How the US Postal Service is embedding sustainability through engagement

The program of integrating sustainability in US Postal Service operations through employee engagement expanded substantially in 2012, says Grant Ricketts.

The U. S. Postal Service (USPS) recently announced that it had selected the Sustainability In Practice™ online learning solutions to train 15,000 more employees to address sustainability initiatives across the organization. This represents a sizeable commitment in employee engagement to ‘move the needle’ not matched by many other organizations.

The impetus behind this commitment builds upon the successful accomplishments by the USPS Office of Sustainability to date, where they have spearheaded a number of initiatives to address national sustainability goals in waste reduction, energy conservation, fleet fuel reduction, recycling, water use, and consumables spending that tracked over $52 million in savings in FY 2012 largely due to employee-led initiatives.

The decision to expand the program for another two years to reach 15,000 more employees exemplifies a well-aligned employee engagement strategy that was supported by a cross-functional team of operational managers, training experts, supply management professionals, marketing professionals, and lean green team members.

The Postal Service targets employee audiences as broadly defined as executives, plant managers, fleet operators, procurement professionals, marketing professionals, maintenance managers, and postmasters with specific learning modules that address each job function.

Providing targeted learning solutions helps employees understand how key sustainability principles apply to their specific job role so they are better able to see opportunities and take actions that contribute to the overall strategy of the organization.

Employee Engagement Model

The secret to this success is the effective alignment of employee actions and commitments with specific goals set by the organization and then providing targeted learning interventions to expand the knowledge base among employees so they understand how sustainability impacts their job role and what they need to do in response. (See Figure 1 – Employee Engagement Model).

Fig. 1. Employee Engagement Model

These efforts led to the formation of several "green teams" to lead grassroots efforts, as well as promoting an on-line sustainability training program to expand knowledge and awareness across these targeted employee populations. These two learning interventions – 1) expanding employee knowledge at large and 2) building cross-functional skills among Green Team members so they can go deeper and wider in the organization - enables the organization to scale engagement dramatically and continually improve results.

Results that speak

The USPS also developed a Green Initiatives Tracking Tool (GITT) which essentially serves as a business intelligence application that pulls data from the massive USPS data warehouse to track progress and results on specific sustainability goals down to the local facility level. It creates a series of 'Green Dashboards" that provide status updates for core projects including energy reduction, vehicle petroleum use, recycling and waste reduction, consumables reduction and water conservation that tie directly into the accounting system for each facility.

USPS estimates that it can save $2.5 million per year per district and in each HQ facility. The overall savings potential is well over $100 million per year and current progress is headed in that direction.

The program of integrating sustainability in Postal Service operations through employee engagement expanded substantially in 2012, growing to over 850 "green teams" with thousands of participants and contributing a major share of the more than $52 million dollars savings in FY 2012. The programs are being expanded further in FY 2013 as the USPS continues to create a culture of conservation among management and employee base as well as provide practical online tools to support and scale the effort.

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