Please visit to see the new & improved site.
Please visit to see the new & improved site.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do Sweat the Small Stuff

I returned from a trip to Israel this week where I was castigated for emptying the warm remains of my water bottle onto the ground. The Israelis, as well as being blunter than New Yorker’s and willing to castigate a tourist, see water as a precious commodity. That is reflected and reinforced through seemingly trivial behaviors.

My mother-in-law castigated me for folding the page corner of a paperback I was reading to my daughter. I am a lover of books and would never dream of doing that to an antiquarian book or a contemporary hardback book, but what does a contemporary paperback matter? But my mother-in-law was right (brownie point for me for admitting it!). With a small and probably insignificant act, I was reinforcing a behavior I didn’t want to encourage in my daughter or myself.

Despite the message from this Dilbert cartoon, the little things do matter in corporate sustainability too, even if they are low on the materiality scale. I see it all the time at work. Employees want to put effort into reducing cup usage and using double sided printing in the office environment even though it is low on the materiality scale for a business that runs massive data centers and produces bills and customer collateral for the consumer market. But if we do not support and reinforce the small things, we undermine our people’s confidence to tackle the big things too.

Of course we must not do the small things at the expense of the big things – that is green/white washing. But supporting and encouraging those local and very visible activities sets the framework for the priorities and creates an environment in which our people will be increasingly creative and innovative at tackling the big issues we face.

1 comment:

  1. I like your view point on caring for the small stuff.

    I think that caring for the small stuff needs to happen both at home and work. We cannot be wasting energy/water/paper at home and be expected to save it at work.