Whichever way employers define “sustainable,” incorporating the effort into the workplace requires creative thought and effort.
Let’s start with this definition: “able to last or continue for a long time.” For employers to maintain long-term success, their employees must be representative of their entire diverse community. To achieve these ends and encourage staff retention, Deborah Miles, executive director of the Center for Diversity Education at UNC Asheville, highlights three crucial areas of focus:
• Examine hiring pipelines: How companies advertise and who is aware of job openings determines who applies. Keeping in mind that 70 percent of all jobs are gained through some sort of personal connections, pipelines may be broadened by establishing relationships at historically black colleges and universities, or sending announcements to a wider friendship circle.
• Mentor: Identifying staff for leadership potential, learning employee aspirations and providing special opportunities for skills to grow are key in establishing diversity in higher-level positions.
• Take accountability: In addition to performance in the above areas, are employers selecting diverse hiring committees, screening from conscious bias, providing a welcoming climate and monitoring how co-workers are getting along in the office?
Then there’s definition number No. 2: “involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources.” Eco-friendly benefits and services help make employees’ lives easier and encourage the long-term health of the world around them.
• Provide free bus passes: In Asheville Transit’s Passport program, employers and schools pay one monthly bill that allows employees and students no-cost bus rides when they show a corresponding ID. According to City Transit Projects Coordinator Yuri Koslen, Green Opportunities, UNCA, the OMNI Grove Park Inn, Buncombe County and the city of Asheville currently provide this benefit to full time employees.
• Encourage car pool networks: UNCA also offers the Zimride ride-sharing program to its students, faculty and staff for daily commutes and carpooling to destinations such as Charlotte and Raleigh. “Any time we can convert a few would-be drivers into multi-passenger commuters, we can reduce [the] amount of emissions, parking and traffic on the roads,” says John Ridout, transportation coordinator for UNCA. “It is a win-win for the user and the university.”
• Create incentives for alternative transportation: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Green Machine program requires a pledge of five round trips per month for work, errands or another non-recreational purpose via bicycling, walking, skateboarding, public transit or carpooling. “We really wanted to make sure the program was encouraging employees to rethink their transportation options and ‘step out of the car,’ if you will,” says Mandi McKay, sustainability coordinator for Sierra Nevada. All participants are entered into quarterly drawings for various prizes, and a party is held each April with grand-prize drawings for two new bicycles.