3 takeaways for greening your organization: The role of environmental impact assessments and green teams

3 takeaways for greening your organization: The role of environmental impact assessments and green teams

On November 17as part of its Greening CSOs initiativeCooperation Canada convened civil society organizations to examine the intersection of baseline environmental assessmentsgreen teams and improved operations and programming. Our webinar explored CARE Canada’s experience with a baseline environmental impact assessment of its operations and programs and the role of its green teamFocused on peer learning and exchange, the webinar showcased the ins and outs of these greening tools, challenges, successes and lessons learned. For those of you that missed it, here are our takeaways from the lively discussion.  


1. Baseline environmental impact assessments can be done by any organization – small, medium or large, regardless of budget. 


Although baseline environmental impact assessments appear complicated and out of reach for some in the sector, simple tracking of utility expenses, travel and workplace habits around water, waste and power, for example, are concrete ways to get each and everyone of us started on the path to greening and becoming carbon neutral. While such activities do have human costs as they require staff time, they do not require the use of costly consultants. Participants expressed concern over the initial investment required for retrofits. Yet, others advised that starting with simple changes, gaining leadership buy-in and proposing larger changes once an assessment is completed are critical starting points for success, rather than focusing on costs as an upfront barrier. For simple ways to kick start your organization’s efforts, check out our repository of tools and resources   


2. A green team can go a long way – but even farther with leadership support.


Organizations should gather common interests and aspirations for greening, identify small objectives and make use of internal expertise so as to gain momentum and trigger lasting positive results. For many participants, green teams were mostly initiated informally and were on a volunteer basis. Those that were more successful tended to have specific plans in placeSome organizations noted that once green team gained a bit of momentum, leaders were then more likely to give support and, in some cases, green teams were formalized within governance structuresFor some organizations, senior executives’ presence in the green team was instrumental in achieving success and pushing forward the agenda. Summing up, a green team is an important starting point for organizations but does not always guarantee action; leadership buy-in is a much-needed driving force for lasting effects.    


3. Greening requires targeted awareness-raising and active staff engagement for positive behavioural changes. 


The topic of greening and sustainable operations is often perceived differently among staff, as well as from one country to anotherIn some instances, participants advised that different means of communication were required for outreach. Messaging for countryoffices requires more context-specific information and consciousness of different levels of capacity and knowledge. For some country offices, a how-to-guide for greening operations and programming may be needed.  Once behavioural changes occur, green efforts can more easily be formalized into policies and organizational strategies. Formalization and policies were said to also come in handy to maintain momentum as well as to ensure organizational accountability and persistence through challenges such as staff turnover and loss of knowledge. Noteworthy global events such as the Montreal Climate march and COP25 were also said to trigger internal discussions and in turn highlight the urgent need for action and teams to lead the way.  


Cooperation Canada’s “A path to Greener CSOs” peer learning session was the second of a series of peer learning sessions from the Greening CSOs initiative. Stay tuned for more opportunities and resources! 


Arianna Abdelnaiem, Research Assistant, Research, Policy and Practice 


Luiana TembaResearch Intern, Research, Policy and Practice 

3 takeaways for greening your organization: The role of environmental impact assessments and green teams

3 takeaways on Faith and Greening in Canada’s international cooperation sector


On October 22nd, Cooperation Canada convened civil society organizations to examine links between faith and greening as part of its Greening CSOs initiative. Our webinar sought to explore the intersection of faith-based mandates and sustainable operations and programs. For those of you that missed it, here are our takeaways from the lively discussion.  


1. Faith as a basis for ecological/environmental action is established and serves as a cross-cutting theme in the work of faith-based organizations. or a green world. 


Ecological and environmental action was emphasized by participants, referring to approaches in organizations grounded in Christian and Islamic teachings. Greening efforts are linked to concepts of flourishing, stewardship, shared nature, the notion of care and land as sacred responsibilities, as well as the realization that human rights go hand in hand with realising ecological justice. 


2. Faith communities and leaders are critical change agents for promoting environmental action in partner countries. 


Working with faith communities and leaders locally for action on the environment in programming is key to strengthening communal responses as well as recognizing local knowledge, networks and capacity. Likewise, making use of scriptures can also enable a shift in narratives and attitudes towards our role in protecting the environment and the most vulnerable. Recent events and conditions have renewed the importance of faith’s role in caring for ourselves, and more importantly, our surroundings – the environment. 


3. Opportunities exist for strong(er) collaboration between secular and faith-based communities to promote action on climate change and the environment through advocacy and public engagement efforts.  


While Cooperation Canada has looked at advocacy, communications and policy in its research, the faith-based approach to sustainable operations witnessed in the survey, interview results and discussions from the webinar point to the prospects for greater collaboration between faith-based and secular organizations. This warrants further exploration. Collaboration between faith and value inspired narratives alongside the sector’s historic emphasis on government and personal commitments and responsibility has the potential to generate positive and sustainable change.  


Cooperation Canada’s Faith and Greening peer learning session was the first of a series of convening moments for the Greening CSOs initiative. Stay tuned for future sessions around organizational environmental assessments, intersectionality and more. 


Arianna Abdelnaiem 

Research Assistant, Research Policy and Practice 

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