainability director, said Helen Aquino, marketing manager.
“Sustainability is a by-product of our methods,” Aquino said. “It’s driven down by a firm belief from our CEO and COO.”