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May 10, 2008

Adding their Best to Best Buy

In 2006, I interviewed Julie Gilbert of Best Buy. At that time they had 120,000 employees, today they top 140,000. Then, Julie was a Vice President of WOLF (Women's Leadership Forum) and Entrepreneurial Initiatives; now she's a Senior Vice President of Retail Training, Learning and Innovation, Winning With Women, and WOLF. On top of all that, she also has taken on Sustainability issues, turning Best Buy into a woman-friendly, earth-friendly corporation. My kind of woman.

According to a recent profile, "Through her leadership in WOLF, Best Buy increased female market share by more than $3.6 billion, increased the number of female job applicants by 37 percent, and reduced female employee turnover by 5.7 percent." Hummm.... Best Buy has 20,000 women employees, that means 1140 stayed at Best Buy because of the WOLF program. Cool.

GilbertApparently Julie wants to do better than 5.7%. On Wednesday this week, she was in town (Anaheim, CA) with about 1000 other "blue-shirters" and WOLF Omegas (women who are not part of Best Buy). The Blue Shirts and the Omegas formed one, big brainstorm to continue exploring why employees and customers stayed with Best Buy and why others left.

Fortunately, the conference was only about 5 minutes from my place, so I was able to join Julie and other manager and Omega types for happy hour at the Hilton. Since this conference was all about making women happy, I took with me a request from Eco-Mom, Kimberly Pinkson. She wanted Best Buy to, Take back the e-waste [recycle] and show her what they are doing with it. "I don't want my old computer to end up over in Africa polluting the landscape for the kids over there," Kimberly told me.

Kimberly will be happy to know that Best Buy is working on the beginning of that wish list. According to Julie, they are doing a test in three stores located in Minneapolis, Baltimore and San Francisco. People can take any kind of e-waste to the store regardless of where they bought it. Currently at all Best Buy stores you can recycle print cartridges, batteries and cell phones. They are also greening up the buildings as well adding solar panels.

When it comes to the "show me" part. Kimberly isn't alone e-waste disposal, over at Envio Mom they addressed the same concern. Trust, but verify! No one wants to recycle only to find out that we messed up some other country's back yard. I have two old computers sitting under my desk for that very reason. I don't trust where they'll end up if I take them to a recycling center. That picture in the National Geographic of E-waste in third world countries is too vivid. I'll be the first one to champion Best Buy's program when they are able to show and tell the full story.

TaihaI also visited with Omega consumer, mom and small business owner Taiha Wagner. She was there, traveling with her incognito sister to answer questions from Best Buy employees. Taiha was encouraged by Best Buy not to hold back (she didn't) and wasn't given any advice on what to say before she came. (Taiha's the one with the white shirt)

So why would you love a company as an employee and customer?

Over on Best of Mother Earth, Karen Hanrahan explores why she stays with her company. It started with products that she could trust as a consumer of eco-safe cleaners. Years ago she had to switch to a chemical-free lifestyle as cleaning agents bothered her health. When she found products that allowed her a way to not only live safely, but also make a living she was hooked and never left. "They just fit who I am as a person," Karen told me. "I've always been told I'm a mother earth sort, and these products let me live that life."

The more I read blogs and pay attention to what women want, it always comes down the same thing, give them something they can believe in - oh, and prove it.


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best buy utilizing the female buying power and circle of influence is pretty darn brilliant - sure is something actionable to sink your green teeth into too, very cool

thanks for the mention and understanding my mother earthy soul

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