Inside Supply Management Magazine

Employees Want Green Workplaces

April 22, 2014

If you’re preparing for a big meeting, you may want to rethink printing two dozen copies of that 50-page slide presentation for the attendees. And don’t underestimate the value of those blue recycling bins around the office. Today, employees are more engaged with environmental issues than ever, and research shows they prefer working for companies with green policies.

More than 900 workers in the United States recently responded to a survey about green workplace policies — and survey says the majority take sustainability and environmental stewardship quite seriously.

The poll, commissioned by Ricoh Americas Corporation and conducted in March 2014 by Harris Poll, finds three out of four employed adults (75 percent) would insist a company actively address any obvious wasteful practices at work. Additionally, two out three (67 percent) would “report” their company if there was evidence of it harming the environment.

One of the most interesting comments made, according to Ricoh, was that 44 percent (more than two in every five) agree with this statement: “I would rather be unemployed than work for a company that’s knowingly harmed the environment.”

Because talent retention is a top concern, paying attention to green workplace and corporate practices is a serious issue. Years ago, recycling and being aware of environmental impacts from company activities were more of a “nice to have” strategy. Today, it’s necessary for doing business.’s 2014 State of Green Business report also finds employee engagement on environmental (and social) issues has evolved to the point where direct returns on investment are measurable to the overall success of the company.

Research studies from Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management have also produced compelling evidence that a company with employee programs for sustainability reaps numerous benefits.

For example, both schools cite Caesars Entertainment’s CodeGreen employee program as having a direct link to end-customer satisfaction and loyalty. In other words, customers report positive overall experiences and are willing to return to Caesars’ properties thanks to the actions and attitudes of employees regarding sustainability.

As concerned as employees are about green policies, there’s room for improvement. In the Ricoh survey, 46 percent say they feel guilty they aren’t doing more to help the environment and would be interested in doing more.

So, companies have an opportunity to get creative and try new employee engagement tools. Some ideas include creating green teams and volunteer programs, competitions, cash incentives, award and recognition programs, and eco-fairs and family events.

In your supply chain management organization, are green initiatives a priority — and how do you engage your team members? Please feel free to leave a comment.