“Sustainability means long-term cultural, ecologic and economic health and vitality. Sustainability is about actions which are ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just and humane.” - a pair of Global Fund donor activists
I have been reflecting on this definition of sustainability shared by two donor-activists (who chose to remain anonymous) and are part of the Global fund community. It has prompted me to ask, “What does sustainability mean at the Global Fund for Women and how do we integrate this idea into all aspects of our work?” As a feminist, social change funder, sustainability is a core principle that can be applied to all areas of our work. It is reflected in our values, our mission, and in the work of our grantees around the world that are working on building a more environmentally, socially, economically, and culturally sustainable world. Achieving sustainability is, above all, a community action, requiring both sharing and soliciting ideas. It is with the spirit of dialogue that I offer the following reflections about the role of sustainability in our work at the Global Fund for Women.
Operations: 'Going Green' at the Office
One opportunity offered by the recent global recession has been a moment to reflect on the resources we use to carry out our work. Committed to continuing to be a stable and sustainable source of funding for women’s groups worldwide, particularly during this time, the Global Fund is keeping its grantmaking whole in the coming year. To ensure this goal, we are looking for ways to improve the sustainability of our operational activities while cutting costs and reducing consumption as we carry out our work. As our pair of donor activists reminded us, “Small and simple steps can make a huge difference.” We agree. Here are some of the more environmentally sustainable practices we have so far put into place in the past year: 1. During our office move last Fall, we relocated to an office space with significant natural light, reducing our energy consumption, and closer to public transportation services for staff, guests and visitors. Though we could not afford the undergo the actual LEED certification process, in our move we were informed by LEED guidelines, including reusing, recycling, or giving away a bulk of our old usable building materials and furniture, acquiring used furniture and materials first, installing a new healthier and more efficient HVAC system, and using greener materials like low VOC paints. This was all made possible by a dedicated ‘green team’, including our generous and innovative architect, Gensler, our award-winning green general contractor, BCCI, and our committed and responsive landlord, Capital and Counties, and Sidemark, a creative and enormously generous neighbor and furniture dealer. In choosing vendors, we use and support greener partners where possible, such as Staples (with paperless ordering and a laudable environmental program, led by a VP of Environmental Affairs), car-share company Zipcar, green janitorial service Green Force, and Working Assets/CREDO, a telecommunications company that gives away 1 percent of its profits every year to progressive causes. 2. In our kitchen, we have begun composting in addition to a thorough and diligent recycling program. We provide reusable shopping bags for office and kitchen supplies and have installed a tap water filter while discouraging the use of plastic water bottles at house functions. 3. In our fundraising and reporting activities, we have implemented more efficient systems that use less paper and resources. For example, we are reducing the length of this year’s annual report, saving paper, money, and shipping fuel. Additionally, last fall, we asked some donors if we may save paper, fuel, and money by reporting to them via email instead of by mail. Many of them agreed and will be receiving their reports via email this year. And over the past months, we have streamlined our online donation system, making it even easier to give to the Global Fund with less paper and mail. 4. With the help of an expanded and talented IT team, we are shoring up our IT infrastructure enabling more people to work remotely, reducing the toll of the commute and travel. For example, we are working on implementing video conferencing for some meetings where possible and have already successfully led an international workshop via these new technological tools, saving staff time and 1-4 tons of carbon dioxide per flight by cutting out the airfare. 5. As part of implementing a strong material re-use ethic, we reuse packing materials and use recycled paper, post-consumer where possible, and are monitoring our monthly printer and copier use with the goal of ratcheting it down to minimum need through staff education and reprogramming all printers to automatically make use of recycled paper. 6. In response to the advocacy and groundwork of staff members, we have adopted a few other good ideas. We brought Farm Fresh to You, a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program to present their program to staff and have since become a drop-off location to enable staff to more conveniently access local, organic food. Earlier this summer, with the generosity of Diane Serafini of 90 Degrees, a small group of staff learned everything they need to know about bicycle commuting to work, growing the number of employees using this alternative form of transportation to get to work and since filling to capacity our on-site bike storage every day. In the coming year, we hope to benefit by legislation passed in the HR1424 of October 2008 enabling us to offer employees bicycle commuting benefits. Send us your own ideas for how we can improve the sustainability of our office operational practices.
This is part one of a two-part blog series by Annie Wilkinson on how the Global Fund for Women is committed to be sustainable in its work in many ways - as part of our mission to also recognize that the work we do is as important as how we do it.
Annie Wilkinson is part of the Global fund’s Development Team.