Grainger’s Green Ambassadors spread the sustainability story

About a year ago, Grainger had a problem.

It wasn’t that Grainger, the world’s leading industrial supplies provider, didn’t have a culture of effective sustainable practices. From top to bottom, Grainger had implemented practices that reduced waste and saved energy.

The problem?

Grainger’s 18,400 employees didn’t really know all that much about those practices – or how those practices added up to make Grainger a sustainable company.

So the Grainger folks, led by Corporate Sustainability Manager Jeff Rehm, asked Shelton Group to help them crystallize their sustainability story and engage their employees.

Grainger’s value proposition lies in helping its customers get their jobs done. As we looked at how Grainger’s employees bring that to life, we found that the qualities that make them successful are the same ones that make them a model of sustainability.

They aren’t just getting the job done; they’re getting it done the right way.

We worked with the people at Grainger to define their sustainability story through the lens of their brand story.

This is a process we recommend for our clients, to ensure that their sustainability stories are aligned both with their brand and their company culture.

With the sustainability story defined and aligned with the Grainger brand, we created a broad sustainability program to engage every employee throughout the corporation.

We designed an internally facing website to teach Grainger’s employees about what the company is doing right and what they can do to help. The site includes a quiz, a contest, tips and videos, as well as access to a social network on which Grainger employees can interact with each other and exchange ideas.

To launch the website internally, we created a poster campaign to highlight Grainger employees’ pride in what they do and tie that pride to their sustainability story.

Each poster targets a different group of employees and speaks to them directly about how they could do their jobs more sustainably.

Hello, Green Ambassadors 

This Earth Day, Grainger launched another facet of this ongoing sustainability effort – its Green Ambassadors program.

As Jeff Rehm said in an interview with Shelton Insights, “We have put a Green Ambassador in every one of our 400 facilities in the U.S. It’s great for us in two ways.

“One, I’m sitting north of Chicago in our global headquarters, and it allows me to have a dialogue with people that are at the front lines with our customers in our operations.

“At the same time, it allows them to communicate across the country and share best practices with one another. Prior to that, they would be isolated in their own district. It’s really exciting.”

One Green Ambassador, a customer service associate in Seattle, helped his branch win an award as Seattle’s Top Recycling Business of the Year. “He is especially passionate about sustainability,” says Rehm.

“He took it upon himself to figure out how to reduce waste in our facility and to get his team members to recycle more, and got that recognition as a result.”

In the end, Grainger wanted its employees to jump on board and take ownership of the sustainability efforts. So far they have, and the company continues to grow and improve – the right way.


Posted on

June 25, 2013

About the Author

Brian Kelley

Brian is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insight

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Penny Kemp

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Penny leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results. She works closely with Suzanne, President & CEO, to develop strategic marketing plans and with Matt, VP Creative, to foster creative campaign ideas. Before joining Shelton Group, Penny had developed expertise in brand management and marketing while working with award-winning agencies and shepherding programs for the likes of Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Russell Athletic and James Hardie Building Products.

Matt Brass

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Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

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Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.