My recycling adventure started when I was in second grade. I came home from school one day after learning about “killing trees” and lectured both my parents on why we HAD to recycle. This second-grade advocacy pushed my parents to change their behavior, but it only worked because my parents were receptive to the idea.

Through the Strategic CSR class, I have had the privilege of working with a large airline company headquartered in Texas. Last week, three of my classmates and I flew to Texas to interview over thirty employees about their corporate citizenship initiatives.

In one interview, I started talking to an employee about their new onboard recycling program. I found it fascinating to talk to employees about this initiative, especially since they are in Texas (not to offend those from Texas, but in general I just don’t think of Texans as big recyclers). However, what I found most fascinating was how the company was educating their employees about recycling.

Knowing that the normal “it’s good for the environment” claim wouldn’t do the trick for all employees, they got smart and instead put it in a sustainability framework showing employees that recycling saves money and is good for business. It helps that there is a strong cost savings culture embedded in the organization (through a profit-sharing program) but still, what a great way to educate people on the benefits of recycling!

The National Marketing Institute (NMI) found that “40-50% of Americans recycle common materials all of the time.” Why don’t they recycle? NMI found “there may not be enough incentive for consumers to recycle.” Would children in America be more effective convincing their parents to recycle if this new definition of recycling was used?

Seems to me sustainability might just be the missing link – more companies and nonprofits need to show consumers the benefits of saving money while also doing good.

—chris.g