Earth Day: Is The 'Green' Movement in the Workplace Fact or Fiction?

The majority of Americans believe most companies engage in 'greenwashing' and more than half feel their companies should do more to be environmentally friendly.

The latest Adecco USA Workplace Insight survey, conducted in recognition of Earth Day 2008, reveals that following a year where the green movement has dominated headlines, American workers are paying growing attention to companies’ environmental policies and an increasing number (36 percent) report that they would be more inclined to work for “green” companies.


However, despite the progress made in corporate America in terms of eco-friendly practices, 59 percent of workers think their company should do more to be environmentally friendly and a majority of all adults (68 percent) believe what most companies say in regard to environmental initiatives doesn’t always match their actions.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  1. No divide on greenwashing – The majority of all U.S. adults (68 percent) think that most companies say they are more environmentally friendly than they actually are. This sentiment does not change widely by age, gender or geography, with all major demographics closely agreeing that “greenwashing” is a reality in today’s workplace.
  2. Giving up “green” to “go green” – Even though the majority of workers think their company should do more to be environmentally friendly, they don’t necessarily want to pay for it. Only 31 percent of workers would be willing to sacrifice a portion of their salary to work for an environmentally friendly company, with Gen Y workers saying they would sacrifice, on average, 6.2 percent of their salary – more than double the amount any other generation of workers would be willing to give up. (Gen X and Boomers would be willing to sacrifice 2.8 percent and 2.5 percent respectively.)
  3. Women and Gen Y expect more – While over three out of five working women (63 percent) and Gen Y workers (69 percent) want their company to be more environmentally friendly, a smaller majority of men (54 percent) and Baby Boomers (52 percent) feel the same.

“As the phrases ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘employer of choice’ continue to become more closely aligned, job seekers are increasingly looking into a company’s green policies as part of their job search process,” says Tig Gilliam, CEO at Adecco Group North America. “Similar to investigating a company’s financial performance and work/life programs, we’re seeing more and more candidates doing their homework and looking closely to determine the reality behind a company’s claims of environmental friendliness.”

For job seekers who are looking to identify how credible a company’s green initiatives are, Adecco provides some insight on how to best go about this research:

  • Review green company rankings: A number of non-profits and publications conduct rankings of the most environmentally conscious companies, providing a valuable reference point when evaluating job offers. For example, both BusinessWeek and non-profit Greenpeace evaluate and rank the environmental-friendliness of major companies and products.
  • Talk to employees at the company: Who better to speak to a company’s environmental-friendliness than its own staff? If being green is important to you, ask current employees you’re in contact with what they know and what they’re seeing at the workplace. Their reaction will be a true testament to what is happening at the company.
  • Seek out examples: To help separate what’s being said and what’s being done, look for actual examples of a company’s environmental policy come to life: Has there been a car pool or tree planting drive recently? Have more recycling bins or eco-friendly light bulbs been distributed?
  • Find out if business processes are aligned with eco-friendly initiatives: If you’re interested in working for a car manufacturer, find out if they have a hybrid program. Or, if companies in the consumer electronics industry interest you, see if they manufacture green electronics.
  • Study the company’s Web site and annual and corporate sustainability reports: Companies that have a serious environmental commitment showcase it through various sources including their Web site as well as in their annual reports. Review these resources to understand the extent of their environmental program and whether it aligns with your principals.
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