A few years back a good friend of mine fell in love with the country of Norway. In so doing she worked out she would need a way to make a crust and subsequently offered here unparalleled research capability to the Norwegian multi-national, DNV (or Det Norske Veritas for those with a phobia of acronyms). The wikipedia one-liner on DNV is that they are a classification society organised as a foundation, with the objective of "Safeguarding life, property, and the environment". Basically this puts them in the business of managing risk.

As clever risk managers they worked out a smart way to address the risk of the developed world's unsustainable resource consumption and waste production. Realising the best place to start was internally they have been addressing this through changing the habits of their workforce. The following interview with Jorgen Kadal explains the journey to date as seen through the eyes of the person responsible for getting it off the ground.
Q1 - Please provide a brief outline of the program

Below I have enclosed the original brochure for the scheme. I think this describes it quite well.

Editor's note: the brochure has been uploaded here but an excerpt is below.

What is WE do?

WE do is a global environmental project that helps 8,000 people working in DNV
limit their personal environmental footprint – which is estimated to be larger or at
least comparable to the footprint from DNV’s operations. To achieve this, DNV will partially finance personal environmental measures. The upper limit is NOK 10,000 (a Norwegian Kroner is approximately AUD 0.192 or USD 0.179 at time of writing) per person, per year, regardless of location. NOK 40 million is set aside to finance the project.

Q2 - How long did it take from the initial idea to implement the program and what were some of the critical steps along the way?

The idea was conceived during the autumn/winter 2006/2007, and the program was implemented in the spring of 2008.  (see also the interview in the DNV forum magavine uploaded here).

The idea was conceived by myself starting with my growing concern that new technology alone was not enough to reach the required targets for reduction of greenhouse gases, and my increasing disappointment with norwegian politicians who seemed not to be able to put practical measures into action. When DNV got a new CIO in early 2007, he set out to define new visions values and goals, and the synthesis of this was summed up in the statement ´Global impact for a safe and sustainable future´.

Upon reading thisI was inspired to think that perhaps my company could set an example that could inspire the world around us by showing that, through a small encouragement,DNV employees around the world would be willing to back the vision of the company by reducing their personal footprint. The next critical step for me personally was to build up the courage to approach him with this bold idea. His almost immediate response was, ´thank you, this was a great idea, we will do this´. From then on he took it and turned it into what is has become today.

A project manager was named, a project team set up and a WEdo committee consisting of one representative from each business area plus the human Resources/Safety, Health and Environment (HR/SHE) director and myself was established. The first hurdle was to get this through the board of directors.  Then came the process of conducting a global brainstorming session using a discussion forum on the intranet, and then screening the ideas based on their similarities and occurrence. Then the most popular were suggested more or less in their original form, to all the country managers for their approval. The element of local adaption of the eligible measures were included and a final list as you find in the  enclosed  brochure were distributed and a web application form was made available on the intranet. Parallel to this was an important discussion on how to administer the applications and the distribution of funding with the least possible disruption to business in the regions. This was resolved quite elegantly through using the ordinary regime for handling expense statements.

Then an initiative that was also mentioned in the original idea, to apply for tax exemption in Norway for this additional funding, was started. After a few rounds with the finance department, this was finally closed with a negative answer. This was a little disappointing, that an initiative that really showed that the private sector was highly motivated to support both Norwegian society and the global community at large, to reach the targets for reduction of greenhouse gases was seen as just another taxable benefit to the employees.

The final two critical steps where to get acceptance from the board of directors to carry on the programme over a full three year period. Acceptance for the second period was granted, and I am not sure whether acceptance for a third period has been given yet. Part of this process includes documenting the effect of the programme for the total reduction of greenhouse gases, for the satisfaction of the employees in terms of motivation to remain with the company, or be attracted to work there, and general strengthening of the brand.

Q3 - What is the % uptake by staff members and what is the cost to your organisation as a % of profit after tax?

In the initial brainstorming Over 500 ideas were posted, 50% of employees visited the discussion forum and 100% knew about it.

For the first round of applications in 2008, 50% of the employees (4100) people applied. The cost was about 5% of profit after tax.  

Norway and China were the big doers, and there was a big geographical variation.

For the second round,  3139 people applied, and the cost ratio is expected to be slightly less as the profits are expected to be higher this year.

Q4 - What are some of the resources employed during the development of the program? A list of key resources that I have put together for my readers can be found here.

Initially footprint calculators on the internet were used to trigger people's awareness. They were linked up from the resource pages on the intranet, and people were generally encouraged to go and try them out. Thenduring the first year, the top management distributed the book ´The hot topic´ to all employees worldwide. This was a very good and objective account for all the main factors and issues affecting climate change and the challenges we are facing to limit the effects of these.

Q5 - What is the most inspirational employment of the program that you have seen to date?

I think the two most inspirational employments of the programme I have seen is environmentally friendly water heating for a school in china, as is described on page 41 of our annual report, and this year, to see how many people that were very far from even thinking about cycling to work, have really taken on this task and have cycled much more than the required miles to qualify for the funding and are set to keep doing this also in the future.

I am also very inspired by the way this programme has been used in the annual report to illustrate the commitment of the employees of DNV.

Q6 - What are some of the benefits of this program to your organisation?

One of the main benefits has been referred to as motivation of the employees (implicitly contributing to retention rates and attracting competent people). Many people report back that this programme makes them proud to work in DNV.

Another has been that of motivating employees to align with the vision and goals for DNV to have global impact for a sustainable future through the way they deliver and contribute to further develop our services.

And yet another has been to strengthen DNV's brand as we are trying to position ourselves in the many business opportunities that open as the world tries to tackle climate change issues.

Q7 - What advice do you have for organisations considering implementing similar programs?

It was definitely a success criteria to involve the whole organisation in the forming of the programme. This created a unique ownership among the employees and helped take down a lot of discussions that could well have strained the management organisation during implementation.

Another success criteria has been to make the administration of the programme as lean as possible so that it is not seen as another large overhead to the organisation.

Another piece of advice that we wish we had established earlier, is to implement measures and calculators for the organisation to measure the effect of the programme along the way. A lot of good energy and motivation (for example to choose to cycle to work) can be created from measuring achievements over time. 

Finally, a strong foundation of committment from the top has been a key element to the success of our programme. 

Thank you Jorgen for a wonderful insight into DNV's WE do program. Any readers who have experiences they would like to share about their own organisation's sustainability programs feel free to leave a comment.

Sustainability practitioners the world over have come to be doing what they are doing as a result of some inspirational individual or reference along the way. This post aims to provide a starting point for you in your journey to drive organisational change for social, economic and environmental sustainability. This list includes books, movies, individuals, websites and organisations. Sustainability is a diverse field and it is important to be able to see the connections between different elements so that you can focus energy at points of high leverage.

1. The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken. I first found out about this book via a movie called 'The Corporation'. While I enjoyed the movie the interview with Ray Anderson of Interface stands out. In this interview he talks about the 'spear through the chest' that the book was for him and the transformational journey that his company went through as a result of the call to action this book represented to him. This book is a serious eye-opener and provides excellent reasons as to why we need to take action sooner rather than later. It also focuses heavily on the fact that it is the world of commerce that can drive the positive changes required.

2. An Inconvenient Truth - Documentary featuring Al Gore. This is an important film because back in 2006 it got mainstream attention focussed upon a topic which although widely known about had been pretty conveniently ignored for a long time. Since then we have seen political parties in Australia and the US elected whose campaigns have included reformist agendas in relation to climate change. If you haven't seen it get down to the library and grab a copy quick smart. Other noteworthy films that were released around the same time are Jake Gyllenhaal’s apocalyptic science fiction film The Day After Tomorrow and Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary The 11th Hour.

3. The Natural Step - not-for-profit organisation. Established in Sweden by Dr Karl-Henrik Robert in the late 1980’s - early 1990’s this organisation has educated many people across the globe in the key elements of sustainability. Based on a practical scientific approach The Natural Step centres on these four basic principles (best understood if read from top to bottom with the left hand column first):

Editor's note. Please excuse the formatting as the ability to add a table in an easily readable format currently eludes this blogger. Tips welcome in the comments. You can also click onthe table to be taken to the website.

These considerations are widely applicable and are a very useful resource to sustainability practitioners in all organisations.

4 Networks including those supported by social media. Being a trailblazer is fun but eventually you are going to want followers. Building a small army of like-minded people behind you will help you drive organisational change as you support one another over the obstacles that come up along the way. An excellent way to stay in touch with and recruit people to support your change programs is by exercising and expanding your network. Social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter allow people to maintain contact with and exchange information with much larger groups than if they relied upon telephone and face to face meetings. This kind of interaction is still important though as someone who interacts solely online may quickly lose touch with the reality of any situation that they are trying to be a part of.

5 NGOs and Charities - Greenpeace, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Kiva, Engineers Without Borders etc. Charities are at the coal face in terms of the inequity and destruction brought about by decades of unsustainable practices. This puts them in an excellent position to advise on the impacts of unsustainable activity and when possible the solutions that they have identified. These organisations are fantastic sources of information but more importantly inspiration. Rather than throw their hands in the air and consider the weight of the situation to be too immense they have taken on the challenge and are striving for a solution.

6 The Green Pages - Online business directory. Five years ago it would have been a challenge to get an idea such as this off the ground. Now 'green' products are widespread and it is difficult to imagine many products that haven't had a 'green' alternative proposed. However, when it comes time to spend or simply do your research online directories such as these are an excellent resource. The rise of services like these has improved the choice available to consumers and broken down barriers to the widespread implementation of these products.

7 The Country of Sweden. Necessity is a wonderful thing. Sweden lacks significant coal and oil resources and subsequently is a great place to look for ways around this dependency. Potentially one of the most progressive nations when it comes to sustainability, Sweden have been taking significant steps towards reducing fossil fuel dependency for decades and continue to be at the forefront of legislative reform and application of new technologies. All of this has happened while maintaining a high standard of living and continuing to compete in a global market.

8 Government agencies. With no requirement to make a profit, and from time to time an acceptance of running at a deficit, Government agencies represent an excellent resource to sustainability practitioners worldwide. Government agencies are interested in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels as it saves them the effort of having to find ways to supply them. In addition to this, the infrastructure requirements and air quality issues associated with more cars on the road are key factors in Government agencies seeking sustainable transport solutions. Government websites are great sources of impartial information as you can expect that there is not a product that they are trying to sell you. Examples include the Victorian Government's Sustainability Victoria website and the Federal Government's Your Home Technical Manual which has plenty of advice on how to improve the sustainability of your living space.

9 The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). After the Exxon-Valdez environmental disaster in 1989 a group of US investors and environmentalists came together to form the non-profit Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES - pronounced "series"). In 1997-1998 they raised a "Global Reporting Initiative" project division that selected staff, identified funding and began developing a network. Shortly after this the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joined as a partner and provided a platform for the GRI. Over the years engagement with organisations around the world has continued to grow to the point where at last count there were 507 organisational stakeholders from 55 different countries. Many of the world’s largest companies utilise the GRI reporting tools for their sustainability reporting. This has assisted with the development of a common language in regards to measuring sustainability performance of organisations around the globe.

This list is by no means exhaustive and depending on what field of sustainability you focus on your key resources may vary considerably. In future posts I will aim to focus on specific areas and continue to expand the resources section of this website. Until next time, best wishes and keep up the good work in your part of the world.

I am keen to learn what inspires you and share it with other readers. What would be your # 10 key resource or inspiration? Feel free to add more in the comments below.