If sustainability is about creating shared value for our stakeholders and conducting business in a manner that promotes well-being, then doing something that makes people smile has got to count, don't you think? And I think we’re onto something.
The contest itself is simple. Employees' children create drawings that depict why we need to be concerned about our environment or what we should do to protect it. Parents scan them into our internal social networking site with the artist's name, age, and location, and the title of the drawing.
We'll have four regional winners in each of three age groups (<6, 6-9, 10 and over) selected by an in-region panel of judges, and then one global winner in each age group. The winners will receive a token gift certificate and a poster of the artwork, but more importantly, the winning drawings will be published in our next Sustainability Report and displayed at HQ. Depending on how many we receive, we're also considering sending them on tour to offices around the world, or creating a book or calendar or greeting cards. (Other ideas are welcome, by the way!)
The plans for the contest were a collaboration by a few passionate employees on both ends of the globe. But the inspiration was the umpteenth time that an employee who'd previously shown little interest in our environmental issues waylaid me in the hallway to tell the tale of his child chastising him for tossing out a recyclable. He told me of the resulting discussion between parent and child about how important environmental stewardship is to the next generation.
So we thought - hmmm… what could we do to instigate more of these conversations and tap into the children's passion so that they can teach their parents? EcoKids is our first try at doing just that.
The initial reaction to the announcement was a spate of emails from employees who asked to enter on behalf of their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and god-children. Of course we wanted to say yes immediately, since we don't want to exclude employees without drawing-age children from the chance to hear from our ultimate stakeholders. But we did have to take a brief detour to create a parental permission slip for these cases, to be sure we're protecting the children's rights in accordance with the Child Online Privacy Protection Act, since we are going to be displaying their work. Fortunately, our legal team is as enthusiastic as we are, and turned that around in minutes.
Within a couple of hours, Erin (who is running this whole event) sent me an email saying "Don't you love it? :-)". I opened up a .jpg to find our first entry: a brightly colored "rainbowfish" drawn by a 5-year old from California. I just started to giggle. People came in to see why I was giggling, and they started ooh'ing, ah'ing, and grinning. Entries are now coming in from all over - Germany, South Africa, Ireland, France, to name a few. And without exception, every single one of them makes us smile or laugh. They are also sad - make no mistake about it: these kids know there's something to lose and work to be done. But then they make you smile again because they are so full of hope. Maybe the next generation will get it together after all!
The contest winners will be announced Earth Day. But I think we've won already!