Reduce, Reuse, Reinvent

Adobe employees are leading the way in transforming old practices into forward-thinking, sustainable practices

Adobe has a long history of sustainability. More than 70% of the company’s workspaces are LEED-certified, and Newsweek magazine has ranked Adobe as the greenest IT company in the world. But while the company’s green efforts have always been supported at the very top, thousands of employees also take it upon themselves to make Adobe a sustainability leader—because they want their company to reflect their own values.

Adobe employees were instrumental in getting plastic water bottles out of North American operations. They instituted a campaign to reduce food waste and start composting. They pushed to get electric vehicle charging stations installed and adopted an innovative “Skip a Trip” employee travel reduction campaign.

Those actions have given Adobe a well-deserved reputation as a company that cares about meeting its social and environmental responsibilities. And plenty of credit goes to the group of committed employees who continue to push the cause every day, forever dreaming up new ways to improve and inspire their coworkers to do the same.

Nagesh B.
Developer

Where:
Bangalore

What:
Launched “Be the change” campaign

One of the reasons Nagesh B. was drawn to Adobe was the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

“I was always passionate about social initiatives in college because I strongly believe that people need to give back. And as a company, we can give back a lot,” Nagesh says. “So within six months of joining Adobe, when I had the opportunity to become the Green Champion of the Bangalore campus, I grabbed it.”

At Adobe sites around the world, Green Champions are individuals who commit to furthering sustainability initiatives in the company and among employees locally. They often work hand in hand with Green Teams, which are groups of volunteers who have the same interests.

Nagesh and the Bangalore Green Team got together to decide how they could best engage coworkers to become more aware of sustainability issues. They quickly reached a smart conclusion: You can’t motivate people to change unless you can demonstrate what’s wrong with the current situation. So Nagesh and the team launched a campaign called “Be the change” and bsaed it on cold, hard facts.

For example, they had noticed that employees were wasting an enormous amount of food each day in the cafeteria. Naturally, most employees might realize how much of their own food they toss at the end of lunch, but they didn’t pay attention to how those scraps added up to at the end of the day.

Nagesh and his colleagues, however, realized the magnitude of the problem and found a clever way to communicate it.

Nagesh (second from left) and his Bangalore Green Team.

I want people to start taking conscious efforts to reduce food waste, use the stairs, conserve electricity, and carpool. These might be small goals, but they add up to a lot over time.

“After people eat, they throw leftovers in a bin, so we started putting up signs that say how much food was wasted the previous day,” Nagesh says. “Having those signs posted right in the cafeteria makes people think twice. And since we started the campaign a year ago, food waste has dropped from an average of 54 kilos a day to 23 kilos a day.”

It seems the numbers worked. So Nagesh and the Green Team took the same approach to other parts of the company: how much electricity people waste by taking the elevator to go up or down a single floor; how much it costs to keep computers running at night when they could be powered down; how many paper cups the campus goes through each month.

“In India, a lot of our traditions are related to worshipping nature,” Nagesh says. “But people subconsciously ignore that idea in day-to-day life, not realizing what they’re doing. When we communicate the numbers, it’s easier to understand.”

The team also created a signup sheet seeking employees who would pledge to “be the change.” After a single email request sent to the campus, more than 100 people signed. The next step is to get more coworkers committed—and then to galvanize their interest and turn it into action.

Karen S.
Regional sales manager

Where:
San Jose

What:
Pledged to skip a trip

Anybody in sales will tell you: It’s a relationship business. They’ll also tell you that relationships are best cultivated face to face, and that’s why sales people spend so much time on the road.

For Karen S., a regional sales manager at Adobe, those are words to live by. She manages sales for education clients in all of Western Canada and 13 U.S. states. Covering such a huge region puts her on the road nearly 50 percent of the time, except she’s not on the road—she’s in the air, and has been for 17 years.

“I’ve always been a road warrior, and I don’t mind it,” Karen says. “Besides, Adobe is just a wonderful place to work.”

The problem, though, is that the company’s air travel emissions each year are equivalent to putting another 3,000 cars on the roads. In fact, they account for nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions that Adobe puts into the environment. So the company launched a “Skip a Trip” campaign to encourage employees to sit out at least one air trip each year.

If I do travel, my team works to ensure the travel is impactful by scheduling multiple meetings with important target accounts. Adobe is generous in letting us travel when we need to, but we all have to be responsible with that empowerment.

“This campaign really spoke to me because it’s what I do on a weekly basis,” Karen says. “It came up right when I had been invited by a high-profile, must-win customer to a meeting that would require me to fly down to Los Angeles for the day, meet for an hour, and fly home. I always say yes when I’m invited by a C-level executive, but I thought, ‘Will it really make a difference to them this time?’”

Karen had already planned to visit the customer two weeks later, and she also had Adobe Connect videoconferencing technology at her disposal. So she skipped the trip and handled it remotely instead.

Although the initiative asks employees to skip a single trip each year, it has helped employees become more judicious in deciding which trips are worthwhile—invariably leading to more skipped trips.

Jeffrey Y.
Solution architect

Where:
McLean, Virginia

What:
Hosted roundtables to inspire coworkers

When Jeffrey Y. had the chance to join Adobe in 2010, he didn’t hesitate.

“I came from a multimedia and video world where Adobe is king, so this was my dream company,” Jeffrey says. “Out of school, I worked mainly in government, performing video production and interactive multimedia stuff, so when Adobe was looking to fill positions in the government space, I was completely ecstatic to work here.”

Job satisfaction goes a long way toward life satisfaction, but Jeffrey didn’t realize that things were about to get even better. At home, he and his family are passionate about eating locally and promoting sustainability. They garden fruits and vegetables as much as possible and hope to own a small farm to supply their own eggs and dairy someday. So when Jeffrey was offered the position of Green Champion for Adobe’s McLean, Virginia, campus, he was excited that Adobe wasn’t just giving him a cool job—it was also helping him spread his passion throughout the organization.

I love that aspect of Adobe. Whatever your passion is, they’ll stand beside you and help you promote the cause.

Jeffrey took the Green Champion role just before Be Green Month and quickly organized a roundtable discussion—a popular format on the McLean campus—and identified speakers. He spoke about his family’s green efforts. A coworker gave a presentation detailing how Adobe technology is helping customers reduce their own carbon footprint. Another coworker even brought in his son to present science fair project findings on incandescent light bulbs.

As soon as that event ended, Jeffrey was busy determining the next steps to make the most of his new leadership position. He’s glad that he’ll not only get to leave a mark on the company, but that he’ll also get to develop his own skills at the same time.

“To have a leadership role that’s not necessarily a formal, managerial role is excellent for me,” Jeffrey says. “It translates to the business—you work with people and lead a cause—but it’s a great way for me to grow here.”

Stella L.
Financial accountant

Where:
Dublin

What:
Started the campus’s first green efforts

On Adobe’s Dublin campus, Be Green Month 2014 was extra-inspiring. The organization hadn’t yet formed a Green Team and was fairly new to the idea of sustainability as an employee-driven initiative.

At the same time, Stella L., an Adobe accountant, was becoming interested in activities like gardening and composting in her personal life. She wondered whether others on campus might want to learn about the same things.

“We’d never done a lot of this before in the Dublin office, so we didn’t know what people would be interested in,” Stella says. “We thought it would be good to start with some talks to raise awareness about certain topics, so we organized three talks for all employees.”

At the first talk, a third-party organization discussed the environmental and financial costs of food waste, along with tips on how to reduce it. The second talk was about protecting natural resources by properly recycling devices. The third talk, given by a coworker, presented the benefits of cycling to work instead of driving or taking public transportation.

The people who were there were really interested and asking lots questions. They seemed to learn a lot from the talks.

Since that first successful step into organizing, the Green Team is now creating a plan for the future and even engaging employees to get their input on what the site’s sustainability initiatives should look like.

“We get a lot of support from Adobe—we even get a budget from headquarters, which we can use to organize events,” Stella says. “Adobe doesn’t just suggest we do something; they actually give us the means to do something, And that’s rare.”