Using The Green Masters Program as a Tool for Sustainable Advancement

By Jessy Servi Ortiz, Managing Director, Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council. Adapted from Encouraging Environmentalism, Green Masters Program Helps Companies Measure Sustainability Efforts by Jessica Thiel from Insight on Manufacturing.


Sustainability often means different things to different people. Concepts and implementation of sustainable principles have grown in awareness over the last decade. Yet, many still grapple with understanding how to define and integrate sustainability into their businesses and/or lives.


The Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council (WSBC) is here to assist you. Our mission is to advance sustainable principles and practices through the power of business. We support companies and sustainability professionals through membership and an array of programming, education, resources, and tools. For more than 13 years, we have brought businesses together to advance sustainable business practices across Wisconsin.

Our signature program, the Green Masters Program (GMP), offers a cost-effective way for businesses to take sustainability into their own hands and drive change from within. The program is an action manager that gives your business credit for actions completed in nine core areas of sustainability. It also provides a comprehensive list of ideas for actions to drive continual improvement at your company. The GMP action areas are Energy, Green House Gas Emissions, Water, Waste and Materials Management, Transportation, Supply Chain, Workforce, Governance, and Community and Educational Outreach.


The Green Masters Program is open to any business with operations in Wisconsin. No matter your size or sector, the GMP can help you grow or improve your sustainability programming. The program supports businesses in identifying, learning, measuring, and enhancing sustainability outcomes and recognizes accomplishments and commitment. The program is point-based, and actions are scored based on the degree of difficulty and the impact realized. The program also provides a benchmark for comparing your sustainability performance to other participating GMP companies in the same sector.

The GMP Logo is a certification mark that acts as a third-party credential to validate you are taking actions across the nine pillars of sustainability, working towards continuous improvement and integration. The program celebrates businesses making sustainable advancements, and each year the top 20% of companies in the program are recognized as Green Masters level companies at our annual conference in December. There are three tiers of recognition: Green Apprentice, Green Professional, and Green Master. Twenty-seven companies were recognized as Green Masters in 2020.


For businesses just starting out on their sustainability journey, we offer personalized support and the opportunity to be paired with a program mentor. We also recommend forming a cross-functional team to discuss the action areas. The program’s comprehensive list of actions can be used internally to generate ideas for what sustainability actions make sense for your organization to prioritize, plan, and budget for. The list supports your knowledge and understanding of business sustainability, representing market trends and the evolution of sustainable business practice. The actions list can also be used to engage your stakeholders in conversations about company values, policies, and/or sustainable practices.


Green Masters Program participants range in size from small businesses with one employee to global multinational companies, like Kohler Company. Ratish Namboothiry, Director of Innovation for Good and Sustainability at Kohler, says that they are proud to be a Green Master Company. Ratish observed that "to succeed at the program and to make strides in sustainability efforts, a company must consider its impacts and manage those accordingly. At Kohler, that includes measures that look at our company's impact across its global operations and designing sustainability-focused products. The Green Masters Program provides a useful third-party screening tool to gauge the maturity of our environmental sustainability program and helps validate that we have a good program."


Kruger International (KI), another Green Master level company, has used the program to support its overall sustainability strategy. The Green Bay furniture maker has created sustainable practices and policies with the support of the program and works toward incorporating a large percentage of recycled content into its products and packaging. The company also identifies and reduces the use of chemicals of concern and selects safer alternatives. "The Green Masters Program aligns with our internal program and allows us to measure year after year how we're doing and see where we're improving and identify areas where we can improve," says Robin Kunstmann, KI's Sustainability Manager.


We invite you to be a part of the growing wave of those advancing their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) competencies and metrics. No matter what is driving your company to sustainability, the Green Masters Program is a tool to help you organize and improve your efforts. Overall, the program demonstrates that Wisconsin businesses are moving forward on the sustainability continuum; the average score across all sectors in 2009 was 70, and in 2020 it was 534. Typically, manufacturers make up the largest sector of the program, at 36% in 2020, followed by professional services at 12%. Small businesses are also key players driving sustainable change. Companies with less than 100 employees made up 35% of the program last year.


Together we are making strides, yet there is more work to do. Our vision is that all businesses in the state (and beyond) have an integrated and credible sustainability program. A list of companies currently in the program can found on our website under current participants here: https://www.wisconsinsustainability.com/current-participants.


We invite you to join the movement towards a more sustainable future.


To learn more about the Green Masters Program, visit https://www.wisconsinsustainability.com/greenmasters


To learn more about WSBC, visit https://www.wisconsinsustainability.com/






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