In 2019, Rubicon anchored a portion of employee annual bonuses to the amount of waste reduced across all of its company’s clients. The results have been remarkable.
In a circular economy, incentives must exist to promote desired outcomes. In a linear economy, there are little to no incentives to recycle or reduce waste; the result is plain to see.
For this reason, in 2019, Rubicon created a system for our own employees — so they would have every incentive to help our customers and clients achieve waste-reduction goals.
We anchored a portion of employee annual bonuses to the amount of waste reduced across all of our company’s clients. We set an initial goal for the percent change in waste diversion over the prior year, and throughout the year we updated our team on our progress in meeting that goal. This performance metric demonstrates to our customers, competitors and other stakeholders that our success depends on the core environmental objective that matters to us most: ending waste.
We have also included diversion incentives in contracts with certain major commercial customers. Our compensation from these contracts depends on how much we help them divert waste from landfills. One such customer adopted a comprehensive recycling program that includes composting, metal and wood recycling, and specialized recycling for hard-to-recycle streams. Between January 2017 and July 2019, we increased their landfill diversion rate by 47 percent.
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Another way we incentivize our employees to do work to help our customers achieve their sustainability goals is by awarding one employee per year with the George Washington Carver Innovation Award. Carver was a scientist and inventor in a time when separate ideas were often rejected. It could be said that he was one of the early adopters of Rubicon’s mission to end waste — Carver created more than 325 different methods for repurposing the humble peanut; he took the fibers of the peanut plant to make different types of paper, early plastics, and dyes.
Each year, Rubicon employees are given one month in which they can nominate a fellow employee for this award — who they believe exemplifies incredible creativity and leadership, and who upholds Carver’s legacy of innovation and challenging the status quo. A joint committee made up of Rubicon employees and senior leaders decide the eventual winner, with this individual winning a $10,000 cash prize.
For organizational change to work, it needs to come from the top down. This doesn’t mean that new ideas can’t come from all branches of an organization; but it does mean that once these ideas have buy-in from the C-suite, real and sustainable change can begin to take place.