Monday, January 30, 2012

Embracing the Intrapreneurs in Your Organization.

A while ago a light-bulb went off above my head: there are just not enough opportunities to go around for all of the people interested in becoming a social entrepreneur.

To become an entrepreneur, you need some funding, a good team, a clear vision, and then you brace for full speed and hope failure is not an option. To be a social entrepreneur is more difficult; you need all of the things mentioned above along with a social conscience to disclaim the bottom-line for environmental and human impacts, all the while you are fighting laws that are not favorable in to your socially responsible business model.

So the chances of social entrepreneurs changing the world in the next decade are rather slim; and that’s when I realized it will not only take the social entrepreneurs, but social intrapreneurs as well, to really make a difference. It will take all of us, focused on the purpose of doing good for social and environmental causes, to make a difference in a paradigm shift from the old business model to a new environment where sustainability will thrive.

That is exactly what eBay echoed at the GreenBiz Forum in San Francisco.

eBay was not built as a “green” company; but it has found success in embracing and empowering its own employees, as well as its buyers and sellers, and has transformed itself to be the eye candy for every hot blooded do-gooders of the sustainability cause. In partnership with the U.S. Postal Service, eBay developed the first ever Cradle to Cradle-certified shipping box; it has also developed a 100% reusable shipping box for its electronics; and more recently, eBay has partnered with Patagonia to encourage people to buy less and buy used. 

“eBay’s partnership with Patagonia came from an eBay employee meeting a Patagonia employee at a business conference; the idea to install Bloom Energy fuel cell boxes on the company's campus was similarly employee-generated -- and now eBay gets 16 percent of its campus' energy use from renewables, thanks to the Bloom boxes.”

To date, eBay boasts 300,000 participants, buyers and sellers, of the site, and counts them all among members of his green team. Its CEO, Donahoe, notes that “sellers and buyers are regularly sharing best practices for minimizing the impacts of shipping products purchased online.”

“Some of the ideas to come out of those suggestions include the Cradle to Cradle box, as well as the reusable shipping box.”

eBay has taken on the sustainability challenge to empower its users from within—a suitable strategy for any large organization to consider when making its sustainability changes using its very own social “intrapreneurs."

By empowering these self-motivated innovative people from within the organization, growth is a natural thing; by giving a cause to the people and making them take ownership of that growth, the company benefits, and profits, from not making any official endorsements or investments at all.  Their employees and customers all the while are building brand confidence and loyalty amongst other value-added to the organization. 

"The worst thing I could do would be to make it official -- I think it'd lose its energy," Donahoe said. "People are more engaged when they own something. When our community thinks it's their idea, they bring energy and enthusiasm to it."

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