How could such a nice group of people irk the CEO? The short answer is, get feisty with him about the company’s stance on the environment.
Herman Miller is a place where top-down is frowned upon. Sure, the leaders lead, as in the standard our founder D.J. De Pree set for us in 1953 when he said, “Herman Miller shall be a good corporate steward of the environment.”
The example D.J. set for us really took root. It’s part of our ethos, the way we do business, the way each of us thinks about the world. So it wasn’t surprising that a bunch of employees in 1989 thought our company could do more to take care of the earth.
So, they went to then-CEO Dick Ruch. They laid out their concerns: Be more sustainable, and get everyone involved in the effort. But, Ruch, countered, we’re already reducing, reusing, and recycling.
Not enough, they said. And whatever we do for the environment, it can’t be just a top-down thing, it has to be embedded in everything we do. A few “conversations” later, and they convinced him to form a group that became known as the Environmental Quality Action Team (EQAT).
Still going strong today, EQAT has 400 members across our company who work, directly or indirectly, on steering all of us to a healthier future. The EQAT team sets corporate environmental priorities and improvement goals.
It also helps employees take action through volunteerism, such as cleaning up highways and waterways. And it pushes us to own problems about being sustainable and get creative about solving them, to lead as much as our CEO does.