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    Every Day Needs to Be Earth Day

    So let’s celebrate Earth Day today because we have come a long way since 1970. But given how far we have to go, let’s work to keep this momentum going all year long.

    Every day needs to be Earth Day to save our planet

    Like me, Earth Day is a 1970s baby. The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. Initially conceived as a national teach-in for college campuses, the concept expanded to include over 85 national events that nearly 20M people participated in - 10% of the American population. It was co-led by a Democratic Senator and a Republican Congressman. Many credit this initial event to a bipartisan groundswell that drove extraordinary political achievements to protect the environment, including the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the National Environmental Education Act,  the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

    In 1990, the movement went global and last year, over 1 billion people and 75,000 organizations participated in demonstrations, festivals, days of service, seminars and conferences. It is recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

    I love Earth Day conceptually. I believe in the power of having a catalytic event to mobilize commitments and actions. I love seeing everything our customers do to volunteer, educate, and activate their workforces. I love the traffic numbers on our app.

    But I also witness that a ton of time and attention goes into April and then companies, and people, get distracted from those goals, commitments and announcements from May through February. Then everyone looks around and says “Oh wait, Earth Month is coming. Where are we on {insert goal, commitment}? What are we going to say/do this year?” The announcements get written, the glossy posters, videos and emails produced, and the events held. The sustainability team gets time and attention at the town hall. It’s all good.

    It’s just not enough.

    That is because we are at the “grind it out” phase of sustainability. The vast majority of Americans agree that we should be doing more to protect the environment (90%) and support the goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 (70%). Virtually all major companies have set environmental goals. The low hanging, easy opportunities have been implemented.

    The rest is really hard work. We have to identify entirely new ways of sourcing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing to eliminate waste, toxic materials and decarbonize. That involves changing organizations, systems and processes. It challenges business as usual and the status quo. It requires finding, and sometimes funding, the development of innovations and infrastructure that don’t exist yet. Anyone who has ever worked in change management can tell you, that is not easy. It’s no surprise to me that many sustainability leaders come out of corporate strategy, innovation, and digital transformation.

    It’s not work that gets done when senior leaders only focus on it during the run up to Earth Day. The most successful organizations know this and have put achieving zero waste or carbon neutrality goals in executive compensation targets - right next to profitability and revenue goals. Environmental results are reported regularly as part of broader key performance indicators, not just in the annual sustainability report. Even more progressive is when every employee’s bonus includes a component related to their own participation in sustainability efforts. When that happens, every day becomes Earth Day.

    Very few organizations have made this leap and I feel very privileged to work with some who have. You can just feel the difference. They are not just reducing and saving. They are innovating, transforming, and often, yes, growing. They have turned problems into new businesses and new partnerships. They have more excited and engaged employees who are getting to unleash their creativity at work.

    So let’s celebrate Earth Day today because we have come a long way since 1970. But given how far we have to go, let’s work to keep this momentum going all year long.

    Quote of the Week: If every day were Earth Day we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.
    Neil deGrasse Tyson