Anatomy of a Green Team

Whether you’re building or growing your green team, here’s how you can plan for measurable outcomes and programmatic longevity.

By JANET HOWARD on May 8, 2017

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Historically, the existence of a green team has been a signpost of environmental movement in any organization. It indicates that a group of individuals have been identified to work together, set goals and track improved environmental performance.

But with close scrutiny on measurable outcomes and programmatic longevity, some pain points are revealed: Committees overburden one or two people, some green teams have the passion but lack leadership engagement to overcome obstacles, and others may witness a repetitive agenda and little programmatic movement because a committee is made up of very busy volunteers. So what is the most efficient committee structure for long-term, action-oriented programs?

The Nuts and Bolts

More important than having a separate green team is the existence of any structure in which the work can be planned, carried out and tracked. Because there are various pieces that go into a sustainability program and a green team requires diverse representation, it’s not necessary for all of these pieces to be done together.

For example, energy and water conservation can be performed through facilities management, and recycling can be addressed in environmental services or housekeeping. In addition, the Environment of Care Committee or Quality Improvement Committee are two key existing frameworks that work well with standing agenda items and projects on sustainability activities.

But however you build your green team, some kind of oversight or leadership team is the most critical piece. This creates a formal structure where all can come together to see the big picture, understand how all the pieces come together and share progress. Regular reporting, communication and education can be coordinated through this team.

This team can also lead further innovation, creativity and deeper engagement by making important connections to other key areas of focus, including community benefit, safety, population health, patient and employee satisfaction and wellness, to name a few. In fact, any deeper programming and associated communication strategy requires an intentional connection to these other areas. However, these other areas might not, at first glance, recognize that “the work” is in alignment with their own goals surrounding health, cost savings and mission.

Remember that with the complex health care landscape and doing more with less, the greatest opportunity for success and programmatic progress is when goals clearly support and connect to the overarching goals of the organization as identified in the organizational strategic plan. Review the strategic plan and spend some time identifying environmental goals that help achieve the overarching goals, particularly those that would benefit from increased leadership engagement in sustainability. Take a close look at your team or teams, scan the committee landscape of your organization, and ask yourself, “Is there a better way?” If you need help, Practice Greenhealth offers strategic deployment consulting that’s designed to bring hospital leaders and key stakeholders together and can help you answer that very question.

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Also, consider this: Advocate Health Care’s Mary Larsen, director of Sustainability and Supplier Diversity, is a former Practice Greenhealth facility engagement liaison. When she was hired by Practice Greenhealth in 2007, one of her first orders of business was to craft a guidance document on developing a green team.1 Ten years later, it still holds up, with guidance on identifying team members, developing SMART goals, data tracking, team evaluation and much more. If your facility is dissatisfied with its level of leadership engagement, a team “standard work” guide2 may also be a helpful first step in building continuous improvement at your organization.

If you are looking to build a green team, here are some questions that can help you get started:

  • Who is on the green team, and who is chair?
  • How often does the green team meet?
  • What are the green team’s measurable goals?
  • Does the green team have a mission statement or defined policies?
  • What facilities and other locations are covered through the committee’s activities?
  • What is the structure of the team at each site?
  • How do multiple sites engage in green team activity?
  • How does the green team communicate its activities? With whom does it share information, and how often does it share information?
  • What is going well with the green team?
  • What are some of the green team’s challenges?
  • Does the green team have a name, logo or other branding elements?

By answering these questions, you will find the beginnings of a basic structure and outline for a green team specific to your hospital’s unique needs, culture, operations and goals.


 

1. The document can be accessed in the password-protected (members only) Hospital Member Toolkit: www.PracticeGreenhealth.org/tools-resources/member-toolkits-0. Scroll to “Step by Step Guide” for “A Guide for Creating Effective Green Teams in Health Care.”

2. www.PracticeGreenhealth.org/topics/leadership-infrastructure/building-sustainability-team