GBENN Member Feature: EnviroStars – Seattle, WA

EnviroStars is a one-stop-shop for Washington businesses to learn, get help, and get recognized for protecting the environment and public health. The program unifies green business initiatives in the region and across all environmental areas—including energy and water conservation, pollution prevention, and the reduction of toxics, waste, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The original EnviroStars program began 20 years ago as a part of the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, giving incentives and recognition to small businesses for reducing hazardous waste.

In 2015, twenty-two agencies from around Western Washington, including cities, counties, water, waste and energy utilities, pooled resources to develop and re-launch the program. The new multi-jurisdiction program is leveraging the successful EnviroStars brand to expand its environmental focus and geographic reach. The vision is for EnviroStars to become a statewide hub and “one stop shop” for businesses to find resources to implement sustainability throughout their operations.

The program uses the GreenBizTracker web platform used by other GBENN members. We offer three tiers of recognition, with increasing business benefits for businesses that complete more actions, get more points, and achieve higher tier levels.

In the Spring of 2019 we conducted a series of qualitative and quantitative interviews—with both participants and non-participants that had heard about the program or started an application but didn’t submit it—to understand the perceived barriers and benefits businesses associated with the EnviroStars program and the application process. Through this research, we sought to understand how to maximize business engagement and positive environmental impact and meet businesses where they’re at on the sustainability spectrum.

Key themes from these interviews (which we mostly knew but needed to hear again) were that businesses:

  • Want information on new sustainable actions to take! Yay!
  • Want specific resources and tools to adopt these additional green business practices. They want turnkey solutions to implement new measures.
  • Need to clearly see the value of the recognition. Is the recognition or certification brand visible in the community? What other benefits can we offer?
  • Needed onsite support to complete their application. They are busy! We made three follow up contact attempts before we moved applications to the non-responsive status. They wanted six.
  • Felt our program standards were too stringent. They felt we included too many actions overall, and that some of our required actions were tough to implement. They didn’t like seeing an upload button next to every measure, even if we communicated that we only wanted documentation for select measures.
  • Felt the web platform and printed checklists were tough to navigate. The three-tier structure in the web platform and the separation of measures by audit and audit subgroup meant you needed a lot of clicks to get through the checklist and they felt the overall navigation was too cumbersome. The structure of the printed version of the checklists available in the web platform made them too long. Businesses were overwhelmed. Only a third of businesses that began the registration process submitted a completed checklist.

When creating our program standards, our member agencies wanted to maintain a credible program and connect businesses to a large range of local green business resources by offering many checklist measures. But if businesses are scared away at first site of the checklist, we are not getting the environmental impact and connection to our resources that we are aiming for.

This barriers and motivators research revealed that we needed to refine and streamline checklists and the application process for us to grow our program. The EnviroStars program made sweeping changes to the overall application standards and checklists, including:

  • Shortening and simplifying measure language.
  • Providing links to order direct implementation resources, such as free recycling signage, faucet aerators, and spill kits.
  • Reducing minimum requirements to broaden access and connect businesses to a smaller set of actions most important to our participating agencies.
  • Creating formatted, short, print-friendly versions of the checklists so staff are equipped to complete checklist applications onsite with interested businesses.
  • Creating a master checklist with information for all three tier levels and using point thresholds to trigger completion of different tiers.

These updates seek to remove barriers and expand accessibility of the EnviroStars program. Engaging a broader set of businesses will help expand our reach and impact. We feel excited that with these checklist updates we’ll continue to build our network of sustainable businesses in Washington State. Stay tuned for more updates in late summer 2019!

For more information on the EnviroStars program, click here!

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