By Max Tau, Capgemini Netherlands
As hundreds of thousands of recently educated young sustainability activists reach the job market, companies are trying to find the right channels to harness this enthusiasm. The use of Center of Practice (CoP) collaboration looks to accomplish just that.
The global network of environmentally focused individuals has grown faster than the global connectivity of enterprise. Driven by the generational youth, science has benefitted from the once young environmental activist turning into the research-publishing scientist of today.
A network of peers, both student and professional, have made organizations like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) multi-national corporations. Importantly, modern advances in network connectivity have benefitted smaller outfits even further.
The large outfits spend millions on making the message clear, and making sure that the public knows that they are the right people to fix the problems. The member fund drives and grant writing are at the core of operations, something that differs significantly in the smaller, more agile organizations.
Organizations now have free mediums to create outrage and demand action. “Sharing”, “Liking”, “Re-Tweeting”, and commenting have given companies the power of a digital word-of-mouth.
While global business enterprises are certainly profiting from the power of social media and technological connectivity, the much lower median age of activist organizations helps to unleash the true potential of these new technologies. Obviously the focus, and different fundamental business model, helps shape this fact, but companies can learn from the speed at which these organizations have grown along side technology.
Based currently in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Greenpeace has branches all over the globe. Split in two separate organs, Greenpeace International and Greenpeace worldwide, their combined 2011 revenue was over EUR 220mil.
Considering that in 1993 Greenpeace made less than $35mil, the operations are well funded and rely heavily on conventional media expenditures. Legal action has also been expensively profitable, in that it was expensive but delivered plenty of media attention as a byproduct.
Greenpeace has found a way to spend less than EUR10mil on fundraising activity to bring in EUR241mil in 2011 (up from EUR230 in 2010). The crisis hasn’t been easy for the organization, but the pace at which their technological and business innovations are occurring are keeping the boat afloat.
Through grants and member support, Greenpeace has bedrock of compassionate capitalists.
So, basically, what we have is an industry that channels the passion for environmental protection, which drives its product, and spreads its message.
At Capgemini Netherlands, and many other Capgemini locations, Centers of Practices (CoP) are set up in order to facilitate thought leadership and innovation. From trainings to demo play time with new software, topics are focused upon and solutions are discussed.
The Sustainability CoP has created a self-sustaining network of employees who are passionate about bettering both Capgemini and our clients. Companies that have encouraged the CoP in other areas like supply chain, transportation, marketing, and finance, recognize the value it provides by spotting issues and encouraging transparency. Profiting from a (social) network of colleagues through the CoP is an example of how a company solves problems holistically.
Giving operators the chance to brainstorm with a planning specialist, or a manufacturing supervisor a face to face with a guy from packaging, can identify areas where improvements can be made and costs can be saved. The CoP is also leveraging the new digital dynamic of social structure by temporarily removing hierarchy and rank. At the same time it gives management the chance to orientate in a broader fashion.
Most importantly for any enterprise, a CoP allows expectations to be realistic. When groupthink creates over ambitious goals, a red flag from management can kill any potential in the enthusiasm behind these goals.
A graduating generation of fresh talent is hitting the marketplace. A commercialization of the sustainability movement has spawned water projects in South America, battles against de-forestation and conflict mineral extraction in Africa, female education progress throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, and community hunger programs on the streets of America. Real change has been made, and enterprise now has a responsibility to take the hint and pick up the ball dropped by government. Encouraging thought leadership through the sharing of ideas is the best way to make real gains in sustainability.
Max Tau is a technology and Supply Chain consultant at Capgemini Netherlands. As a member of the Sustainability Framework within Capgemini, he specializes in information technology based solutions to environmental and efficiency related targets.