What does the term "green" mean? That was the starting point two years ago for ProEarth, ProBuild's corporate-wide sustainability strategy. "ProBuild has always offered products with green attributes, such as FSC-certified wood, but the company has never offered families of products under a green platform until now," Carolyn Atkinson, director of marketing and communications, wrote in the company's entry.

The three-phase initiative started with education, both for ProBuild employees and its customers. First came ProEarth University, a five-day training program for select employees, customers, and vendor partners to establish a group of regional experts on sustainable building practices.

For folks who couldn't attend in person, an online Learning Management System with video modules, interactive worksheets, quizzes, and a final exam replicates the seminar. It's now available to ProBuild's entire sales team. There's also a Building Science 101 Road Show: one-day seminars for ProBuild sellers and customers in key markets.

Phase II is a product portfolio review that involves requesting third-party certification from vendors on all the products they manufacture, the establishment of a ProEarth advisory board, and the production of an annual sustainability report. That report benchmarks green leaders in other industries, including Starbucks, Walmart, REI, GE, and Dell.

Lisa Peterson, ProBuild's vice president of marketing and communications, says anyone considering such an initiative should do four things: 1) Conduct market research and understand customer needs; 2) Make sure the program is strategically aligned and supported by senior management; 3) Get help, input and opinions from across the company; and 4) Prepare the organization to deliver on the brand promise before you market anything.

The Excellence Award judges were impressed by the breadth of the ProEarth initiative, calling it extremely well designed,with great results at a very small cost–just 0.05% of revenue. One judge said it was as well thought out a campaign as any he'd ever seen.