The Green Café: Connecting and creating green business

Two weeks ago, I was very happy to co-host the second Green Café with my colleague Steve Unger at the SAP Vancouver offices in Yaletown. With the support of the David Suzuki Ambassador program (both Steve and I are proud to be Ambassadors!), we set up the Cafés to provide a forum for learning and sharing for businesses trying to Green their operations. While there are other events in Vancouver like Green Drinks, we wanted to create something specifically focused on engaging employees and transforming organizations from the inside out.

The first event we held at the DSF offices and had about 30 people turn out. I had the pleasure of MC’ing the evening and Peter Robinson, CEO of the Foundation gave a great welcome. Then my colleague Steve, co-captain of our SAP Vancouver Employee Green Team have a presentation what we are doing in Vancouver. More important that what we are doing though is how we have done it – his story about the 3 year push to get 50% transit subsidies for employees is a study in perseverance and how to sell ideas to senior execs – by economics, from an HR perspective or from a marketing benefit.

This time, we wanted to foster more interactivity and discussion among the participants. Borrowing the concepts of “speek geeking” from our Web of Change friends and “speed consulting” from Social Venture Institute, we came up with the idea of “speed greening”. Over 40 people came out and we had seven tables each with someone with a green problem or challenge. Things like “how do we engage employees year-round, not just on Earth Day”, “how do we reduce the impact of takeout containers in our office” and “will consumers pay more for green products”. Everyone at the table had one minute to give feedback on the challenge, then had the chance to change tables. Over the evening, everyone got a chance to give feedback on all the challenges. It was amazing to see the knowledge in the room shine in response to these challenges. We tried to capture as much as possible and will be posting these on our wiki here: http://greencafe.wikispaces.com

I’m excited about this program for a few reasons. First, this is an amazing example of volunteers engaging with an organization like DSF to both further their objectives and engage the public. Second, there is a huge appetite from businesses for more information on not just the “what” of greening business, but the “how”. Lastly, it is very gratifying to see how many companies and individuals are willing to come out, talk about their challenges openly and share solutions.

For more info and to sign-up for the next Green Café (likely April 2010), send an email to ambassadors@davidsuzuki.org, join the LinkedIn group or check out notes and plans for next time on our Wiki: http://greencafe.wikispaces.com

To learn more about ways to green your workplace, check out the David Suzuki Nature Challenge @ Work program and consider requesting an Ambassador to come to your workplace to lead a workshop with your staff. More on the Ambassador program next time.

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