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Health & Wellness
Making Sustainability Personal

By Annette Russo, Manager, Communications and Training, Worldwide Environment, Health and Safety

If you read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch television, you’ve heard the word “sustainability”. It’s a business buzzword now, on the order of “total quality,” “just in time,” “six sigma” and “ISO.”

Yet while companies are starting to talk more about what they are doing to reduce their impact on the environment and be more active in their communities, you may be asking yourself – “what does this all mean for me?”

Well, many companies (Johnson & Johnson included) are starting to come up with an answer to this question. At my company, we’ve put together something called a “personal sustainability program,” or PSP to help employees understand what sustainability means – and how they can apply it to their lives. The concept was pioneered by Wal-Mart in partnership with Act Now .

Wal-Mart’s program, focused on environmental and health issues, involved training PSP leaders, who returned to their stores, trained other interested employees, and then lead PSP efforts at their stores. Each PSP participant pledged to change an environmental or health aspect of their personal life, and when that change was made, they were recognized.

Wal-Mart believes that this program has had many benefits – and they cite carbon dioxide reductions and improved health for their employees. One dividend, however, that is rather difficult to measure is that through this program they have unlocked employee creativity – to develop solutions that were then applied to the business. In a famous example, a PSP participant turned off lighting in soft drink machines in the employee lounge, saving over a million dollars in electricity use each year.

At Johnson & Johnson, I’m responsible for a PSP program that we call “Cause an Effect” – which includes tools that educate employees on four component parts of personal sustainability (environment, community, well-being and economy) and on ways in which they can improve their own environmental impact , health and connection to their communities– for instance, by doing eating locally grown food you are supporting your local farmer, reducing your environmental footprint and improving your health. The program is entirely voluntary, but those who decide to participate can make pledges to make changes and be recognized for their efforts.

So, you might be asking, what is my PSP? Like many of you, I’m struggling with my fitness, so I’m pledging to do Pilates three times each week for at least three months. I think it will help with weight loss, physical health and mental health, and I’m hoping it will help me to be a bit more graceful.