Green Speak 1: The Value of Values Communication

I have been speaking with lots of nonprofit leaders about what they are doing to make their organizations “greener” and how they are building support for their efforts through smart communications. What I have discovered is that deciding to undertake an environmentally-sustainable program requires leadership, planning and a well-conceived communications strategy to get everyone on-board and keep them there.

Since there is so much good work worth knowing about I have decided to make this a two-part blog. Part 1 focuses on the value of communicating green through your core values. Part 2 (next week) will focus on how to build momentum for your green program using smart communications tactics.

When you talk to an organizational leader invested in his/her organization’s green program you are first struck by the pride in their voices and by the words they use to describe their efforts. Both reflect an important linkage between organizational values and their value of caring for the environment.

COEJL, the Jewish address for environmental concern, makes clear its mission and its work are one: “COEJL deepens the Jewish community’s commitment to the stewardship of creation and mobilizes the resources of Jewish life and learning to protect the Earth and all its inhabitants.”

For Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue in Los Angeles who heads their social action agenda and green team, linking their environmental effort with Jewish values was simply a tangible way to express “how the Jewish people show their commitment to care for the world. It comes out of the creation story, a natural outgrowth of it – not a grafting onto it. There is no divide between the environmental cause and Judaism.”

One need only click onto the web site to experience how clearly this organization integrates its passion for the environment with its core Jewish values. Their tagline says it all, “Creating a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and a healthier and more sustainable world for all.”

Outside the Jewish community values messaging is also front and center. Rick Beckler, Director of Hospitality at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, who leads a green team effort that has diverted tons of raw food waste from landfills by working with local farmers who collect it for livestock feed, says the message is centered on “practicing our reverence for the earth.” A glance at the hospital’s web site, underscores their Franciscan mission directive to “be good stewards of the earth, its natural resources and beauty.”

Mark Holdt, Vice President for Planning and Project Development at the Y of the Rockies, who led the construction of their recently LEED certified lodge, commented that becoming environmentally-responsible meant in part communicating the Y’s commitment to the “stewardship of the land. We have been around for 100 years and it was a given that we would do this growth right. It was not a very hard sell to our board. They got it.”

The message is clear: Communicate what you stand for and what you believe in. It’s a no-brainer to go green and tell your green story as an intrinsic part of your organizational message and purpose.

Next week, I will share with you some of the exciting ways organizations are building support for their green work through smart communications.

Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional who currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.