Making the Case for Workplace Environmentalism
Robin Perkins, VP, Communications & Marketing, EarthShare

You’ve probably read plenty of research underscoring the bottom line business benefits of engaging employees around important social issues. But there’s a distinct gap in all that insight: little research has focused specifically on the environment as the engagement factor. During a time when environmental policy rollbacks are stepping on the natural resource protections Americans have enjoyed for decades, and as we learn more about the current and not-so-distant impacts of climate change, the contingent of people who want tangible solutions continues to grow.

So, what does this mean for employers seeking the business case for engaging employees around environmental sustainability?

We surveyed 600 employees from Fortune 1000 companies to find out. The soon-to-be released report answers some specific questions:

  • What do employees think of their existing opportunities to make an impact on the environment?
  • What opportunities do employees want?
  • How can employers meet these employee desires?
  • Which employees expect what?

The responses shatter some preconceived notions about both the demographics connected to who supports environmental issues, and where employees stand on the top issues – including one previously considered to be too “hot button” for the workplace. Finding highlights include:

Age is not a significant influence on environmental attitudes in the workplace.
While the research reinforces that the younger the employees, the more likely they are to be leaders on environmental initiatives in the workplace, it turns out the health of the environment is a concern shared by all demographics.

Climate change is not the divisive issue it used to be.
When it comes to taking a public stance on an issue, climate change was long considered too controversial a topic for business. Climate change is now a top-three issue among employees – and they want their employers to take a stand, too. This mirrors the fact that more people are waking up to the realities of our changing climate – a recent Gallup poll reflected that 51% of Americans, up from 37% in 2015, now believe in climate change.

Employees want their actual jobs to “do good” – volunteerism alone isn’t cutting it.
While workers expect company-organized volunteer activities, our responders are more interested in having a sense of purpose embedded in their everyday work. There is enormous opportunity in integrating environmental opportunities into an employee’s daily job requirements.

While results vary by company, it’s also clear that there are fiscal benefits to the tune of thousands of dollars for every employee positively affected by workplace environmentalism. Unfortunately, survey results also indicate that companies have work ahead of them if they want to meet employee expectations for corporate environmental efforts.

Learn more – visit us at earthshare.org or contact Mary MacDonald, mary@earthshare.org.

Percent of Fortune 1000 employees who want their employers to take public action on an issue:

Source: The New Business Paradigm: Employees Turn Environmental Action into a Workplace Imperative, May 2019. Surveys were administered by Povaddo to 600 individuals employed by Fortune 1000 companies between February 14 and 17, 2019. In order to improve the study’s representation of all Fortune 1000 workers, weights for gender, age and industry were applied. The margin of error for the entire sample is + or – 4%. All differences presented herein are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.