On Saturday, the world will come together for Earth Day 2017. I believe this is one of the most important days of the year because it’s a reminder of the responsibility we have to protect our planet, future generations, and each other (and we can all use reminders). This year’s campaign is about strengthening environmental and climate literacy. This is an especially relevant theme considering there are people who still challenge and debate the science driving climate change programs, initiatives, and legislation. To this end, it’s critical for us to recognize that unchecked pollution is the cause of climate change, and work to become climate literate so we can be voices for change. Remember, knowledge is power and that leads to action and progress—our only defense against the unprecedented threat that is climate change.
I have the good fortune of working for Avaya, a company that recognizes the unique opportunity we have to drive positive social, environmental and economic impact. We call this our Corporate Responsibility, and this spirit is reflected in everything we do, from upholding high ethical standards in the ways we conduct business to volunteering in our local communities and designing products that are energy efficient and require less hardware. (Learn more in our new Corporate Responsibility Report for Avaya’s 2016 Fiscal Year.) The primary reason for the environmental strides we’ve made can be attributed to our people. Corporate Responsibility is a mindset at Avaya. Our leaders and employees are educated, committed and active, and we continue to show we can move mountains with tight budgets and resources.
Why Companies Need to Lead in Protecting People and Our Planet
If we don’t, who will?
Look, it can be challenging. Getting the green light for programs that aren’t directly tied to revenue often requires perseverance. But we disregard the environment at our own peril. I believe businesses today have a moral obligation to act in ways that are thoughtful, balanced and compassionate, simply for the health of our people and our planet. Beyond that, though, behaving and acting in ways that positively strengthen our communities and the environment is just good business. It’s what customers and top talent have come to expect. Let me explain.
Millennials have recently surpassed boomers as the largest living generation. Also, as a whole, millennials are more passionate in their support of corporate social and environmental efforts. According to a study by Cone Communications, 24% of millennials believe they can make a difference in their community by buying products that support social causes, and 68% say a company’s social/environmental commitment is important or extremely important when deciding which products to buy. Similarly, according toNielsen, 51% of millennials will pay extra for sustainable products, and another 51% actively check the packaging for sustainable labeling. These are customers, and they’re paying attention.
What’s more, in just three years, millennials will account for 50% of the workforce. Now look at the following: A PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported that 88% of millennials prefer companies that emphasize corporate social responsibility, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer’s Corporate and Social Responsibility no longer met their expectations. If your retention and attrition strategy isn’t considering this data, you need to rethink it.
From where I sit, the connection between a meaningful corporate responsibility initiative and revenue is clear, and it’s direct.
Engage Your Employees
People ask me all the time how to do a lot with a little. After all, we’re operating in a time when budgets are scarce and resources are little. My answer is always this: turn to your employees. And Avaya has a great story.
The past several years, our company experienced a lot of change in its transformation to a software and services company. In spite of this, in 2015, we introduced our first-ever Avaya Month of Giving, a spirited 31-day campaign designed to bring together employees, suppliers and partners to make a difference in communities across the globe. In the run up to kick-off, I had a few people share with me their doubts that we could make this program successful. The thinking was that employees were busy, we had it in July during a high time for vacations, etc. But I never wavered in my belief it would be successful. I knew if we “leaned in” on our Avaya teams from around the globe, they’d deliver. And boy did they! In the words of Margaret Meade, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Collectively, the campaign raised approximately $250,000 for global charities, and engaged 60 employee teams across 32 Avaya locations and resulted in thousands of employees dedicating volunteer hours to charitable causes. Stunning! We followed that up with Month of Giving 2016, raising more than $200,000 for charities around the world. We’re aiming to exceed these numbers when Month of Giving rolls out later this year. #AvayaStrength
We’ve come full circle, back to where we began: our collective responsibility to our planet and to future generations. I can’t think of one reason for any company or individual to not invest all they can to help reverse the effects of climate change. In fact, there are more than a billion ways you can engage. #NoExcuses
As you head out on Saturday, hopefully to give back to your community in some way, I encourage you to keep top of mind the words of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” #EarthDay2017