Research subjects were found through green business certification programs. They attributed the successful implementation of their program to the following external forces:
- Technical expertise (by local government agencies or service contractors)
- Financial assistance (from local government agencies or utilities)
- Recognition and awards
- Regional culture
Top management played an important role in successful implementation. If the people in a position to approve and allocate resources for the project saw value in the project for at least one of the following reasons, the project could move forward with top management support:
- Cost savings
- Employee attraction and retention
- Alignment with company mission or values
- Right thing to do
When deciding whether to pursue a new project, management initially performs informal mental calculations about whether the benefits accruing from the change will be greater than the costs of making the change. Humans by nature resist change which results in an underestimating of benefits and an overestimating of costs. This is the reason having someone to manage the change process is vitally important to project implementation.
Research subjects attributed project success in part to cross-functional teams like a green team. These teams allow for greater understanding across departments and facilitated collaboration. These functional work groups have spill-over benefits to the businesses’ effectiveness on its primary mission of providing a high-quality good or service.
The most striking finding of this research was the key role that the sustainability project manager played in the project’s success. A few skill sets were common among the research’s test subjects:
- Communication skills – engaging employees in each department, listening and understanding what employees are struggling with, setting up a structure for collaboration across departments, and being able to sell the value proposition to top management and multiple departments
- Technical skills – being knowledgeable on the technology or system to be adopted, being aware of best practices, having strong project management and organizational skills
- Financial skills – collecting data, calculating costs and benefits
Finally, there was the energy level of the champion that many test subjects identified as critical to success. The sustainability project manager needed to have a passion for sustainability, be patient and demonstrate persistence.
More analysis will be forthcoming. This is just a first blush of our findings.