It’s become trendy to say you’re going green, but Chuck Fowler’s efforts to promote sustainability at Fairmount Minerals is hardly the work of a leader pursuing the latest fad just to make his business look good.
Instead, it’s part of a plan to make the 450-employee sand producer a more well-rounded company that is reducing costs while also becoming more environmentally conscious.
“We’ve had any number of ideas that have come out of our groups and our teams that have resulted in new products, reduced costs and improved profitability,” says Fowler, the company’s president and CEO. “If you turn a lot more people loose on it, you get a lot more opportunities. Any number of those have paid for whatever cost we got involved with.”
Fowler and his employees set 59 “bold goals” for 2007 and achieved or made progress toward achieving just about every one of them, including increasing participation in the company wellness program by 87 percent and providing at least eight hours of safety training to 86 percent of employees.
Employees also developed reusable containers that eliminated the need for about 15,700 pallets and 4,000 units of packaging annually.
“It’s a way many managers and companies have operated over the years for all their lives,” Fowler says of the latest push for sustainability in business. “It’s just putting a definition to it and a positive emphasis.”
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in trying to promote sustainability is to get caught up in trying to define it.
“You have to brand it and make it simple and easy for everybody,” Fowler says. “‘We, the Fairmount Minerals family, are united in our commitment to exceed all expectations while fulfilling our economic, social and environmental responsibilities.’ That’s a pretty good mouthful to remember. So we shortened that to, ‘Do good, do well.’ When we say that in our organization, people know what it means.”
Branding is crucial to getting everyone on board with steps that promote sustainability and, in the process, benefit the bottom line. By getting employees together in a group setting, you can brainstorm ideas on how to get others involved.
“It was a cross section from all over the company,” Fowler says. “We invited about 35 to 40 people to come together to be our steering committee to start the buy-in process. Then we invited everybody to a summit to introduce sustainability.”
Your employees need to see that you are sincere about your plan to increase sustainability at the company and that it’s not just about going green; it’s also about finding better and more efficient ways to do their jobs.
When you can find ways to integrate the effort in a positive way outside of the work-place, you stand a good chance of gaining employee support. And getting your company involved in volunteering initiatives and projects that benefit the community can do just that.
“What that does is gets the feeling and understanding that it’s OK,” Fowler says. “It shows them what they do, how they can do it, where they might do it and where they have a passion. Employees carry that onto volunteering on their own.”
By getting employees in the mindset of helping out in the community and being environmentally conscious, you also get them thinking about ways to save money in the workplace.
“Being more efficient as far as electricity is concerned,” Fowler says. “Being more efficient as far as energy use is concerned and waste. These aren’t new things. It’s just a better way of trying to accomplish them.
“Ultimately, our definition of success is when everybody within our organization and our stakeholders think about sustainability and people, planet and prosperity in every decision that they make.”
Chuck Fowler says it’s never a good idea to underestimate the capacity of your employees to meet goals.
“Most business consultants over the years would recommend that a business set three to five goals a year because they can’t do any more than that,” says Fowler, president and CEO of Fairmount Minerals. “Bull pucky. We set 59 goals last year, and this year, we had 57 goals. The way we’re able to do that is we have 450 people working on them, not just four or five.”
Fowler says your goals for your company should be ambitious, but they have to be realistic, as well.
“You need to be honest with yourself and with your stake-holders,” Fowler says.
While you are trying to reach for the stars with your goals, you usually don’t have to reach nearly as far to get employees to achieve them. Bonuses are good, but the small things can be just as effective.
“We give a $2,000 bonus for anybody that buys a hybrid or green-rated car,” Fowler says. “That sounds pretty good. But getting recycling bins in everybody’s office and getting people in the plant to take control of that or ownership of that has probably had more impact than giving $2,000 bonuses.”
HOW TO REACH: Fairmount Minerals, (800) 237-4986 or www.fairmountminerals.com