A focused, four-part strategy – employee engagement, strategic leadership, executive participation and partnerships – with short- and long-term goals has resulted in the Ontario Public Service quickly becoming and sustaining itself as one of Canada’s greenest employers.
For four years in a row, the OPS has been recognized as one of Canada’s greenest employers, thanks to the commitment we’ve made to greening our organization from the inside out.
This notable award from Mediacorp Canada shines a light on more than 60,000 public servants who are doing their part to make the OPS a green organization. It also acknowledges the many programs put in place by the Ontario government to reduce its environmental footprint.
The OPS Green Office was created in 2008 to provide strategic leadership to address the organization’s green aspirations. A green transformation strategy was developed after extensive consultation with ministries.
It included three priorities: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent by 2014 and 27 percent by 2020; adopt green business practices; and build a green organizational culture. Thanks to sustained efforts, we are on track to meet our goals.
Today, the Green Office, in the Centre for Leadership and Learning, serves as a “one-stop shop” for greening government operations and provides an important focal point for employees to learn about and share ideas for transforming the OPS into a green organization.
The centrepiece of implementing the strategy is empowering employees to be green leaders in their workplace. A “Think Green” website serves as a resource for all OPS employees, green teams have been set up in all ministries, and many individual staff have chosen to be green champions in their workplaces.
With support from the OPS Green Office, these leaders encourage employees to participate in corporate green campaigns and get involved in activities that aim to change behaviours in the workplace. Examples of grassroots, green activities are composting, paperless processes and community gardens.
“Leveraging the enthusiasm, expertise and interests of employees is a major contributor to the success of OPS’ green transformation strategy,” says Donna-Mae Robinson of the OPS Green Office.
In addition, the 2011 green ideas campaign received more than 200 proposals from employees to reduce workplace waste. The top three ideas – composting organic waste, issuing electronic T4 slips and re-using surplus office furniture and supplies – were put into action in 2012.
The support and participation of deputy ministers is also important to the OPS going green. All OPS deputy ministers pledged to take action to green their ministries’ operations and, each year, they include this commitment in their performance agreements.
A Green Government Task Force consisting of 14 assistant deputy ministers from eight ministries steers the integrated approach to green transformation across the OPS and provides insight, guidance and advice on OPS’ green priorities and initiatives.
Finally, working with our ministry partners has been key to implementing our green strategy. With their support, we have reviewed policies and practices to reduce the OPS footprint in areas such as fleet management, travel, paper use and energy conservation.
The OPS Green Office teamed with the government’s IT community to help reduce printing by decreasing the number of printers used across the OPS and implementing electronic business processes.
These efforts reduced the number of printers by about 50 percent, or 13,000 machines, and avoided printing 34 million sheets of paper each year. These steps are estimated to result in annual savings of about 4.5 million kWh of electricity plus cost savings.
“Green printing isn’t just about printers. To go green, we had to change our business practices,” says Marty Gallas, corporate chief for infrastructure technology services.
The journey to building an organizational culture of environmental awareness has not always been an easy one for the OPS. Along the journey, there were several lessons learned:
1. Success is most likely to be achieved when green goals are tied to the government’s overall priorities. “The OPS green transformation strategy promotes government efficiency and environmental sustainability. These two important goals go hand in hand,” says Peter Wallace, Secretary of the Cabinet.
2. Regularly communicate to employees and include change management principles that will help to change behaviours.
3. Measure and report progress, but don’t get distracted by what can’t be measured right away. Expand tracking when more measurement systems are developed.
4. Accept that green transformation is an evolutionary process; change doesn’t happen overnight or even in a few months or years.