Expanding sustainability engagement at Goodwill through Spark Montgomery

Goodwill Industries
December 5, 2016
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This summer, Goodwill® Industries International (GII), together with other Montgomery County Certified Green Businesses, began using an online employee engagement platform to encourage staff to take a more active role in greening their offices and daily lives.

This fun social media initiative — dubbed Spark: Individual Actions, Collective Impact — is hosted by WeSpire. The WeSpire platform is also used by large organizations around the country such as Aveda, BASF, eBay, Sony, Unilever, and others as a way to embed sustainable behavior into their corporate culture.


What is Spark Montgomery?

Participating businesses are organized into teams “competing” with one another to be the greenest.  Points are racked up when individual employees take sustainable actions, share environmental resources, rate green products, recruit other participants, etc.  There is a leader board for top performing teams as well as individuals.

The platform also provides useful metrics so that teams can access aggregated data related to environmental benefits achieved, cost savings realized, number of employees participating, and more. This helps management understand and celebrate the collective impact of employees.


Spark - WeSpire website


GII team members have embraced the program and taken action. With 63 staff members currently participating, GII is at the top of the leaderboard.  Other companies with teams include MedImmune, AECOM, Lockheed Martin, CohnReznik, Redcoats, Amicus Green Building Center, Bethesda Green and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

GII is participating for a variety of reasons, but behavior change and metrics are the biggest focus. The platform is intuitive and easy to use, it spurs sustainability education and behavior change, and it goes hand in hand with GII’s internal “going green” program as well as its member-focused sustainability program.

In just the first four months of the campaign, the GII team has taken 1,250 actions and earned 13,543 points. Together, the team saved the equivalent of:

  • Enough energy to power New York City for 3 seconds (6,057 kWh).
  • Enough water to fill 29 bathtubs (equal to 823 gallons of water).
  • Enough fuel to move a 10,000 ton freight train 5 miles.
  • 517 pounds of waste diverted from landfills.
  • 4,620 pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • 17 reams of copy paper


Goodwill Industries International Team Page on Spark as of 12/5/2016

Goodwill Industries International Team Page on Spark as of 12/5/2016


“As a leading social enterprise committed to sustainability, we are thrilled for the opportunity to collaborate with local green businesses that share our values and vision for a green economy,” said Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. “Our progress thus far demonstrates our commitment to preserve our environment and natural resources. We look forward to additional opportunities to partner with fellow green-business certified organizations.”


Using Spark to Ignite Culture Change

Spark is a first for WeSpire. Typically, the tool is used for individual businesses. But the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce proposed an umbrella arrangement that allowed all interested Certified Green Businesses to participate.  WeSpire liked this out-of-the-box thinking and agreed to a one-year pilot.

Barbara Ashe, Executive Vice President for the Chamber, and Doug Weisburger, Manager of the Green Business Certification Program, feel that Spark is a perfect complement to the Green Business Certification Program because it inspires employees and leverages their interest.

“We were seeking ways to encourage sustainable behavior on the part of individual employees so that Certified Green Businesses could deepen their corporate sustainability efforts,” said Weisburger.  “We also wanted to stimulate collaboration, commerce and sharing among this leadership group, and the platform really lends itself to that,” said Ashe.

GII has stayed at the top of the leader board from the very beginning, despite Weisburger’ s attempt to tighten the “race.”  During the Summer Olympics, he sent out a broadcast encouraging other teams to “jump, run, or even swim into the world of sustainability and bring home the Gold!”  Alas, GII’s lead only widened.  Achieving these great results didn’t happen automatically.  GII sent out bi-monthly emails recognizing team members, utilized prizes and other incentives, and continuously encouraged participation.

All Certified Green Businesses are eligible to participate in the Spark pilot program which runs through mid-July 2017.

For additional questions about Goodwill’s success working with Spark, email their team at MSCGoingGreen@goodwill.org.

Written by Anca Novacovici, GII Sustainability Consultant and President, Eco-Coach Inc., on behalf of GII Going Green

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