Greening the Workplace 2011: Engaging Employees to Benefit the Planet and the Bottom Line


Shareholder pressure and greater demands for corporate accountability are the fastest growing catalysts for greener workplaces, according to a new survey by Brighter Planet.

Twenty-three per cent of employees polled said their organization’s employee conservation programs were motivated primarily by pressure from shareholders and increasing demands for improved corporate governance, nearly double the 13 per cent in the first employee engagement survey in 2009.

The main driver for sustainability efforts in the workplace remains sales and marketing, according to 30 per cent of employees polled. After shareholder pressure, product development is the third ranking motivator at 13 per cent, up from 11 per cent in the previous survey.

More than half of all employees surveyed said their workplaces have sustainability programs, a 5 per cent increase from two years ago, showing a steadily rising trend for companies, government agencies and other organizations in greening their work sites.

However, the survey also found that many employees believe their companies and organizations are doing a poor job of implementing efficient, user-friendly sustainability efforts. The percentage of very effective or somewhat effective programs dropped eight per cent compared to findings in 2009.

“Demands for corporate and social accountability are at an all-time high,” said Patti Prairie, Brighter Planet CEO.  “Many organizations are floundering in their efforts to promote sustainability. Our survey and analysis is a guide for engaging employees in initiatives that can have a direct impact on the triple bottom line—people, profits and the planet.”

Other key findings of Brighter Planet’s survey of approximately 1,000 employees show:

• Financial services, government and wholesale sectors are the laggards in sustainability efforts, while environmental, energy, utility, and non-profit organizations get the highest ratings for program effectiveness.  Smaller organizations tend to outperform larger ones.

• The most effective programs promote sustainability in emerging areas like business travel, purchasing, water use, and food at much higher rates than their ineffective counterparts. That said the most common areas of sustainability engagement are still waste and recycling, energy use, and commuting.

• Employees are the main advocates for sustainability, but since 2009 management has starting taking a greater role and is now the main green advocate at one in five organizations.

• Organizations with a system for employees to share ideas—including use of electronic media—were more than six times as likely to have programs rated as “very effective” by employees.

• Workplaces that collected data on their carbon footprint, the impact of staff travel and commuting, and employee sustainability efforts were about three times as likely to have a “very effective” program as those that did not collect such information.

The full 2011 report is available online.

Brighter Planet is a leading provider of carbon and energy calculations that help businesses and clients operate more efficiently, conserve energy and save money. Brighter Planet was cited by the Environmental Protection Agency for developing one of the top five environmental apps in the U.S. in 2011. It was named Best Small Business of 2010 by Discovery Channel and received a Social Innovation Award from the Financial Times.


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