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'Green' Interest Grows, but Not as a Recruitment Tool

By Kathy Gurchiek  4/20/2007
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Global warming may be a hot topic and the subject of an Oscar-winning film, but an employer’s eco-friendliness is an important distinction for only about one-third of U.S. workers, says a survey conducted with Earth Day, April 22, in mind.

“We've seen an increase recently in the number of job seekers who want to work for ‘green’ companies, or companies working in industries that are helpful to the environment,” Adecco USA’s chief career officer, Bernadette Kenny, said in a press release..

“However, when it comes to taking less compensation for those jobs, not everyone is willing to make that leap unless they are younger and just starting out in their careers. What can be helpful for companies in recruiting and retaining green-minded employees,” she added, is “to communicate its environmental policies and create an environmentally conscious culture by instituting some simple and basic programs.”

About seven in 10 U.S. workers know that their employer has an environmental policy, with men slightly more likely than their female colleagues to say they know what that policy is—35 percent of men vs. 28 percent of women—according to the online survey for Adecco that was conducted with 2,473 U.S. adults in the second week of March 2007.

Employers might want to see how they stack up to others in their sector or industry.

The Greenpeace Guide, the activist environmental organization’s ranking of companies based on their policies regarding chemicals and waste, for example, found that most electronics companies are making progress on becoming environmentally friendly.

"With this edition of the guide, we’re seeing some companies move beyond good statements of principle and towards real action, with the rollout of voluntary take-back programs and detailed information being provided to customers,” Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner Iza Kruszewska said in a press release.

“But companies have to stay on the ball and progress in step with the market. Existing commitments from companies begin to look less impressive on this dynamic score card as their competitors raise the bar,” he added.

Green Initiatives

Slightly more than half of U.S. workers think that their employer should be more environmentally friendly; only 22 percent said their company does enough or too much when it comes to being “green.”

Eco-friendly actions can take various forms, from placing recycling receptacles in the company lunch room to reducing an employer’s landfill waste to providing employees with cash incentives for switching to hybrid cars.

McNaught & Gunn Inc., a book manufacturer in Michigan that employs 212 people, decreased its landfill waste from 1,660 cubic yards to 120 cubic yards even as the company experienced 40 percent growth, according to its web site.

And during the summer of 2006, in response to spiraling gas prices, Bank of America offered $3,000 in cash to its 21,000 employees in Boston, Los Angeles and Charlotte, N.C., who bought a fuel-efficient hybrid car, matching a $3,000 federal tax credit for buying a hybrid, as HR News reported at the time.

Employers who want to make every day Earth Day could create a carpool program, plant trees on their grounds, or change all light bulbs to Energy Star-qualified bulbs, suggests Adecco, which is a member of the United Nations Global Compact Initiative. The initiative supports environmental responsibility and encourages environmentally friendly technologies.

Switching from actual to virtual meetings can make a major positive impact on the environment, according to a recent global survey.

Genesys, a global multimedia conferencing service, surveyed more than 18,000 people among its Global 1,000 customers. It found that 88 percent think car and air travel to meetings have the largest negative impact on the environment, far greater than paper and plastic goods used in the course of a physical meeting.

“A decade ago, the requirement for extensive travel was seen as something of a status symbol,” said Denise Persson, Genesys’ executive vice president of marketing, in a press release.

“We’re now quickly reaching the point where meeting gravel is becoming politically incorrect, and virtual meetings are emerging as having the greatest ‘cool factor,’ ” she observed.

“That’s good for everyone. It saves a lot of wear and tear on the environment. It also saves a lot of wear and tear on the person.”

Genesys has a free tool to help people calculate the cost of attending a meeting in person vs. holding a virtual meeting. The tool, found on its web site, helps users calculate the pounds of carbon dioxide emissions avoided, miles of travel avoided, work hours saved, and dollar, Euro, or pound costs to a company’s travel budget.

Among Genesys’ other findings released April 16

    • 65 percent think using web collaboration for virtual meetings to reduce travel can make a significant positive impact on the environment.

    • 56 percent say their company has policies in place to help preserve the environment.

    • 45 percent prefer conducting virtual meetings from one’s office at work vs. 33 percent who prefer conducting virtual meetings from a home office,

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at

Related Article:

Going Green, HR Magazine, October 2006

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