The greening of PR agencies continues to take root

Wary of rising fuel prices and imposed carbon footprints, PR firms are installing internal environmental programs that benefit staff and help address current economic and environmental issues. The programs also authenticate work on green client initiatives, taking the firms beyond recycling bins and filtered water.

Wary of rising fuel prices and imposed carbon footprints, PR firms are installing internal environmental programs that benefit staff and help address current economic and environmental issues. The programs also authenticate work on green client initiatives, taking the firms beyond recycling bins and filtered water.

Capstrat's internal green committee uses seasonal and timely issues as fuel for some of its green initiatives, especially this summer as the committee starts to experience real growth and participation.

"[Summer] is a good time to think about how we can reduce or at least sustain a smaller footprint during a time we'd normally increase it," says David Chatham, SVP at Capstrat.

As a response to rising fuel costs, the firm launched an interest-free loan program early this summer where employees can use up to $2,000 to purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle. Staff members are also enjoying lunches prepared by a chef who uses locally grown organic food once per week, all summer.

The firm is sharing some of its programs with clients. It launched a microsite that enables employees and clients to choose "carbon credits" that the agency purchases in their name. Whether planting a tree or investing in wind power, the program raises awareness among employees and positions the agency as being involved and informed on green issues, says Chatham.

While clients can participate on the microsite, the agency does not actively promote the program. "We want to be genuine," he says. "The vast majority [at Capstrat] has... really embraced the green approach. They see how you can be [both] productive and efficient."

Tony Hynes, an SVP at Bite, ex-presses a similar idea. "The main premise of [our] program," he says, "is to build an understanding of sustainability and the environment with our staff. We put an emphasis on legitimacy. If we're credible in the marketplace, it's [because we have] our own house in order."

Bite's internal green program, an integrated global initiative launched in 2007, proposes internal green activities once a quarter. It's managed globally but allows for flexibility on the local level.

The California office is now organizing a beach cleanup with the Surf Rider Foundation and worked with its Sun Microsystems client on "Save the Bay," a conservation effort.

"[The program] builds legitimacy, but it's something based on passion," explains Hynes.

Pan Communications touts a two-year-old internal green pro-gram that shifts according to location and employee needs, including a Zip Car rental benefit, a gas reimbursement incentive to carpool, and a telecommuting option.

"We have seen people taking advantage of [the Zip Car] program, and [they're more open] to talk about other things. [Staffers] are thinking twice about buying a new vehicle," says Cathy Rogers, HR director at Pan.

While these efforts are largely internal, the agency is currently redesigning its Web site to include a section that will reflect its internal efforts, and promote it among both employees and clients.

"It's been great," Rogers says.

Key points:
Internal green programs help to authenticate green client initiatives

Healthful incentives like organic lunches can fuel green discussion

Agencies can build programs around seasonal and timely issues

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