More than half of organizations engage employees on sustainability frequently, up five percent on 2009, but the percent of engagement programs deemed effective or somewhat effective fell by eight percent in that time to 58 percent, according to a survey by sustainability technology company Brighter Planet.
Greening the Workplace 2011, a survey of 972 employees at a variety of companies across the U.S. with a few in other countries, also found that only 17 percent of employee engagement programs were rated very effective. The most successful organizations in this area have official policies with upper-level leadership, the report said.
At the same time, while employees are still the main advocates for sustainability, since 2009 this has shifted more towards management, who are now the main environmental advocates at one in five companies.
Brighter Planet found that investor pressure and corporate accountability are a driver of sustainability strategies at 23 percent of organizations, up from 13 percent in 2009. Sales and marketing, the biggest driver, is unchanged at 30 percent, while product development is now a factor for 13 percent of companies.
The most common areas of sustainability engagement continue to be waste and recycling, energy use and commuting, but the most effective programs are addressing emerging areas including business travel, purchasing, water use and food.
The best performing sectors were environmental, energy/utility, non-profit and construction. Financial services and government employers lagged behind. Smaller organizations outperform larger ones on sustainability engagement, the report found.
Brighter Planet also found that organizations with a method for employees to share ideas were more than six times as likely to have a very effective program, and those that collect data on their footprint, the impact of staff travel and commuting, and employee sustainability efforts were roughly three times as likely to have a very effective program. The number of employers collecting such data increased by fifteen percent since 2009, to 30 percent of companies.