Ten Tips for "Greening" Your Board of Directors
The "Green Movement" is not a new concept, but never has it garnered so much attention as in the past few years. Research shows that every day, we emit an unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide with the cars we drive and the waste we accumulate, negatively affecting our already unsustainable ecosystem. Today, organizations large and small are being environment-conscious by "greening" every aspect of their operations, including their board's work. Below are ten tips for "greening" your board.
- Use online collaboration tools to reduce the number of face-to-face meetings
There are a variety of tools that can help your board reduce the number of trips to board meetings, especially if your board is spread out geographically. Online discussion forums, chat functions, teleconferencing, and webcasts all provide ways to connect members over distances. When combined with electronic voting tools, board and committee matters can be resolved virtually, and carbon footprints can be reduced. All of these tools come readily available in board portals, which are designed specifically to streamline board work and make collaboration over distances easier.
- Communicate online
Organizations routinely encourage board members to use paper when they ask for physical signatures, and when they send board members mailings. Consider communicating electronically whenever possible. Board portals provide an easy, online way to send and gather information securely - including electronic "signatures."
- Store and distribute meeting materials online
Board members can store documents, such as meeting books and board manuals, in a central online location that is easily accessible via the web - such as board portals. This reduces (or eliminates) printing and consequently reduces waste. As a by-product, decreasing the amount of printing not only reduces waste, but also reduces associated staff time and printing costs -- which organizations are sure to appreciate in difficult financial times. Better still, storing meeting materials online allows board members to review information at their leisure before meetings. This makes for more productive meetings, where board members are fully informed and prepared to discuss the issues at hand.
- Ask board members to conserve paper
Providing online access to meeting materials can reduce paper usage - but not if board members then print out the meeting books at home. Encourage board members to become more paper-conscious by only printing out those documents they feel are absolutely necessary to have on paper. Take advantage of online editing tools - such as the professional version of Acrobat - to write "electronic" notes on files, rather than scrawling notes on paper copies. In the boardroom, consider projecting documents onto a screen to help board members follow along without needing a paper copy.
- Use an online directory
A printed directory of board contact information is likely to be outdated the moment it is printed. An online directory not only reduces waste, but is also practical as it is easily editable. As new members join and contacts change, the online directory can be updated in minutes and made available to the board instantaneously, whereas a physical directory would need to be re-printed and re-distributed to all members.
- Reconsider your transportation options
When boards and committees do need to physically meet, encourage members to ride bikes, carpool, or use public transportation options to attend the meeting. Arranging for transportation for your board members to/from meetings and events can help your organization reduce its carbon footprint.
- Have impact globally, but meet locally
Reduce travel time by choosing a meeting location that is as close as possible to the majority of your board members. If your board is spread over geographic distances, consider whether or not all board members need to physically attend every meeting - board members could attend in person half of the time and virtually the other half to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle in the boardroom
This well-known refrain is useful in the boardroom as well as in the home. In addition to paper, plastic cups, candy wrappers, trash bags, bottles and cans can be collected and recycled. When you do have to print, consider printing on both sides of the page. Consider serving food and drinks on dishes that can be washed instead of disposables, and avoid serving individually wrapped items whenever possible.
- Choose meals beforehand
Having board members sign up for specific meals is a great way to reduce food waste -- most people are happy to eat only the food they ordered. Arbitrarily serving great quantities of food is not only wasteful, but an unnecessary expense your organization can do without - and it encourages overeating (particularly of sugary and salty snacks). Your wallet and waistline will thank you for planning meals ahead.
- Use daylight when possible
Consider scheduling face-to-face meetings in daylight hours and hold the meetings in rooms that have access to natural light. Don't turn the lights on in the boardroom unless you need to - enjoy the benefits of sunlight.
While there are many ways you can make your board green, you will only be able to accomplish the shift successfully if the board as whole embraces this new direction. It is a good idea to formalize it by making it a policy that board members will have to adhere to. Being green is easy... but it requires willingness. Why not make this a topic at your next board meeting?
Thomas Rottler is CEO at BoardEffect, Inc., a leading e-governance solution for nonprofits board of directors. Learn more at www.boardeffect.com.