8 expert tips for creating a successful green team at work

As the leader of a huge global green group, Sydney-based Salesforce employee Lindsey Peterson is adept at bringing people together to champion sustainability within the workplace.

Jo Stewart
November 28, 2022
5 min read
Salesforce Greenforce team

‘Earthforce’ may sound like a sci-fi movie title, but it’s actually the name of a group of Salesforce employees who advocate for sustainability measures within the global, cloud-based software company headquartered in San Francisco. 

As global president of Earthforce, Lindsey Peterson leads the green team – which has 15,000 members and over 100 local hub leaders – in a range of activities, events and initiatives designed to carry out Earthforce’s vision: shaping better people for the planet and creating a better planet for the people. This includes everything from energy conservation to responsible procurement, and low-carbon commuting. 

She shares her tips for building a green group that makes a difference to your workplace, industry and, ultimately, the planet.

1. Align yourself with the priorities of the business

Lindsey understands the importance of speaking the right language. Once you understand the priorities of the business, you can choose the right time, approach and words to get some traction.

“If the business is most concerned with its carbon footprint, I'd pivot my approach to educating the team about Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, what sustainable development goals are and how this is a part of a larger mission to reduce the warming of the planet," says Lindsey.

2. Strengthen your case with data 

Numbers are helpful in making your case for being allocated more resources. To measure your impact, you need to collect data that will help you demonstrate how many people you’re reaching and how much time staff are spending on the project outside of work. Then, you can present the data to your business to (hopefully) secure more support.

3. Let it grow

Lindsey believes that self-organised groups tend to work and evolve organically. In turn, they are usually the most proactive and successful groups, because they know what they need to do and they get it done. 

“You don't need to go into an organisation and say, ‘This is the structure you need to have. This is what your green team needs to focus on.’ Just let it grow, no pun intended,” she says.

4. Bring everyone along

Lindsey knows that if you want your ideas to succeed, you need to bring everyone along for the ride. New projects, ideas and ways of working require investment from everyone, especially the management team. 

“If you go to a key decision maker and only present all the things that you're passionate about, you're not going to get buy-in if it's not an interest of theirs or the business,” she says.

5. Ask the right questions 

You might already know a lot about sustainability but being curious about your organisation (and its people) will pay off. Instead of getting on your soapbox, develop an interest in others. Every thoughtful question you ask will reveal useful information, not only about the company but the people you’re working with. 

“Ask questions and do some deep listening. Where are we headed? What does sustainability mean to us? What does success in this sustainability space look like for my business?” says Lindsey.

6. Harness communications platforms

Self-organised interest groups are good at sparking ideas and conversations, so make sure it’s easy for newcomers to join discussions, find out about upcoming events and learn about what you’re doing. Setting up dedicated sustainability channels on Slack or Teams (or whatever communication and collaboration platforms are used in your workplace) is a good start.  

“At Salesforce we have Slack channels devoted to Earthforce. We also have a Sustainability channel, an ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance] channel, and a Sustainability by Design channel,” Lindsey explains. 

7. Collaborate with other businesses 

Lindsey emphasises that your workplace is just one of many in a global ecosystem of businesses on similar missions to reduce their impacts. Sharing knowledge and resources between organisations and across industries is key to building a global consensus. Arranging for another organisation or business to come in and talk about their sustainability practices might just persuade your manager to get on board with your ideas. On the flipside, sometime in the future you may be the one presenting to and influencing change within another business.

“How do we act as multipliers for change within our own communities? Is there another business that you know has a green team? Can you get them to come along and present?” says Lindsey.  

8. Find common ground

Finally, what do you do when you meet resistance? Lindsey believes that you’ll always encounter people with different views or a reluctance to change. She shares that the answer lies in finding the things that you have in common and building from there. Sustainability is intersectional, so you’ll find allies from all walks of life.

“Allyship is crucial to the success of establishing an employee resource group or green team within your business. None of us can do this alone,” she says. 

Photo credit: Chloe Jackman Photography

Are you part of (or looking to create) a company green team, or working on ambitious sustainability goals in your workplace? We’d love to hear from you, understand your challenges and see how we can help. You can contact us here.

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