Employees Want to Do More to Help Companies Go Green

Sep 08, 2008

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine Food Network

surveys in the U.S. and U.K. about the views of employees towards their own,
and their employers’, green activities have been reported on GreenBiz.com.
In both cases, workers believed they were not able to do as much as they would
like because of constraints from their employers.

Results indicated that large British companies need to give employees more of a say in greening their workplaces while companies in the U.S. need to live up to their eco-friendly business practices internally as well as externally.

E.ON, a power and gas company in the U.K., surveyed 1,200 employees. Those in small to medium-sized firms appeared significantly more likely to help curb energy use and carbon emissions by turning off lights and computers and recycling than employees at larger companies, who said bureaucracy hampers their efforts.

Jim Macdonald, commercial director of E.ON U.K., said the research revealed employees’ feeling they must ask permission to make positive changes and this “prevents workers from taking the necessary steps… Businesses seeking to go green must look at cutting the red tape their employees face in implementing energy efficient work practices.”

In the U.S., The Marlin Company, specialists in workplace communications, surveyed 755 workers and found that 63 percent considered themselves greener than their employers. Thirty-six percent said they “believe that companies adopt environmentally friendly practices to obtain positive publicity or be politically correct.”

Frank Kenna III, CEO and president of the Marlin Company, said, “Companies need to do more than talk about green initiatives… Employees need to see that their company is serious about it. That means concrete actions such as in-house programs for saving energy and recycling, promoting carpooling and public transportation, four-day work weeks and educating employees on home-energy conservation.”

Discussion question: Are you surprised that employees are frustrated by their company’s green efforts? What particular hurdles are larger companies facing in their own green initiatives? What can companies do, in their stores and offices, to help employees go green?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

6 Comments on "Employees Want to Do More to Help Companies Go Green"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
frederick healey
frederick healey
13 years 8 months ago

Going green does not always easily translate into making green. Many companies see environment-friendly efforts as a cost and not as a way to grow customer relationships. For green to work effectively it must become a central value of a corporation and have a team dedicated to monitoring and promoting company efforts, marketing the values of going green both internally and externally, and finding ways to use “going green” measures–especially the costly ones–to cultivate and grow customer relationships with energy and environment conscious customers.

Customers are smarter than we give them credit for when it comes to environmental issues and marketing. A high emphasis but low reality approach to going green will not work because the customer sees the environmental effort as a holistic company approach, and minimal efforts are worse than no effort at all because you have raised the expectation level of the company in the customer’s eyes. Your company has to see a long term intrinsic value to putting resources and talent on environmentally friendly efforts.

Ryan Mathews
13 years 8 months ago

Would those employees have that same level of enthusiasm if going green meant reducing hours of operation; cutting back on climate control; or disproportionately rewarding employees who didn’t drive to work? Hard to say but how you like your meat depends a great deal on whose ox was gored to provide dinner.

Gene Detroyer
13 years 8 months ago

Frank Kenna is right. I remember years ago when I was involved in a “we are part of the solution” campaign for a very large oil & chemical company. The charge was to find and cull instances and sculpt activities to look environmentally friendly. Notably, there was never a part of this project to find environmentally unfriendly practices and change them.

While a company may be able to fool the public, it is very difficult to fool the employees who might be reminded every day to recycle paper but aren’t provided recycle bins. In big companies, it is difficult to change policies and procedures. It takes a focused and complete effort to change inertia. Even when new “green” action is completely encouraged, it may be even more difficult to change employees’ practices. And most often, “green” doesn’t show up on the bottom line.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
13 years 8 months ago

Just as guessing what consumers want is not successful in this market, employees need to be included in the conversation. Employees may have some great ideas and a discussion may generate more good ideas. Solutions do not always reside in the executive suite.

Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
13 years 8 months ago

Yes, employees find it very frustrating to be prevented from being as green as they want to be. This happens all the time and many would support more active efforts, especially when PR present a different picture from their experience.

And “green” shows up on the bottom line all the time. Whenever companies reduce packaging of their products or work to be more efficient in their operations, the bottom line is improved. When retail stores don’t prop their doors open, their heating and cooling costs are reduced, improving the bottom line. “Green” behavior has the potential to save plenty of money because in so many circumstances it involves using resources more wisely. Listening to their “greener” employees can help.

Mark Lilien
13 years 8 months ago

Most retail execs don’t pay attention to what their employees say or what their customers say. Most retail execs don’t even pay attention to other retail execs.

They pay attention to their cash registers. Cash registers are very articulate. When the cash registers start talking sustainability, green, recycling, energy efficiency, global warming, etc, retail executives will listen. Most cash registers haven’t been saying those things, though. They’ve been saying, “Reduce the price.” “Reduce the price” does not equal “Be sustainable.”


Take Our Instant Poll

Are retailers and manufacturers doing enough to make their own premises (stores and offices) as green as they can be?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...