Many companies now recognize global warming as a serious threat, and are introducing climate change initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their manufacturing, retail and office activities. In some cases these programs include an employee involvement component, typically with a focus on improving employee behavior around adopting "green" office practices such as energy efficiency. But what about how employees behave when they’re not on the clock?
For most of us, the largest chunk of our global warming footprint is created when we’re not at work, but by driving our cars; heating, cooling and electrifying our homes; and making daily purchasing decisions that affect our energy use. Workplace-based campaigns that encourage taking climate-friendly steps beyond the office represent a potentially powerful opportunity to reduce global warming pollution and introduce sustainable behaviors on a broader scale. And let’s face it: employees have a lot more to gain from changes that lower their own heating and gas bills, than those that improve the bottom line for their employers.
Some companies are already working hard to influence employee behaviors that occur wholly outside of work. Among the examples we can learn from:
These programs are a good start. Hopefully we'll see more of them. I'd be curious, too, if there are other cutting-edge programs I'm not aware of.
Mindy S. Lubber is president of Ceres, a leading coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change.
Image: Screen grab from a cartoon on www.jointhebiggerpicture.com
Wal-Mart's efforts to get its employees to "go green" have less to do with the company's love for the environment and more with its love of money. Teaching employees to carpool to stores which are only accessible by car (and often so far out of town that special roads must be paved just to reach them) is hardly a stellar example of environmentalism. Telling employees to recycle more doesn't mean much when Wal-Mart's products are shipped from overseas and require thousands of miles of shipping. And encouraging employees to "lead healthier lives" isn't about individual empowerment: it's about spending as little as possible on employee health care benefits. There is nothing "grass roots" about this program: it's just another marketing initiative to convey an ethos of environmentalism and employee-friendliness that simply do not exist at this company.