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HR Pros: Environmental Programs Provide Considerable Benefits

Fifty percent of organizations surveyed for the 2008 Society for Human Resource Management Green Workplace report have a formal or informal environmental responsibility policy, but 43 percent have no such policy and no plans to implement one within the next 12 months.

Companies that implement environmental responsibility programs report considerable benefits. Human resource (HR) professionals cite improved employee morale (44 percent) and a stronger public image for the company (42 percent) as top benefits. They also report increased consumer/customer confidence/choice (20 percent) and a positive financial bottom line (19 percent) as a result of the organization’s environmental responsible program. Survey respondents also cite increased employee loyalty (16 percent).


The most common barrier to creating an environmental program is implementation cost (85 percent) followed by maintenance cost (74 percent). Other barriers include lack of management support (43 percent), lack of employee support (25 percent), and concern for workplace inefficiency (20 percent).

Still, nearly three out of four employees from companies without environmental programs say they want their employers to “go green.” Seventy-three (73) percent of surveyed employees in companies without an environmental responsibility policy thought it was very or somewhat important that their organization develop an environmental responsibility policy.

Other findings:

– While C-suite support for company initiatives is key, relatively few at the CEO/President (15 percent) level are responsible for creating the environmentally responsible program and fewer (four percent) are responsible for program implementation. The majority of such programs are created by a senior management team (32 percent) and roughly the same number (31 percent) are also responsible for implementation.

– HR professionals rank the top five environmentally-responsible practices to be:
1) encouraging employees to work more environmentally friendly (83 percent);
2) offering a recycling program for office products (83 percent);
3) donating and discounting used office furniture and supplies to employees or local charity (73 percent);
4) using energy efficient lighting systems and equipment such as Energy Star equipment and occupancy sensors (66 percent); and
5) installing automatic shutoff for equipment (63 percent).

– Employees offer a slightly different view and rank the five most important environmentally-responsible practices as follows:
1) donating and discounting used office furniture and supplies to employees or local charity (53 percent);
2) promoting walking, biking, taking public transit (49 percent);
3) using energy efficient lighting systems and equipment (43 percent);
4) offering a recycling programs for office products (39 percent); and
5) encouraging employees to work more environmentally friendly (36 percent).

– Both HR professionals and employees state that their primary, or number one, motivation for participating in environmentally responsible programs is to make a contribution to society. HR professionals placed more weight on environmental (53 percent) and economic (46 percent) considerations as second and third most prevalent company motivators. Employees report public relations strategy (26 percent) and health and safety considerations (24 percent), respectively, as the second and third driving factors.


The Green Workplace Survey’s 429 HR professional respondents represent publicly- and privately-owned companies, nonprofits, and the government sector. The 504 employee sample was randomly selected from U.S. telephone population. All employee respondents were either employed full time or part time.

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