Posted by Matt on Tuesday, December 06, 2011.

Three big trends in employee sustainability engagement

Two years ago we reported the results of our first survey on employee sustainability engagement, to a surprising amount of interest from non-profits, businesses, and governments. Today we’re releasing our second biennial survey results on the subject, updating the picture of engagement initiatives, digging deeper into best practices for effective programs, and analyzing trends in this fast-evolving space.

We heard from nearly 1000 respondents in 47 states and 51 countries, including employees at WalMart, Visa, UPS, Coca-Cola, Exxon, McDonalds, the US Government, and many other leading organizations. Three things that surprised us from this year’s findings that folks working on green engagement initiatives should keep in mind include:

  1. It’s not all rosy. Green engagement programs are becoming less effective as they spread. Employers are promoting staff conservation at higher rates than in 2009, but the number of programs rated as “very effective” or “somewhat effective” at actually eliciting green employee actions dropped notably. Are program leaders failing to heed best practices established at the most successful organizations, or are new programs simply slow on the uptake? Either way, it suggests the possibility that employee weariness at ineffective sustainability initiatives could undermine promising progress in this space if it’s not taken seriously.

  2. Breadth is key. A defining characteristic of the most effective programs (compared to those that promote sustainability frequently but have low effectiveness) is that they focus more in emerging green issues like procurement, water use, and business travel. Interestingly, they’re no more likely to promote traditional sustainability issues like recycling, energy use, and commuting than their less successful counterparts. Expanding beyond these basic issues signals forward thinking and perhaps a more genuine environmental commitment – characteristics that are more likely to inspire employee action.

  3. Data is power. Organizations 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. And this group is growing, with the number of employers collecting these data increasing 15% since 2009, to three in ten.

The full report is available for free download on our research page.

We’d also like to thank Conservation International’s Business & Sustainability Council for helping to get the word out about the survey.

What blog is this?

Safety in Numbers is Brighter Planet's blog about climate science, Ruby, Rails, data, transparency, and, well, us.

Who's behind this?

We're Brighter Planet, the world's leading computational sustainability platform.

Who's blogging here?

  1. Patti Prairie CEO