Green credentials can boost employee loyalty

Jul 22 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

It's a moot point whether rising oil prices and squeezed wallets are making people more or less environmentally concerned.

Either way, employers are looking increasingly seriously at how improving their green credentials can directly help to ease the pain at the pumps for their workers as well as generating loyalty and improving their brand.

A study by marketing consultancy Fresh Marketing has argued that concern over oil prices and growing environmental awareness can be directly harnessed by employers to build their employer brand Ė but that most have very little idea how to go about doing this.

At the same time, U.S firms are reporting increased interest in programmes or initiatives that can help employees deal with the current fuel crisis.

As meeting the monthly mortgage bill, paying for groceries or filing up with gas has become more of a challenge, so saving the planet has dropped down the list of priorities for many workers.

Nevertheless, employers are recognising that if they do things to help their workers with the rising cost of living and getting to work it will not only be a good thing to do morally but a great way of boosting loyalty and their employer brand.

A report for the U.S Society of Human Resource Management has pointed to gas prices now hovering around the $4 a gallon mark, while research by the website has argued that nearly half of workers say they have had to cut back somewhere else to afford the gas needed for their daily commute.

What this has meant is that forward-thinking employers are starting to look at ways to help their employers cope with the high cost of fuel.

The SHRM has cited a website from The Families and Work Institute that has been sharing innovative approaches between employers.

Initiatives have included offering incentives for not driving, allowing people to commute on alternate days, offering retention bonuses to those with long commutes and creating website listing an organisation's green initiatives and commuter options for employees, including the use carpools.

Other innovative approaches have included providing preferential parking to employees who use van or car pools, giving talks on improving fuel efficiency and changing the production schedule so people are less likely to be commuting in fuel-heavy, stop-start traffic.

Some firms have even started giving employees movie passes or restaurant certificates to help offset budgets eaten away by travel expenses, promoting ride-sharing advertisements in their company online newsletter, subsidising train or bus passes and providing free commuter buses from the suburbs.

The Fresh Marketing research, meanwhile, has argued that many executives feel uncertain how successfully to address the environmental and social impact of their businesses.

Issues such as eliminating waste in the supply chain, reducing energy use and carbon footprints, ramping up corporate-wide volunteer programs, reducing toxins or harmful ingredients in products can all sound good on paper but knowing where to start can be a real challenge, it argued.

"It's a new era for business. More and more business leaders recognize that their company's future is increasingly intertwined with the needs and demands of society," it said.

"What many executives don't understand is how best to manage that changing relationship. Employees often feel like they are swimming against the tide," it added.

Companies should look at range of approaches, including developing informational videos and podcasts, writing articles for company newsletters and hosting seminars, pointed out Shari Aaron, Fresh Marketing principal.

"But three-quarters reported that management is indifferent at best to helping gain the tools and knowledge they need to address these issues, and half said their company is poor at communicating with shareholders, as well," she added.

Sustainability may have been around as a concept for many, many years, "but it is only recently becoming a highly vocal topic for many of today's corporations", she continued.

"Today, the conversation is seen as much more relevant to business growth and prosperity," she added.

Key findings from the research included that just a third of businesses believe sustainability is an issue at the core of their organisation.

More than half of employees remain confused over how environmental and social impacts are addressed or feel that they are kept in silos.

Nine out of 10 also linked brand reputation to addressing environmental and social impacts, yet eight out of 10 firms had not fully incorporated their corporate responsibility performance into their business metrics.

Most employees wanted more education and resources on corporate sustainability, as only a tenth felt prepared to address such issues within their job.