Building a Sustainable Workforce; Green Benefits Your Company, Your People And Your World

The days when it seemed like sustainability and green practices might be a passing fad have come and gone. Going green has evolved to “living green” and turned into a movement that is backed up with an iceberg of evidence as to the benefits of sustainable practices.  This movement has grown from a few concerned citizens throughout the world to a major media focus with a large following, including clients, colleagues and employees. The benefits include better health, a more productive work place, reduced fuel costs, a more committed constituency and, of course, less impact on the overall environment. Sustainability matters and leaders who increasingly tap into this understanding as they work with their employees will find themselves better suited to recruit and retain top talent. 
Much research has demonstrated the benefits of sustainable facilities for your workforce.  As well, a staggering percentage of employees say they prefer to engage in a work environment that is designed to be ecologically sound and energy efficient, according to many surveys.  However, there are numerous other steps that can and should be taken to enhance the lives of your employees and provide them with opportunities to improve the environment. 

If you participate in these steps, you’ll find that you’re contributing to not only a better overall environment, but a better work environment as well.  If our employees want to work in ways that improve their health and better the environment, then a spirit of collaboration will enhance your team and increase your corporate image as a caring and conscientious employer. Here are some strategic steps to help you build and maintain a sustainable workforce:

•    Develop in-house task force teams that can regularly tackle the issues of sustainable practices in your work environment.  This committee approach offers an internal ‘think tank’ of employees who provide a catalyst to help peers find solutions that work.  The result not only benefits the employees, but the company culture receives an infusion of energy as employees witness the positive net effect on both staff and the environment.

One concept that recently came out of one of these groups was the goal; “Keep Your Car off the Road.” The goal for each employee was to determine how not to drive to work one day per week. While this might not be so difficult for office employees, it was a huge hurdle for onsite construction project staff, delivery personnel and instructors. Peer-led solutions such as carpooling, public transit, working at home and bicycling benefit the environment, staff’s personal finances and employee morale.

•    Reward and recognize staff members who have achieved green certifications or attended seminars and training on sustainable practices.  With new discoveries coming every day, it’s important for your team to have the best information possible.  Encourage your staff to be on the cutting edge when it comes to understanding the principles and practices of green working and living by providing necessary time off, financial incentives, and public recognition.

•    Encourage personal steps to sustainable practices. Provide employee incentives to those who take personal steps to green living such as purchasing a hybrid vehicle, moving within walking distance of work or for those that car pool. By encouraging these positive steps, you differentiate your business or organization from those who are simply thinking about their bottom line. These are the kinds of practices that are discussed at holiday parties and backyard barbeques, furthering your unique brand and your identity as a progressive and responsible firm.

•    Maximize employee work zones by providing personal choices. Green practices which positively impact the environment and the staff culture include providing greater control of individual temperature settings, improved individual lighting, and greater exposure to natural daylighting. These steps ensure each employee has a more productive personal work environment while also reducing unnecessary energy use.  For example, significant waste occurs when mass lighting is utilized for an employee who is working late and only needs light in a specific portion of the office. 

•    Be certain that your internal and external corporate communications demonstrate your commitment to sustainability.  Newsletters that share tips, research and stories provide added ideas of how those in your company are making strides toward a better environment. A “Green Tip of the Week” might be exactly what someone needs to take a step towards a personal commitment to sustainability.  Additionally, be certain to provide a venue to share ideas, tips and be active in the process. 

•    Support employees who wish to improve the environment. When employees make a personal commitment to sustainability, consider corporate reactions that encourage such an attitude. Whether it’s a matching donation for a non-profit, an afternoon off to clean a park or “free” time off to travel overseas and build a water well or sustainable school, become a part of your employees’ sustainable story and you’ll see morale continue to climb. 

Helping your employees as they desire to live out a green lifestyle has benefits on many different levels. By implementing these sustainable strategies, you’ll observe a lasting positive impact on your company, your employees and your world. 

This article was excerpted from PR News 2009 Employee Communications Guidebook. Mindy Frink is director of continuing education and director of communications for The Beck Group, a development, planning, architecture, interior design and construction firm, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. To order the guidebook or find out more information, please go to