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HUMAN RESOURCES

Why It's Better to Be Green Than to Be Profitable

New research finds working for an environmentally-friendly company is more important to employees than working for a financially successful one.

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Want to boost your employees' morale? Go green, suggests new research.

Employees are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs if they work for a company that's perceived to be environmentally friendly, says a study from the Charlton College of Business at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. From an employees' point of view, being green is better than having lots of green, according to the study, which is published in the latest issue of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Review. A firm's financial performance had no correlation with employee happiness levels, researchers found.

"The results of our study confirm our first hypothesis by revealing that there is a significant positive relationship between perceived environmental performance and employee satisfaction," wrote researchers Cassandra Walsh and Adam Sulkowski. "One can say with 99.9 percent confidence that the relationship exists as hypothesized."

They added: "The study found no evidence of a significant relationship between employee satisfaction and firm financial value."

Walsh, currently a human resources coordinator at EMC Corporation, an information technology company, and Sulkowski, an assistant professor of business law and sustainability, analyzed 113 companies from the S&P 250 that engage in corporate responsibility reporting, a.k.a. measuring and publishing their environmental, societal, and economic impact. The companies represent a range of sizes and types of business.

What deemed a company environmentally friendly? Because the phrase has different meanings to different people, Walsh and Sulkowski focused on stakeholder opinions and rankings from Vanno.com, which tracks company reputations. An "environmental performance" category on the site includes anti-pollution measures and recycling, clean and renewable energy usage, sustainability and conservation and preservation.

In an e-mail to Inc.com, the authors say small changes—such as recycling—could help boost your employees' morale, but at least as important is getting the word out about what you're doing.

"Our research focused on the employees' perceptions of their companies' environmental performance," they wrote. "If we're looking for a practical takeaway, one can infer from our research that not only are a company's actions to become more environmentally friendly important, but also the communication of these actions and subsequent results is important."

Last updated: Feb 9, 2011

COURTNEY RUBIN

Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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