Living Planet @ Work Champion of the Month: Katie Harper

© WWF-Canada

By Olivia Fernandez, Officer, Living Planet @ Work, WWF-Canada

A few weeks ago I visited the Sears head office and met Katie Harper, their sustainability team lead, for the first time. Her energy at 9:00 am was admirable, but it was her unrelenting resolve to get her fellow colleagues to join her in a 1776-step pursuit to the top of the CN Tower that was truly remarkable! Needless to say, I wasn’t all that surprised when I heard that the Sears Climb team had raised $14,000 in support of WWF – exceeding last year’s goal.

I decided to connect with Katie, to get the details on how she and her team achieved such success. I learned that the Climb was one of many accomplishments and that big and small steps have shaped their sustainability journey. Below, Katie gives me a snapshot of some team initiatives from the past few months:

Step 1: Revised green team with a new structure

“Last summer our green team spent a few weeks rethinking our structure. We created a new vision and recruited a core team (our green team “council”) to lead initiatives like waste reduction, cycling, and associate engagement. At the same time, we keep our general membership wide open for anyone who wants to participate in and help promote our activities. We’ve also focused more on tracking and reporting on our efforts.”

Step 260: Small but meaningful intervention

“During the holiday season, an employee noticed that Christmas tree lighting was left on 24/7 in our holiday display. We responded by putting timers on the Christmas trees and replacing incandescent bulbs in the accent lighting with LED and CFLs. That resulted in a 67% reduction of our electricity use, a savings of 90 kWh a week. It was a small intervention, but it corrected something that was sending the wrong signal.”

Step 534: Building a smart commute culture

"We worked collaboratively with our building services team and cyclists in the office to launch the Bike Room – a bike storage place for those who pedal to work. At peak season, we’ll see about 50-100 people using it. It’s allowing us to build on campaigns like the commuter challenge and foster our sustainable cycle culture.”

Step 1045: Persevering promotion of the Climb

“In addition to regular e-mails and intranet postings, we spend a fair bit of time on informal recruitment. New climbers are often unsure what to expect and might be hesitant to participate, but a face-to-face “hallway chat” can make the difference.  This year we also framed our communication around team spirit and highlighted the connection to WWF so everyone was clear about the purpose of the Climb.”

Step 1521: Creative fundraising

"One of our Climb teams approached the executives to sponsor a pizza lunch for their department. The Climbers benefited from donations, while the executives were able to host a social event and show appreciation to their team.  It also helped raise awareness of the Climb with executives.”

Step 1776: Climbing 88,800 steps, raising $14,000 and sending a powerful message right from the top

“It was a great feeling knowing that so many people came together to do this, and that we were in this to support WWF’s conservation work. This year’s efforts are only building our capacity for next year. After the climb, I received many ‘thank you’ e-mails and interest for next year’s Climb.”

Step 1778: Climbing up and beyond

“Our next step is to improve waste at our head office. We’re creating communications around proper recycling, as well as working with building services to set up recycling depots. We want more communication and engagement activities to educate our employees.”

Katie’s advice

“It’s OK to start small. Brainstorm and find out the amazing things you would do in a perfect world. Then work back and start on your first project – one that is achievable. Start building your success from there.”


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