By Denise Klarquist

In 2014, Mission Federal Credit Union staff Lisa Chappell, VP Purchasing & Facilities, and Lauren Francis, Facilities Management Assistant, participated in a TMS San Diego Sustainability Circle, presenting their Sustainability Action Plan to fellow Circle participants in October. Since then, with the support of the Mission Fed Green Team, they’ve launched a number of initiatives with a strong focus on employee engagement. Below, Lisa and Lauren share their successes and examples of Mission Fed’s sustainability efforts.

Q-Please tell me a little about Mission Federal Credit Union.

Mission Fed is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial institution dedicated to serving our members’ financial needs. We have 27 branches, an operations center and HQ, about 500 employees and have been in business since 1961.

Q-What inspired you to adopt a sustainability strategy for your organization?

Lisa Chappell is the pioneer of green at Mission Fed and the first significant moment for her was at a conference about Green Cleaning in the janitorial industry and learning about not only the cost savings but also the positive impact on the environment and employees. If we can implement green in this area, where else can we go green? That really started our shift towards sustainability. Initially it began with just trying to find sustainable activities that were no cost or actually saved the organization money. Over time we started to get buy-in from the organization and now they’re beginning to see value even if there is an associated cost.

Q-Your Green Team includes people from across the organization, from Branch Managers to your CFO. What kinds of advantages do you see from having this range of both internal and member facing participants?

Member facing employees understand what our members need from an operational efficiencies standpoint, which can then be implemented by senior staff. We have employees who see opportunities on a daily basis and the support of senior staff to make it a reality.

Q-How important is employee and stakeholder engagement to your sustainability strategy?

Very important. Education is the foundation of Mission Fed so we aim to continue educating and engaging staff regarding our sustainability efforts. Making a change starts with behavioral change. You can put up posters all you want, but being able to engage the staff — whether it’s participating in competitions or events and getting them excited about it — is how you actually make change. Employees are the ones who are going to make the big difference. We’re extremely collaborative; it’s how we get things done here. Without employee engagement, this would never go anywhere.

Q-What are some of the activities that you are currently doing to get employees on board with sustainability and how is that working?

Since the green team was formed, we have hosted two events:

  1. Cup Exchange, an event where employees brought in their old reusable beverage containers and we stored them in the lunchrooms so employees could borrow (or keep) a mug if they forgot or don’t have one. Education was formed around the impacts of paper cups, the wasted cost, why they can’t be recycled, and how long it takes to decompose in a landfill. We saw a lot of turnout for that which was great.
  1. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag), an event where we provided every employee with a reusable Mission Fed bag and encouraged people to bring in their extras to hand out to employees. We also educated staff on the negative impacts of plastic in the environment.

Mission Fed PosterAdditionally, we post information on our intranet and in the offices about sustainability and why it’s good for everyone. Some of the topics include: Water Savings Tips from the SD Water Authority, Plug loads, recycling, and more. We even put sustainaHow are we disposing of wastebility tips and facts in the bathroom stalls and in the elevator. We try to capture people where it’s going to catch their attention or where they’re captive (said with a bit of a laugh).

We’ve also created a Sustainability certification, where employees and whole departments can receive a certification for continuously completing tasks like turning off the water while washing their hands. There are three levels, each more demanding than the previous. Once certified, we are looking into providing a nameplate and logo for their email signature for bragging rights.

Q-Are there other benefits that you are seeing, beyond energy and resource savings, as a result of your sustainability efforts?

With the Cup exchange we discontinued that service at both corporate locations — an approx. $2,500 savings/year. And we’ve seen benefits with employee behavior. Though we still see an occasional plastic bottle in the trash, based on where we were last year versus this year, there’s been a huge change.

Recently, Lisa and I presented the Sustainability Action Plan at one of our leadership meetings. A couple of the department VPs thanked us later saying that they had no idea of the impact and that they’ve now stopped using paper cups and have brought in a reusable mug. It’s really about good conversation across the organization and encouraging these behaviors at home as well. We hope that with our Sustainability certification program we will engage more staff to become certified green, thus creating green champions who can continue efforts in their branch/dept. and challenge others to become certified.

Q-What about external stakeholder/customer engagement? Do you have plans in that area? Have you begun any activities?

We have begun some efforts from an organizational standpoint. For example we’ve initiated a number of paperless options for members to receive and sign their documents electronically, but we haven’t been selling these benefits from a sustainability standpoint yet. While we’re starting to get the word out via social media about our internal sustainability activities, our ultimate goal would be to create a page on our external website, dedicated to the Green Team and Mission Fed’s efforts. It’s important for our members and community to know what we do and have done to protect our environment. For now, our main focus is education because that is the base for any change.

Q-Are there any unique challenges or opportunities that you have had to consider with regard to sustainability and the financial sector?

We are a financial institution with 29 locations all over San Diego County, ranging in size from 1,700 to 60,000 sq. ft., and a mix between owned and leased properties so that provides challenges in itself. Being a financial institution makes everyone keenly aware of money being spent. Being able to accomplish initiatives that do not have an immediate or short payback is also challenging.

We are seeing a shift in employee behavior and awareness, it’s slow, but every little bit helps us reach our goals. And it’s encouraging that support is happening at the top levels of the organization. Recently, for example, our CEO asked that we write a board report on our sustainability efforts for our board of directors, and she also featured our new corporate office water-wise landscaping as a backdrop for a recent photo shoot.

Q-Any last words or advice?

To anyone interested in furthering your sustainability efforts, we highly recommend participating in the TMS Sustainability Circles program. We thought we knew what options were out there but when you hear other participants’ accomplishments or suggestions, you stop and think, “Wow, that’s a good idea, write that down!” The networking is invaluable and creating the action plan really helped us kick our ideas into high gear.