Making the Right Call
Andy is the president of NationLink Wireless, an Inc. 500 company that puts together easy wireless solutions to help businesses and individuals. He assists public and private sector organizations in all phases of wireless deployment. E-mail Andy at andy.[email protected].
In my wireless company, NationLink Wireless, our decision to “go green” was in many ways necessitated by the products we sell. While cell phones and other wireless products may not carry the carbon footprint of a paper mill or major manufacturer, electronic waste is a growing concern worldwide. The onus was on us to create an environmental program that eliminated electronic waste and encouraged social responsibility.
We wanted to do something that would make an impact on the environment and also help a charity at the same time. The challenge was finding the perfect way for our small company to make a big impact, one that fi t with the goals and mission of our business. NationLink is a premium, value-added provider of wireless products and services, so it made sense for us to launch a cell phone recycling program. We know fi rsthand that cell phone recycling is imperative— we see individuals and corporations discarding old phones every day. On average, 130 million cell phones are retired annually in the US alone, but it is estimated that only 1 percent of retired cell phones are recycled or reused.
Our first step in determining how to implement a recycling program was simple: We asked our friends and clients using an online survey tool, and we got instant results. We confi rmed that we were on the right track. People wanted to give back to the community, but they simply didn’t know how. As leaders in our industry, it was our responsibility to show them.
First and foremost, we knew that any recycling program we implemented would need to be easy and secure, since valuable information could still be stored on the phone. What’s more, we needed to find a reliable partner to assist in our recycling efforts. After mapping out a plan and scoping out all of the angles, we found our partner.
On 17 March 2005—St. Patrick’s Day—we officially“went green.” Our initiative, called the GreenLink Program, encourages clients to donate old cell phones and accessories. We collect the phones in person or direct clients to our Web site. Our recycling partner then scrubs the phones of data for security and ensures that nothing ever reaches a landfi ll.
Afterward, they make a donation in the name of the cell phone donor to Easter Seals Tennessee. Everyone wins, and all because we had the courage to go green. Green to us means doing something positive for the environment— in this case, getting unsafe materials that are in retired cell phones, batteries and accessories out of the community. Helping children in need through the charitable donation of funds from used phones is a bonus that most green programs aren’t able to provide. We are lucky that we have a product and a program that can do both.
It’s an exciting opportunity to better the environment, but it wasn’t without its challenges. Here is what I did to get my program off the ground:
I chose a program that is relevant to my business. While I know of many great environmental projects, sustaining interest and engaging staff and clients depends on relevance.
I got the buy-in of potential participants before I started. Through surveys, e-mail newsletters or one-on-one conversations, I gauged the level of interest in the kind of program I was considering. I also made my clients aware of our green intentions, which turned out to be a positive marketing step.
I positioned my program in a way that allows for growth, long-term development and change. We named our program GreenLink to exemplify our intentions in becoming an environmentally responsible company.
I listened to my staff and clients. We set up a roundtable discussion and do surveys with our clients to gather ideas when we start new projects. It’s always amazing how others enhance your thoughts.
The long-term impact of our program remains to be seen. However, the potential for us to make a difference is there, and we are providing a service that both our clients and the wireless industry have told us is needed. More importantly, we have let our staff, the community and our clients know that “green” is more than just a buzzword.