Dr. Jeana Wirtenberg, nationally recognized expert in organizational change, shares the fourth of four exclusive excerpts adapted from her new book Building a Culture for Sustainability.
At Wyndham Worldwide, sustainability has a governance structure that is unique in three distinct ways: Wyndham Green, Wyndham Green Council, and alignment of Wyndham’s human resources and corporate services.
First, Wyndham Green is placed as high as any strategic initiative could possibly be; it is coordinated by the highly placed Sustainability Leadership Council, which is part of the Wyndham Green Council and has among its members key executive officers such as WW’s chief human resources officer and the CEO of each of the company’s three business units (WHG, WER, and WVO). Wyndham Green reports directly to the board of directors and executive officers of the corporation.
Second,the Wyndham Green Council acts as a board of directors for the sustainability and innovation department. This department and the senior vice president of sustainability work collaboratively with the company’s three business units and oversee the development of policies and strategies. The department’s roles are to share best practices, facilitate and coordinate initiatives across the enterprise and build and develop internal and external resources.
In addition, the department steers the tracking and measurement of the company’s carbon footprint, its legislative compliance, and communications and reporting about its many programs. I was especially impressed by the way in which WW links sustainability to innovation through this fully integrated department.
The company’s Global Green Council—comprising more than 300 diverse, cross-functional members from across the business—spreads the sustainability message throughout the company. Its members are selected and appointed by the company’s top leaders, with the explicit goals of being the champions for the company’s sustainability programs and delivering triple-bottom-line results to the entire organization.
The third—and to me, the most interesting—way in which the WW sustainability structure is unique is that the sustainability and innovation department reports to the chief human resources officer. Because I had never seen this before in any other company, I was fascinated to learn how this reporting structure works.
Mary Falvey, executive vice president and chief human resources officer, explained that sustainability and innovation are aligned and integrated not only with the Human Resources (HR) department but with all corporate services under the human resources umbrella, including real estate, facilities, marketing and communications, security, and, of course, the HR department itself.
Falvey and others I spoke with cited the many advantages of such a cross-functional approach to decision-making and cross-fertilization of ideas. For example, when the company moved into its new corporate headquarters, a LEED Silver interior-certified building, the leaders took time to explain to the employees why they had decided to have a LEED building,what LEED certification means, and what the ramifications are of having such a building. Employees were also given green tours.
“It helped get people engaged and bring them along,” said Falvey. None of these things would have happened so effortlessly had the teams not been working closely and collaboratively all along. Falvey said, “It all works together when all facilities are using green cleaning products, all the functions are talking and working together, and it all crisscrosses.”
Equipping, Enabling and Rewarding Employees
WW has successfully deployed many best practices that equip employees to go green and reward them when they do; the best practices then help the company and its stakeholders become more sustainable. I cover several of these best practices here: a recognition program known as Caught Green Handed; WW’s online Sustainability 101, which has been viewed by nearly 70 percent of all employees; Count on Me!, which acknowledges instances of exceptional customer service; WW Green Day and related events; intranet-based Wyndham Nation; a group of employee-centered programs to promote wellness and reduce health disparities in the workforce; and the company’s award-winning diversity initiatives.
Caught Green Handed is a simple recognition program that acknowledges employees who are making contributions to sustainability practices at WW and producing triple-bottom-line benefits for the organization. Created and developed internally, it was initiated within a business unit in WER and was subsequently made available to the entire organization.
Sustainability 101 is an online learning module designed to educate all WW employees about sustainability, including the challenges of global warming, deforestation, energy, and water resources. After a high-level overview of these challenges, it delves into the basics of a carbon footprint, how it is calculated, and ways to attenuate it. The program was developed collaboratively by the training group in human resources, external vendors, and a green team. Offered in 10 languages, it provides highlights of proven sustainable business practices that have been implemented around the world by WW.
At the end of the online program, employees are asked to create a pledge by selecting two out of these six areas to work on: energy conservation, water conservation, recycling, education, community, and innovation. To seal this commitment, each employee prints a certificate indicating the two areas of attentions he has chosen. As of 2012, the training program had reached almost 70 percent of the company’s 32,500 employees.
Count On Me! is a service culture, and awards are given internally to people who go above and beyond to serve the customer. It is seen as a way to build a culture of customer service at WW.
Once a year, WW celebrates WW Green Day throughout all its business units. Each event is locally planned to meet the needs of the employees and local community. Although the specifics might vary at each company location, typically the company brings in local green vendors and suppliers, and the local green team runs educational seminars for employees. These well-attended events have included placing a Smart Car in front of the office building and raffling off green products and services.
Additional green and sustainability education has been provided to more than 32,500 Wyndham employees on highly visible dates throughout the year. For example, seminars to build awareness about and inspire insights into sustainable business practices were run during events such as Earth Hour, Earth Day, Arbor Day, and WW Green Day. These sustainability and green themes are also covered in Wyndham’s new-hire orientation.
Sending a strong message of cohesiveness, the company’s intranet is known as Wyndham Nation. It is a centralized idea center that drives all employees in the company to one common source. The site has a dedicated area called Wyndham Green, and employees can share best practices and ideas globally. Further, they can post pictures and recognize ongoing employee achievements.
Green Governance Ensures Employee Well-being
In synch with WW’s holistic, triple-bottom-line approach to sustainability, the company provides a variety of programs targeted at ensuring its employees’ health and well-being. Although space does not permit a detailed description of all these programs, I present a few highlights.
WW is strongly committed to supporting employees’ health and well-being. Because the company believes that “health and wellness invoke both professional and personal productivity, achievement and fulfillment,” it offers Be Well—Embracing a Healthy Lifestyle to help its employees lead healthy lifestyles and balance their work and family responsibilities. It includes specific programs in such areas as “nutrition, exercise, lifestyle management, physical and emotional wellness, and financial health”—for example, on-site fitness centers, on-site and virtual weight-management programs,and stress-reduction initiatives.
Image of outdoor conference via livinggreenmag.com