The organizational benefits of going green
Environmental issues have sparked media attention especially with prominent people and groups advocating green initiatives. This hype toward “going green” has created a ripple effect, convincing even business organizations to practice environmental responsibility in their daily operations.
Although involvement in environmental practices was traditionally viewed by organizations as a burdensome necessity for compliance, many studies have shown its benefits in building business sustainability.
As such, more and more organizations today are exhibiting organizational environmental involvement.
Exploring the benefits
Organizational environmental involvement (OEI) is a general term used to refer to practices that reduce the company’s environmental footprint (i.e. using energy-saving equipment), environmental initiatives in which all employees can contribute (i.e. paperless transaction, recycling), and community involvement programs that target the development or rehabilitation of communities outside the organization (i.e. tree planting, cleanup drives).
Many studies have shown the benefits of OEI on the company through factors such as long-term decreased operational costs, boost in positive image, and increased attractivenes to consumers. However, one thing that has not been explored is its benefits in terms of employee-related factors.
To fill this gap, the Ateneo Center for Research and Development (ACORD) did a study which examined the impact of OEI on employees’ feelings and behaviors. This study surveyed 214 respondents from various Philippine-based organizations, majority of which were located in Metro Manila. The survey gauged their perception on how environmentally involved their companies are, as well as their feelings of pride in being part of that company (organizational pride), their intentions of leaving it (turnover intentions), and inclinations to “go the extra mile” in terms of their job responsibilities (organizational citizenship behavior).
Pride in going green
As expected, results from the study showed that respondents felt proud in being a member of their company when they saw it as more environmentally involved. What can explain this impact of OEI on organizational pride?
The typical reaction toward OEI is that it demands additional expenses-money that could have been part of the bottom-line profit of the company instead. Much like corporate social responsibility programs, OEI practices add to the packaging of an organization as a “good” business entity that does not only care about making money, but also tends to the welfare of communities outside it. As explained by the concept of social identity, employees would then be more proud of their organizations when they see that other people hold it in high regard.
So what if employees are proud of their company? Pride in being part of a group entails that people identifiy with it, and consider their membership in that group as a privilege. As such, people tend to view themselves as extensions of the group, and thus are more likely to act positively on its behalf. In fact, many studies have linked the increase in organizational pride with an increase in positive behavior and a decrease in negative ones. Consistent with these researches, this study also revealed that as respondents’ pride for their company increases, they also had less intentions to leave, and engaged in more organizational citizenship behavior.
Where do we go from here?
Knowing these benefits of OEI, what now can organizations do to start building their environment-focused programs?
Start with small initiatives. Based on the current study, some of the most common OEI initiatives practiced by Philippine-based organizations are paperless transactions, waste segregation, recycling, tree planting, eco-rehabilitation, and clean-up drives. These are some of the more easier initiatives to implement, but are still good areas to start in to get the involvement of employees and the attention of the outside community.
Communicate your environmental initiatives to your employees. Increase in organizational pride can only happen if employees are aware of the company initiatives that are worth being proud of. The benefit of communicating the environmental practices to employees is two-fold. First is that it increases employees’ awareness that the company is a “good” organization that spends time and money to give back to the community. The second is that it gives the employees a chance to participate in these activities, thus developing their ownership and investment in environmental responsibility.
Going green is not just a fad
Although it may seem like it, engaging in environment-friendly practices is not just a fad. As evident in these findings, environmental involvement also adds value to the business through employees’ choice to stay longer in, and contribute more, to the organization.
(DD is the Program Officer for Leadership Development, while Dianna is the Program Officer for Partnerships at the Ateneo CORD. They are currently pursuing their MA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the Ateneo de Manila University. This article is based on a research that they conducted, which was presented at the 50th Psychological Association of the Philippines national convention in August 2012. For comments or queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.)