Incentivizing Eco-friendly Practices to Better the Planet & Employee Wellbeing
96% of Generation Y employees are concerned about the environment and expect their employers to take steps towards becoming more sustainable. Greener Ideal & Johnson Controls
Promoting sustainable packaging for products and cutting carbon emissions are good; however, unless the company makes an internal shift, “going green” loses half its value.
Any organization isn’t much without its people. Promoting a healthy and environmentally-friendly lifestyle among employees and executives alike is vital for the growth of any company.
The benefits are endless. Sure, some are external, such as customer willingness to pay up to ten cents more per product if it’s sustainable. That being said, the vast majority of benefits are internal. It demonstrates a true belief in becoming more sustainable from the inside out. It enriches the lives of everyone involved. It fosters a sense of intercompany community.
Within this reinspired community, everyone intrinsically wants to be better, work together better, and focus more. A shared vision emerges, one entangled with the company mission itself. This inevitably leads to more productive working hours, innovative ideas, well-rested staff, less stress, and more bliss in the workplace. Not to mention, it fosters higher employee retention rates and elevates branding.
There are a plethora of studies about Green HRM. Yet very few outline exactly what can be done in daily office life.
And It Begins
It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? The idea of a better, more sustainable office life begs the most important question in the journey: “Where do we start?” We begin by gauging where your company is right now. Ask questions – and be aware that eliciting an honest response can be difficult.
Company culture and general sentiment towards change will undoubtedly impact the accuracy of the responses received. Therefore, sitting employees down to get their honest opinion should start with context. Begin by outlining company initiatives, then open a conversation. Here are some baseline questions to consider asking employees:
- On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate our sustainability effort? Why?
- Would you be interested in helping us create and foster a greener lifestyle here in the office?
- What are your ideas, or things you implement in your personal life, to mitigate your impact on the environment?
- How do you get to the office? Would you consider biking, walking, car-pooling, or taking public transportation? What do you think we can do to encourage this?
- Would you be open to more plant-based options in the cafeteria / fridge? Do you have any particular foods you’d suggest?
- Which incentives could we offer to make you more willing to change small habits?
- Would you be more willing to implement those new habits if everyone in the company did so as well?
- Would you prefer, monetary (a raise or bonus), non-monetary (extra vacation time), or recognition-based (praise from top management) rewards / incentives?
The people within an organization create and maintain sustainability. The ideas are just the start.
Companies can pursue many changes, both big and small, to facilitate positive change. Below are some ideas to start:
- Create incentives to take a greener mode of transportation to work, such as creating ride-sharing programs for employees
- If remote work is an option, offer it as much as possible, this will not only cut down on transportation, but utilities used in-office as well, such as electricity and water
- If you’re going to eat out or order in, carefully select a restaurant in line with your mission for sustainability, such as a zero-waste, plant based joint. FREA in Berlin is a great example of sustainable eating
- Implement company-wide working hours, where things automatically power down after a certain time, setting a computer on “sleep” mode as opposed to shutting it down completely is more energy consuming, read more about green offices here
- Stock up on a set of company blankets for the winter time to reduce heater usage
- Encouraging people to bring their lunch to work in reusable containers and lunch boxes
- Help educate your employees by putting everything in writing & setting consistent goals
- Don’t place all the responsibility on the individuals: help make your employees’ lives easier, talk to the company about automatic lights and faucets to help keep consumption to a minimum
- When hiring, implement questions about sustainability in the workplace, a fresh perspective may be groundbreaking
- If possible, hire a sustainability officer to help implement, oversee, and track progress
Most importantly, talk to your employees, observe what works and what doesn’t, scrap inefficient projects.
Cultivating a sustainable mindset within an organization requires everyone doing their part. If going green becomes an annoying inconvenience in the eyes of the staff, it’s time to return to step one. Pushing programs that don’t work are a major hindrance in a company’s ability to move forward, be honest, make mistakes, and actually implement feedback received. Don’t let bureaucracy or pride get in the way of going green.
Beware: Greenwashing Ahead
As mentioned earlier in this article, many companies greenwash their practices by suggesting seemingly innocent yet, when investigated, nonsensical solutions.
These suggestions air on the side of “reduce printing!” when cloud storage in massive data centers emits as much carbon as the aviation industry. Yes, you read that right. There’s more to sustainable office life than simply switching off the light when you leave the room. Take time to think through all the ramifications of a new sustainable project or initiative.
Always stop to question, and research “how sustainable really is this?”
Of course, everything has pros and cons, there is no perfect solution, but there is an opportunity to do real good. A green workplace takes backtracking, total involvement, and commitment from all. It starts at the top. Executives must be on board with the changes, actively making them and committing.
If the CEO isn’t doing it, why should the accounting department be held responsible for bringing lunch from home? Pay attention and go forth – go green.
- Green HR Practices:Employee Well-being And Sustainable Business (vantagefit.io)
- Green HRM: Definition, Advantages, Green HRM Practices, Policies (iedunote.com)
- Green Human Resources Management – Meaning and Definition  (youmatter.world)
- Green Organizations: Driving Change with I-O Psychology – 1st Edition (routledge.com)
- How Going Green Can Improve Employee Engagement | Greener Ideal
- (PDF) The Green HR Initiatives: An Alternative Business Strategy for Sustainable Growth (researchgate.net)
- STORY – FREA-Store – Warum und wie FREA uns glücklich macht
- Mission and activities (nbs.net)
- Employee Engagement and Going Green (nbs.net)
- 3 Reasons Job Seekers Prefer Sustainable Companies (nbs.net)
- How Ethical Consumers Reward Companies (nbs.net)
- The Oxford Handbook of Recruitment – Google Books
- ‘Employees want climate-positive action from companies. Here’s how they can deliver’ | Reuters Events | Sustainable Business
- How Your Business Can Encourage Employees to Go Green — Environmental Protection (eponline.com)
- Why Businesses Should Go Green (chron.com)
- From C-Suites to Green-Suites » Komoneed
- Digital vs. Paper: Green Guilt » Komoneed
I liked the questions you proposed to ask employees!…
Also, discover a good reading within the sources you used: https://www.nbs.net/articles/three-reasons-job-seekers-prefer-sustainable-companies
Thank you for your candid comment!… We hope to see you soon again!
Great Tip to check out actual possibilities! Greenwashing is a big concern of mine and it amazing to have some hands on examples of how things can go right! https://www.frea.de/story/ was a great insight you linked on this article as well!
Thanks a lot Emily!
This article made me realise that I never turn off my computer… Such easy things could have such a big impact !
Thanks Luca! It’s also a healthy practice!
Not sure what my employees would think about me turning off the heater for the winter and giving them blankets instead …
Thanks Leon! A bit radical, however, perhaps you should discuss with them what the best option is…
Employees need to WANT sustainability though, and be prepared to change some of their behaviours
Yes Tim! That’s the key!