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How to Change the World – a practical guide to successful environmental training programs

How my book will help you to make a difference.

1389153289Everyday workplace activities cause a host of problems that bedevil businesses and environmental managers. Are you constantly fighting a rearguard action against:

  • spills of paint, concrete and other materials from building sites?
  • sediment runoff from land development and heavy construction?
  • spills, poor air quality and contaminated soils from industrial sites?
  • sediment, concrete and bitumen problems from utility works in urban areas?
  • soil erosion, contaminated runoff and loss of stream bank habitat in rural areas?

Collectively, these and other problems are causing worsening water quality, fisheries and recreational values, giving rise to many public complaints and growing community concerns about the environment.

They also represent a real loss of productivity for the businesses that cause them – something these firms are genuinely unaware of.

How would you like to put in place a solution that can reduce these problems? And at the same time:

  • save business and government alike a great deal of time and money
  • build lasting partnerships between government, business and the community
  • build real skills in all these sectors, contributing to the knowledge economy
  • and make a real difference for the environment!

Environmental training programs provide just this solution.

In my book you can find out the secrets of success from a highly successful environmental training program of nearly 20 years duration. It sets out step by step what you need to do to set up an environmental training program that is long-lived, effective and highly acclaimed.

Who needs this book?

My book is suitable for any agency delivering long-term environmental training programs within their own organization or for other organizations.

It is relevant to, for example:

  • environmental regulatory bodies
  • learning and development professionals
  • professional and industry associations
  • companies or institutions that deliver environmental training and education
  • businesses, utilities or government agencies with multiple sites, or who want to encourage and require good environmental practice in their supply chains
  • environmental community groups, first (indigenous) peoples with environmental objectives and other environmental and not-for-profit groups. 

Environmental regulatory bodies: you can use my book to develop and enhance the education and training programs that you run or support, and to work constructively with your community sectors.

Learning and development professionals: my book will help you to work with your in-house or consultancy clients to ensure they understand the value of long-term commitment to environmental training for human resource development and effective training delivery

Businesses and utilities: you can use my book to help set up environmental training for your own staff and subcontractors. You can also have input to government-sponsored environmental training programs for businesses in order to make sure that your needs and constraints are well understood. In this way you will strengthen their relevance and effectiveness for all parties.

First nations peoples and not-for-profit groups: you can use this book to set up your own environmental training programs for specific target audiences, such as people doing on-the-ground environmental work.

Supply chain managers: my book will help any organization wanting to include sustainability in its supply chains and procurement policies. It will help you take a training approach to building the environmental capacity of your existing and prospective service providers.

Feedback on the 1st Edition

I love the layout, principles, and your conversational style. It is a gem and I’ll spread the word.

Professor Mark Hostetler, Professor, Interim Chair, Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, IFAS, University of Florida, USA.

Feedback when I spoke on the topic of my book at the NZ Association of Environmental Education conference, January 2012, was very favorable: one attendee said my presentation was

edgy, informative and refreshingly un-PC.


I was really impressed with your presentation… such huge potential for making a real difference to environmental outcomes.

Jenny Baker, ECO (Environment & Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa).

I thoroughly enjoyed your session and learnt information that I hope to apply in my own workplace.

Dr Coral Pepper from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia.


How environmental training lifts business performance, creates jobs and restores people and places

Are you worried that requiring companies to improve their environmental performance will cost jobs? Be reassured that it won’t. In 1995, Michael Porter wrote his seminal Harvard Business Review article. In it he and co-author Claas van der Linde said, “How an industry responds to environmental problems may be a leading indicator in its overall competitiveness … Only those companies that innovate successfully will win. A truly competitive industry is more likely to take up a new standard as a challenge and respond to it with innovation.” Nothing has changed since then. In fact, more and more evidence continues to emerge in support of what’s become known as the ”Porter Hypothesis”. Amongst the vicissitudes of the recession and as the world works its way to a more beneficial economic model, green jobs offer hope to people, communities and economies, as the following examples show: • 15-60 million jobs globally could be needed by 2032 in the transition to a ‘green economy’, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in its report “Working towards sustainable development: Opportunities for decent work and social inclusion in a green economy”. These jobs could lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty while improving social and environmental outcomes • macroeconomist Josh Bivens investigated the employment effects of the December 2011 US law approving environmental regulations to reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic and other toxic metals, in a 2012 Brief for the Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank in Washington District Council. The Act could prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year and deliver many other health benefits, but pre-passage, a lot of people were concerned it would ‘kill jobs’. When Bivens investigated it in detail, he found that far from killing jobs, the ‘toxics rule’ – just one piece of legislation – could create over 100,000 jobs in the US by 2015 • Bivens’ message for us all is that ‘going green won’t kill jobs during hard times’: when the economy is doing well, environmental regulation has no effect on job growth; but when it isn’t, such regulation is very likely to create jobs. These days, we need more jobs – and green jobs most of all. Everywhere we look, we find the evidence that valuing and restoring our natural and human assets will build a better economy. And, of course, we need good environmental training to get people upskilled into these green jobs! 

Environmental experts and expert trainers: changing the world

Many organizations such as government environmental agencies, utilities, corporations and not-for-profits find they need to carry out environmental training. Many of them also have professional experts already on their staff who can deliver it.

Trainers call these invaluable people ‘subject matter experts’.

But training is a serious profession, as I found out for myself when I attended a ‘Train the Trainer’ workshop to prepare myself to develop and deliver a major environmental training program. It was scary being exposed to a big field of knowledge I knew very little about, and I immediately recognized I needed to take this new learning on board.

Clare Feeney Studio 01 croppedLet me introduce myself. My name is Clare Feeney and I am the Sustainability Strategist. I have worked in the environmental field for nearly 30 years, with a particular focus on environmental education and training for businesses. My technical work in watershed management, industrial waste minimization and resource efficiency, streambank restoration, sewage and stormwater management, environmental evaluation and many other areas has made me one of those ‘subject matter experts’.

I realized I had to become a trainer as well as an environmental manager when staff of an environmental regulatory agency asked me to help them develop a major training program. So I joined the local branch of the Association of Training and Development and it was one of the best moves I ever made!

I was so impressed by the benefits of environment training that I presented a conference paper way back in 1999 on three totally different environmental training programs I’d been working on. These were for people handling household hazardous waste, inspecting and certifying septic tanks, and carrying out erosion and sediment control on large construction sites. My paper won Third Prize in the Paper of the Year category – the first time a non-technical paper had received such an award in that professional association’s then 41 years of history.

Eleven years later, I presented a more detailed paper on the erosion and sediment control training program at a conference in Vancouver Canada in 2010.

When that program started my co-trainer and I thought there might be two or three years of training to deliver, then everyone would be trained and we could stop.

What actually happened turned out to be quite different: 15 years later, the program is still going and has been endorsed by major government agencies that require their service providers to attend. Moreover this highly successful program has – like the programs we looked at when starting out – inspired a number of similar programs around the country.

We’ve even had people from other countries attend our workshops to find out what we do.

We created a ‘premier’ program! Michael Frankcombe, President of IECA (the International Erosion Control Association) of Australasia said it’s ‘the premier program in our region bar none’. Mike was talking about good examples of soil and water management programs at a local and state government level in Australia – and it was a New Zealand program – ours – that he’d named! This is high praise indeed – the Australians, like the Americans, are doing wonderful work.

We created a new profession!

The training program and the wider erosion and sediment control program in which it sits have been so successful that we ended up creating a whole new profession: environmental managers on large construction sites. These highly skilled people move freely between development, engineering design and contracting companies, as well as environmental regulatory agencies and specialist consulting firms. I’ve seen over the years how this exchange of knowledge and perspective adds tremendous value to each of these organizations.


We won a major award!

My co-trainer Brian Handyside and I were jointly awarded the ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’ in 2009 by the New Zealand Association of Resource Management (NZARM) for our work in training and building relationships with the heavy construction industry. This occasional award is not given out every year, and we were both overwhelmed with this recognition from our peers.

It was out of all this experience that I decided to write a book. It’s become a much bigger project than I imagined: once I started writing, I realized how much more we’d learned since I wrote those all-too-brief conference papers.

What’s in the book?

I have a ‘thing’ about program monitoring and evaluation. So my book tells you how to set up your environmental management and environmental training programs in such a way that you can actually measure your program’s implementation and outcomes! This is something that environmental managers and trainers alike really struggle with.

We use a simple and robust approach to program planning: it’s called logic modeling. We’ve made it even better for environmental purposes by incorporating into it a framework for monitoring outcomes that is endorsed by the United Nations Environment Program.

The logic model and outcomes framework will help you build a 1-page diagram that can:

  • involve all your stakeholders in its preparation
  • explain your entire program to anyone
  • enable ongoing monitoring of your environmental management program’s outcomes and cost-effectiveness, including of the training component.

But you need to ask two hard questions before you get that far:

  • is training the solution to your environmental problem?
  • why should your organization do the training? That is, can, should or will anyone else do it instead?

Be sure that if you don’t ask these questions your managers will.

My book will help you answer these questions. More than that it will help you:

  • find partners within and beyond your organization
  • make a compelling case for the needs and benefits of your training
  • understand your trainees and their learning needs
  • develop training content and delivery that works for you
  • measure the success of your training
  • gain long term resourcing and support for your program.

Why good environmental training benefits businesses and communities

Among the many things I’ve learned from my association with many successful environmental training programs is that they are good for everyone involved: businesses benefit because good environmental management saves considerable time and money otherwise wasted in responding to environmental incidents instead of doing productive work for their customers businesses with good environmental systems are usually all-round good operators that are more profitable than their less responsible industry peers environmental regulators benefit from gaining a better understanding of business pressures and drivers, and can help firms comply with the law in ways that add business value communities – who often demand that environmental regulators and businesses deliver better environmental performance – benefit from seeing ongoing environmental problems progressively addressed in ways that the whole community can enjoy.

Case studies of successful environmental training programs

My book includes case studies of environmental training programs including two in-depth comparative case studies of erosion and sediment control in two different countries, one of them the USA.

It also has shorter case studies of the many different ways successful environmental training can be delivered to address issues as diverse as:

  • pollution prevention for manufacturers
  • streambank management
  • farming
  • utility operations
  • environmental restoration by first nations.



Why there’s never been a better time to train

We are living in times of great uncertainty for businesses and government agencies alike.

That’s why it’s a great time for businesses to take the opportunity to train their staff: while we are working hard to get what little work is out there and struggling to keep afloat, we sometimes find ourselves with more time on our hands.

So how about we remind our staff that we value them and want to invest in them for when the work returns?

As Zig Ziglar says, ‘There’s only one thing worse than training your staff and having them leave, and that’s NOT training them and having them stay.’

Environmental training can create new business opportunities, and may even inspire staff to come up with creative ideas.

Even better ideas can emerge when businesses, communities (which are suffering, too, in these uncertain times) and government agencies get together on environmental issues and identify solutions, including training. Some of the solutions may make a difference to a surprising range of problems.

So…. let’s think about training now to head off intensifying environmental and related problems when things pick up… or even to help them pick up.

The most fundamental and important of the seven steps is Partnership. My book will help you identify the partners within your own organization who have an interest in the outcomes your training could deliver.

And you will feel reassured about engaging with external partners when you read about a major training program that was outstandingly successful right from the start – despite the need to comply with a new environmental performance standard that was backed up by legal enforcement.

What surprised us most about the use of enforcement on major construction sites in Auckland was the relief felt by responsible operators. They were unanimously glad that the ‘fly-by-night’ operators who undercut prices by avoiding or skimping on environmental controls were finally being called to account.

Any responsible industry wants a good environmental track record, and its members will welcome great training backed up by the other supporting elements of a robust environmental management program.

And it’s your external and internal partners who will be the ones whose support will keep your training program alive and exciting for many years.


A resource page with an Action Planner and 30 other free resources

Are you surrounded by lots of little scraps of paper with ‘To Do’ lists on them?

Do you have ideas scattered across countless office files?

Have you put off researching and reporting on the potential of an environmental training program because it’s just too daunting?

Using my book you can now break down your research and reporting into a series of straightforward steps – and you can keep all your thinking in one place: the accompanying Action Planner.

The Action Planner has 50 worksheets from which you can choose to work on your priority action needs, as well as mindmap pages for open thinking – or the doodling you do while thinking creatively.

On the resource page you will also find 30 other free resources, including:

  • training logistics checklists
  • standard registration letters
  • workshop evaluation sheets
  • email list agreement forms
  • attendance certificates

…..and much, much more.

Using the Action Planner and other free resources, you will be able to capture all the information, ideas and learnings you generate as you set up, run and review your environmental training program – this will be your gift to posterity!

Click here to go to the free resource page.

Why did I write this book?

I’d like to say that I wrote this book to save others from making expensive mistakes or to allow them replicate our carefully-planned success or for some other intelligent and altruistic reason – but the fact is, I wrote it because I really, really wanted to.

I’d just written my second conference paper on environmental training and my client’s organization was about to go one of the most far-reaching political re-organizations in my country’s history – and I wanted to tell the story of its training programs in case the knowledge dispersed with the inevitable diaspora of staff that would – and did – follow.

As I wrote I realized more and more clearly that the world of training and the world of environmental management have such a lot to offer each other and the everyday world we all live in.

This book comes straight from the heart: I truly believe in the transformative potential of environmental training and want everyone to know about it!


Be a part of the book!

I’d love you to share any case studies, evaluations or resources that will help us all make all of our environmental training programs a wild success. I will gladly acknowledge you as the source.

This material will go onto the page of free resources on my website, where people engaged in this vital work all over the world can access it. In this way, we’ll build a wonderful resource that will only increase in value over time.

With all my best wishes for your successful environmental training program –

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Want to find out more? Click here to go the free resource page and here to buy the book.