Archive for August, 2008

A Sustainable Experience

August 22, 2008 2 comments

Employees today want to know that their employers are working to protect the natural world. But highly publicized green initiatives aren’t doing the trick. Workers need to believe that their company truly cares about the earth. They are looking for a sustainable experience.


Zogby recently completed its 14th annual “Attitudes in the American Workplace” poll and choose to highlight their finding that only 17% of employees surveyed believe their companies are going green for socially responsible reasons. Commenting on the survey, Environmental Leader began its coverage by saying “Half (50.8%) of U.S. workers say their company has a significant initiative such as carpooling and recycling, but most report being cynical about their employer’s motivation for going green…”. When I look at the data I see a reason for these numbers: without understanding that their organization is led by people who also have a great deal of concern for the environment, employees assume green programs are simply another way to increase the bottom line.  


The poll shows that 77% of US employees surveyed feel it is “very important” or “somewhat important” that their companies be green but only 71% of employees said they were being educated on how to be greener at home. I believe the fact that not enough workplaces are educating their employees about green living outside of the office significantly limits the worker’s buy-in to sustainable efforts in the workplace. When sustainability programs seem to come out of nowhere and are not rounded out with employee education, it makes sense the worker’s question their origins.  


Here are the reasons people believe their companies began environmental initiatives: 24% thought they were to save money, 22% said it was because the company wants positive publicity, 14% responded that it was the politically correct thing to do, 13% said green programs were enacted to combat rising energy costs and only 17% believed a sincere interest in CSR (corporate social responsibility) was at work.


I find these reasons interesting and but expected. Stopping climate change and protecting natural resources are concerns that affect each person and every business on earth. When almost three quarters of organizations are not educating their employees about these pressing issues and how to help combat them both at work and at home, I think it is clear why so many people question the motives behind their employers green interest.  


The Society for Human Resource Management’s June 2008 issue of HR Magazine was entitled Working Green. Their article, Get in the Business of Being Green, provides a great overview of how an HR department can roll out employee education and other steps on the road toward sustainability. In addition to SHRM’s suggestions, eLearning materials can be developed to create an interactive and effective training course that can be hosted on the company’s intranet and accessed by employees across an organization.


Once companies go through the time and expense of educating their workforce on the company’s initiatives and how they can be green at home, I believe the employees will have a sustainable experience with their employer. They will realize that even though their companies are often saving money, gaining public support and publicity, and dealing with the energy crisis, they also have a sincere commitment to CSR.