As I mentioned in an earlier post, while I was first getting my feet under me as the Chief Sustainability Officer of CA Technologies, one of the things I did was try to get a handle on the difference green projects that were already happening in the enterprise. Different team members in offices all around the globe were executing on sustainability initiatives that were important to them. One of my favorite stories came out of our Hyderabad, India office.
Our Hyderabad office is already starting with a big leg up in sustainability to begin with. Our new building is a LEED Gold rated facility, which means it meets extremely rigorous green standards in terms of energy and water efficiency, landscape and site management, recycling, transportation and a variety of other categories (stay tuned here for more details about LEED).
The building has a buffet-style employee cafeteria that serves hundreds of employees and guests every day and, sticking with the green theme, has a built in composting plant where all food waste is sent to at the end of the day.
Sounds perfectly sustainable, right? Not so fast, says Sridhar Chakravarthi, the Director of Operations in Bangalore.“We never had access to information about food waste prior to the new composting plant getting up and running. So when our facility management partner, Jones Lang LaSalle, started providing us with data about the amount of food going to composting every day, and we realized it was between 80 and 100 kg, we knew something had to change.” The question for the team was how to get employees to change their habits without simply telling people to waste less food. What they came up with was simple and brilliant.
“We decided to appeal to the employee’s better nature, by providing them with data and letting them make their own decisions”, said Chakravarthi. “We put a sign up at the beginning of the buffet line every day providing two pieces of information: 1. how much food was thrown away yesterday, say 96.5 kg, and 2. how many people that wasted food could have helped, say 410. In India, this second piece of information is near and dear to people’s hearts.”
The team was not expecting the results to be significant, but to their surprise, the message worked. Within three weeks there was a reduction of close to 80% in the amount of food sent to composting each day. By the end of the first month they were averaging 18.2 kg per day and it has stayed at that level for months. According to Sridhar, “Because the cafeteria is buffet-style, there may have been a tendency for employees to take more food than they were truly going to eat. By making people aware of the unnecessary waste, people made a change on their own. They are not eating less, but they are certainly taking less and it seems to have become ingrained in their habits.”
All of this results in significant materials reduction (60 to 80kg of food a day is quite a bit), which results in less food being ordered, delivered, prepared and served. Employee engagement, lower costs, happier vendors, less waste and composting…what’s not to like about this story? Thanks Sridhar!