Aligning Profit with Purpose – How to Design a Staff Ecofund

by Ted Ferguson – President,The Delphi Group

In our constellation of organizations, we are unabashedly pro-profit, pro-enterprise. We embrace an entrepreneurial, reward-initiative type environment. We love being in business. Does that make us greedy capitalists? Hardly! Rather, we like to do good by doing well.

We are a profit-for-purpose type of organization. Given our vision of achieving a sustainable, prosperous, and socially just future in a generation, it’s critical that our organizations not only work to that end with the services and products we offer, but also in how we use our profits and engage our team. We need to be authentic and accountable to our purpose.  To that end, Delphi gives 1% of gross revenues to charity and, now that GLOBE Series is a part of the constellation, it does as well. We have also invested in green bonds with Co-power.

Aligning our staff with our purpose isn’t hard – we tend to attract talented people who are invested in making a difference. But we like to offer programs that help them do more. For years we have provided a $300 sustainability payment to encourage staff to invest in something innovative and sustainable. Recently, we decided it was time to up our game – way up.  The answer? A staff ecofund.

Staff Ecofund 101

We wanted to encourage our employees to invest more deeply in carbon reductions, energy efficiency and climate restorative activities in their lives outside of work. So we invested $15,000 in the ecofund and offered to co-fund projects that would create significant carbon reductions. And then the fun started!

Once we launched it, our staff had a lot of great questions. A guidance document was developed and shared with the team that explained the terms (we would fund 50% of each project), and that we were looking for initiatives that would create a step-change in emissions and last a minimum of five years. It was critical to us, as consulting experts on carbon reductions, that the program had strong rigor.

Calling for submissions… anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Then it came to the deadline for receiving submissions and…nothing. Nada. Zip. What was going on? Free money was on the table. Turns out, engaging people in a cool concept requires several micro-steps that are not always self-evident. We went back to the team and asked about the barriers to submitting, and got some excellent input.

The main issues?

1. The dollar amount on offer was actually a bit daunting for people,
2. The technical criteria for quantifying the carbon reductions was not clear enough, and
3. We didn’t make enough internal resources available to help people through those procedures.

We Heard, We Learned, We Improved the Ecofund

So we went back to the concept and improved it. We included more examples of smaller, lower dollar projects that still created significant reductions (in context). Plus we made our carbon quantifier-extraordinaire, Stephan Wehr, available to applicants. The result? Four excellent submissions that represented large and small projects from across the spectrum of reduction opportunities:

project collage

1. Used EV purchase combined with SCRAP-IT of old ICE car


2. Solar PV installation on a house


3. Sewing machine purchase to repair clothing in order to avoid purchasing


4. 
E-bike purchase to replace pick-up truck usage in summer time

 

Not only were the applications technically accurate and thorough, but they were creative as hell! Plus, they help us prove we are being authentic to our profit-for-purpose assertions, and that this approach to business continues to drive many happy returns. Keep an eye out for more on these four great projects and how they’re reducing emissions to help move sustainability forward.

Ted Ferguson is President of The Delphi Group. For more information about Delphi’s work as a B-Corporation and issues ranging from climate change policy to employee and customer engagement on sustainability issues, feel free to reach out to Ted directly - tferguson@delphi.ca

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