Sustainability Pay$

Jennifer Su-Coker, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), our research staff members are our frontline for thinking innovatively about sustainability. PNNL's Sustainability Pay$ Program reinvests savings from utility improvement projects on staff-generated initiatives with direct and measurable impact on our triple bottom line: environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic prosperity. Since 2013, the program has received more than 70 proposals and awarded over $250,000 to staff-generated sustainability initiatives. This presentation will describe PNNL's staff engagement strategy and demonstrate how Sustainability Pay$ drives sustainable laboratory operations through user-generated ideas.

Once a year, the Sustainability Pay$ Program publishes a lab-wide call for Sustainability Pay$ proposals. All staff, researchers and non-technical staff, are invited to identify sustainability improvement opportunities within their current research, facilities, or other work. A Sustainability Pay$ committee reviews all proposals against well-defined award criteria, which includes relevancy to PNNL's sustainability commitment, cost effectiveness, cost sharing opportunities, and transferability.

Thanks to Sustainability Pay$, we have improved both our sustainability practices and our overall sustainability program. Based on staff input, we launched a Building Sustainability Champions (BSCs) program and recruited 18 BSC volunteers. The BSCs were tasked with identifying sustainability opportunities by engaging in conversations about conservation and recycling with fellow staff members, adding a personal peer-to-peer approach to our sustainability program. This approach helped identify nearly 40 employee-driven energy- and recycling-related improvement opportunities. In 2018, Sustainability Pay$ kicked started a Laboratory Sustainability Champion (LSC) program, modeled after the BSC program and designed to promote and educate research staff on sustainability best practices. The LSC program will also systematically conduct assessments to identify opportunities to improve laboratory sustainable operations.

Through Sustainability Pay$, staff are motivated to lead and implement projects benefiting sustainability performance and improve research efficiency. PNNL staff also use Sustainability Pay$ as a platform to field test their own sustainable inventions and other innovative solutions.

Learning Objectives

  • Model the Sustainability Pay$ concept to synergize laboratory conservation efforts.
  • Gain practical strategies to effectively motivate staff engagement on improving sustainability performance.
  • Acquire examples of successful staff-generated sustainability initiatives resulting in energy, water, and waste reduction.
  • Demonstrate the value of user-level engagement in improving sustainable operations.


Ms. Su-Coker is the pollution prevention program manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). She is also the chairperson for PNNL's sustainability team. She has led many initiatives aimed to foster sustainable culture and improve sustainable laboratory operations.


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