The tide has turned. Concerns for the environment that once were considered controversial have now become mainstream. The commitment by The Weather Channel to work at all levels to further the green movement has its roots in the stand that the network took on environmental responsibility several years ago. In 2003, we brought a climate expert on board to be a scientific advisor about climate change and its implications; we also wanted to produce programming segments about these issues. We soon began to internalize the messages that we presented to the public and decided that instituting a “going green” business plan was the right thing to do.
The Weather Channel created a commission, a “green team” made up of members of the executive committee to create an overall umbrella for integrating all green efforts and making them more widespread throughout the entire company. The Weather Channel also established a full-time position to oversee all green-related activities. One of her first actions was to determine the prevailing attitudes of employees.
“Because we knew that employee buy-in was important, we did a green survey to better understand the minds of the people within our corporate culture,” said Meredith Smith, vice president of climate strategic marketing. Over half of all employees responded to the survey. Among the findings were: 70% said that humans could affect climate changes in a positive way, over 60% said that they cared that the company they worked for was involved in environmental efforts.
Based on survey results, The Weather Channel determined it could do a better job of helping associates understand why green measures were in place and set out to instill a stronger emotional connection to the cause. To do so, the “green team” increased employee awareness of eco-friendly opportunities such as car pooling and telecommuting, discussed green initiatives at department meetings and forums, brought in inspiring speakers such as Majora Carter, an environmental advocate and founder of Sustainable South Bronx, and rewarded eco-friendly behavior with measures such as close-parking advantages for people with fuel-efficient vehicles.
The Weather Channel shared stories of corporate social responsibility (CSR) green successes such as a partnership with the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) through a $2.5 million donation by parent company’s Landmark Foundation. The joint effort to create an online resource for teens was kicked off by a TWC-sponsored three-day “Forecast Earth Summit” which brought “eco-ambassadors” from throughout the country to Washington DC. Employees learned about the teens’ amazing deeds of activism—a recycling program to raise funds for a local zoo and research to find a clear-burning bioethanol fuel—during a company open forum about the event. The Weather Channel also informs employees about public green events such as an Earth Day celebration at a local nature center.
The Weather Channel took a green approach to its construction of a $60 million facility and studio for broadcasting in 100% High Definition. “Given our public image of being a leader in addressing environmental concerns, we want to be a shining example for companies who are joining the growing movement to be more green,” said TWCC President Debora Wilson.
The building, adjacent to headquarters, was designed to meet guidelines from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). A widely-followed LEED directive to use natural light, while feasible for many companies, was not viable for a TV studio where sets must be illuminated by special lighting provided by 480 electrical circuits. The Weather Channel turned that energy-intensive requirement into an opportunity to save energy in another capacity. The heat generated by the lights is the primary source of heating for the building.
Other eco-friendly measures are supplying all landscape irrigation from an underground storm water retention pond, using materials that are sustainable and low in volatile organic chemicals (VOC), and energy conservation achieved through a roof surface that absorbs less heat.
According to John McFarland, director of operations of Working Building, a LEED consultant, companies are often pleasantly surprised by how much economic sense it makes to do things according to leading ecological best practices. “While we incurred added costs to become LEED-certified of between 1% to 2%, we can anticipate a 29% reduction in studio facility costs that could result in tens of thousands of dollars in annual energy savings in the long-term,” said Ross Kalber, vice president of engineering and IT technology, The Weather Channel.
Obviously, not every company can build new LEED-certified buildings in order to be considered green. But there are many ways to reduce the carbon footprint within existing structures. Energy-saving measures such as recycling, conservation and making environmentally correct choices in facilities operations and business functions have long been part of the work environment at TWC.
The Weather Channel has practiced extensive recycling for many years, recycling all manner of paper, electronics and equipment as well as donating outdated sets and furniture to local schools instead discarding them at a landfill. The newest development at The Weather Channel is the adoption of a “passive” recycling system whereby everything recyclable can be thrown into the same container. The bins are picked up and sorted later, making recycling easier for all employees. Water conservation at The Weather Channel, accomplished through low-volume toilets, waterless urinals and automatic low flow water faucets, allowed the company to show a 20% reduction in water usage.
A study by MonsterTRACK, the online job hunting program, states that 92% of “young professionals” prefer to work for a company that is “green” or environmentally friendly. The Weather Channel has made inroads on becoming a company that associates feel pride about through educating associates about the facts about climate change, inspiring them with exemplary people and events, and empowering individuals to take action through company policies and openness to new ideas for how to conserve.
When employees are positively involved in the green efforts of a company, they are less likely to resist change and instead feel a part of furthering a cause that they come to believe in.
This article is excerpted from PR News' Going Green: Case Studies in Outstanding Practices, Volume 1. It was written by Connie Malko, senior manager of public relations for The Weather Channel. To order this or other guidebooks, go to www.prnewsonline.com/store.