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Southwest Key Earns Austin Green Business Leader Platinum Status

Southwest Key Programs employees Robbie Ely (left) and Don Handley (right) with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (center).

Southwest Key Programs employees Robbie Ely (left) and Don Handley (right) with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (center).

In early 2014, the Southwest Key Green Team was formed to make environmental responsibility a priority for the company. Initiated by Alexia Rodriguez, Southwest Key Vice President of Immigrant Youth Services and Legal Counsel, the Southwest Key Green Team decided to join a City of Austin initiative called Austin Green Business Leaders (AGBL) to utilize AGBL’s Green Business Scorecard as a guide to promote environmental best practices in the workplace.

Based on a company’s environmental practices, the scorecard created by AGBL ranks participants as Silver, Gold or Platinum Green Business Leaders. Southwest Key's Green Team, transformed the company into a Platinum Green Business Leader—the highest possible ranking— in a matter of months!

“We did it by dividing into subcommittees corresponding to the various categories of the scorecard,” says Don Handley, Southwest Key Financial Accountant. Each subcommittee went through its assigned section of the scorecard to determine how we were doing, what we could do better, etc. Robbie Ely, Southwest Key Financial Accountant, compiled all the data and worked closely with the folks at AGBL to make sure we stayed on track.”

The Green Team stuck to a strong, strategic plan, and after months of implementing, tracking, and documenting, AGBL happily certified Southwest Key Platinum status.

Austin Green Business Leaders Logo

At a recognition event held by AGBL in June, Southwest Key was also recognized for community initiatives like the monthly, mobile food pantry run in partnership with Capital Area Food Bank, Southwest Key's Spanish GED program, and our after-school programming with the Boys & Girls Club of Austin. The programs earned Southwest Key an honorable mention in the Community Stewardship category.

Robbie Ely and Don Handley were both present at the event. “It was fun attending that event. Having a photo-op with the mayor was an unexpected surprise,” Handley said. “It was nice to come together with a group of like-minded individuals—folks with a commitment to taking positive steps to improve our environment.”

While the Green Team’s accomplishments are impressive, they continue to explore new ideas to improve Southwest Key facilities as well as raise awareness on environmental issues.

“I’ve seen that improvements in environmentally responsible behavior are dependent on culture,” explained Ely, “We are emphasizing that what we’ve done are first steps. We will continue having monthly ‘brown bag’ events to educate the staff about environmental issues and recommending to management further advancements we can make to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Through the Green Team’s effort to reduce our environmental footprint, Southwest Key Programs is now officially recognized as an environmentally responsible company by AGBL; a great first step.

Asked if there was any other message they’d like to impart, Ely and Rodriguez both chimed in, “Avoid bottled water and foods made with palm oil!” The Southwest Key Green Team is always working.