How to grow a green team: Six simple tips from RSA Canada’s green champions

At RSA Canada, green teams are sprouting up like crocuses in spring. Over the past year, the insurance leader has revived a team at its Mississauga office and launched new ones in Montreal and Quebec City.

These green champions are helping co-workers reduce paper use, recycle everything from bottles to batteries, embrace carpooling and more. They’re also directly benefitting RSA’s bottom line in the form of cost savings and by engaging employees who are finding added meaning and purpose in their jobs.

What’s the secret behind these flourishing grassroots initiatives? Here’s what RSA’s green champions told us:

  1. Put out the word

When RSA put out a call for green team members, Mississauga’s Christopher McCaughey, national residential risk control leader, stepped forward. “I want to make a difference – simple as that,” he explains. His colleague Sean Insanally, claims representative, joined because he wanted to be an advocate and a mentor— not to mention leave a better world for his seven-year-old son.

Canadians care about the environment and they’re keen to put that passion into action. So if you want team members, event volunteers or suggestions on greener ways to operate, just ask. Send out emails, put up posters and approach your colleagues directly. Attract a couple of go-getters and you’re ready to roll.

  1. Start small

In Quebec City, Anne-Sophie Bergeron, a portfolio underwriter (personal lines), felt frustrated by the amount of recyclable material she saw tossed in the garbage. “I couldn’t take it any more,” she says. “It’s a big waste.”

So she launched RSA’s newest green team at the beginning of April. Together with a few colleagues, she started installing recycling bins around the office and putting up posters that explain what goes where. She deliberately kept the campaign simple. “I wanted to start small and not overwhelm people,” Bergeron explains. “Then eventually we’ll try to grow it bigger.”

At your workplace, you might choose to switch to reusable coffee mugs, set printer defaults to double-sided printing or turn off lights at the end of the day. The key is to pick something achievable and build from there.

  1. Leverage existing resources

RSA’s green teams have plenty of support to draw on. When Bergeron started planning a recycling program, the company’s communications manager for corporate responsibility sent her posters to promote the initiative.

In Montreal, Staples provided the green team with recycling bins for ink cartridges, pens, batteries and small electronics. And in Mississauga, RSA’s landlord and its waste disposal contractor helped identify ways to divert bottles from general trash.

Meanwhile, WWF-Canada’s Living Planet @ Work program – sponsored by RSA Canada – offers a slew of checklists, posters, webinars and other resources for greening your workplace.

  1. Measure progress

It’s easy to think that small actions don’t matter. Not true. Every bottle you put in the recycling bin saves precious landfill space and makes use of a valuable resource. Not only that, it inspires your colleagues to do the same. Multiply that across the country, and you’ve got a significant impact. “Every small change can make a big difference,” says Montreal facilities co-ordinator Marjolaine Munger.

Tracking the impact you’re creating helps drive that message home. In just 12 months, RSA’s Mississauga office diverted 150 pounds of dead batteries from landfill and collected five dozen pairs of prescription glasses to be redistributed to those in need. Now, the green team is busy measuring paper use, collecting baseline data before launching this year’s “think before you print” campaign.

  1. Celebrate achievements

Let your co-workers know how much of a difference they make. In Mississauga, for example, one dedicated group of employees has been carpooling from Hamilton (more than 30 kilometres each way) for 15 years. The green team recognized that milestone on RSA’s company-wide intranet, showcasing just how much fuel and greenhouse gas emissions these enviro-heroes have saved.

  1. Reap the rewards

In Montreal, Munger notes that switching to paper towels made from 100 per cent recycled fibre has saved RSA money while helping the environment. Meanwhile, being part of the green team has given her colleague, national sales specialist Caroline Lussier, another reason to love her job. “I’m very proud to work for a company that cares for the environment,” she says.