How to run an environmental meeting

03 August 2015

Several studies suggest that between 25 to 50% of the time spent in meetings is wasted! If that applies to environment meetings, then that’s wasted business time, and time you could be using to actively reduce your organisation’s impact. This blog outlines the key requirements of an effective environment meeting to ensure environmental objectives are achieved in the most responsible and efficient manner.

1. Adopt environmental best practice during the meetings.  The last thing an environment meeting needs is to be criticised by the attendees or observers on its environmental credentials.  The attendees of an environment meeting are often the environmental ambassadors of the organisation and it’s essential that their behaviour leads by example. 

Examples of best practice include:

  • Be paperless; don’t print out agendas and minutes.
  • Don’t use disposable items such as plastic cups.
  • Avoid bottled water, use chilled tap water instead.
  • Maximise the use of daylight.
  • Turn all lighting and equipment off when not in use.

2. Clearly define the purpose of the environment team and the environmental objectives and targets to be achieved.  This will set the direction and will always be a focal point that the team can return to if the discussion or activity deviates. 

3. Ensure only the key people are invited to the meeting. Too many people at the meeting can impinge progress whilst too few could miss out key people. 

Key people to include:

  • Topic and technical experts (internal and external). 
  • Cross function/departmental representatives. Decisions taken in one area can impact activity in another functional area. Business functions or departments are rarely independent and the impact of a proposed change should be reviewed from multiple functional perspectives prior to implementation.

4. Environmental enthusiasts. Drive and enthusiasm are essential to help motivate a group of people and drive change throughout the wider organisation. Environmental enthusiasts may not have the technical knowledge to contribute to the meeting but they are individuals who can positively take the message back to the wider organisational community, encourage participation and support implementation. Environmental improvements are as likely to be focussed on behaviour change as technical solutions. 

5. Always prepare and circulate an agenda prior to the meeting.  This will enable the attendees to prepare before the meeting, finalise the actions assigned to them and collate any required information.  An example of the topics to include on the environment meeting agenda include:

  • Minutes - review previous minutes.
  • Progress against the environmental objectives and targets.
  • Actions - review of previous actions, achievements and difficulties.
  • Environmental legislation – relevant updates, compliance and related issues.
  • Environmental audits – the outcome of any environmental audits that have been completed and related actions required.
  • Training – review of any environmental training needs identified or the outcome of any recent training.
  • Operational environmental matters – discuss environmental issues that may have arisen as a result of operational activity or changes to the organisation.
  • Any other business - this allows discussion of environmental concerns or opportunities that may not be covered in other agenda items.

6. Support the discussion of new ideas, implementation methods and improvement opportunities.

7. Encourage the participation of all members and ensure individuals are given the opportunity to contribute to the meeting.  It’s not necessarily the most vocal participants that have all the ideas or answers.

8. Ensure the meeting is short and timely.  Unfortunately the environment is often at the end of a long list of business priorities and therefore the need to be efficient and effective is crucial.  Ensure the meeting starts and ends on time and try to avoid overlong meetings. 

9. Minute the meeting.  Discussions and outcomes should be recorded formally in meeting minutes. This will allow the team to track progress, double check what was agreed and provide evidence to other interested parties of the effectiveness of the meeting.

10. Assign actions.  The most important outcome of a meeting is to agree actions.  Clearly record the action, who is responsible and the timescale for completion.  Without the assignment of actions it’s unlikely that anything will happen from one meeting to the next.  This could result in failure to meet environmental objectives and give the meeting a poor reputation within the organisation.

11. Set the date for the next meeting whilst you have the key people present.  If possible, send out an electronic invite at the close of the meeting to ensure all members have the date in their diary before they leave, and don’t forget to book the meeting room.

Environment meetings can be incredibly effective at driving change within an organisation and most importantly, achieving environmental objectives and reducing the negative impact a business has on the environment.    

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