How to Encourage Employee-Led Eco-Projects

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Employees working for firms with environmental policies are most likely to implement eco-initiatives. To encourage employee eco-initiatives, managers can adopt a written environmental policy and communicate it to employees.

Employees working for firms with environmental policies are most likely to implement eco-initiatives. To encourage employee eco-initiatives, managers can adopt a written environmental policy and communicate it to employees. Managers can also listen to employee suggestions, encourage partnerships with other departments, and motivate employees by giving rewards for achieving goals.

Background

Eco-initiatives are actions taken by employees to improve the company's environmental performance. These may include recycling, producing a less energy-intensive product or replacing a product with a service. Even though eco-initiatives and other innovations require similar support and encouragement, eco-initiatives receive less attention. This research demonstrates the need to engage employees in environmental activities.

Findings

Employees are more likely to develop and implement eco-initiatives when:

  • Employees believe their company is committed to the environment. 50% of employees promote eco-initiatives when their company has a published environmental policy vs. 19% when their company has no environmental policy.

  • Managers encourage employees to participate in environmental initiatives. Supervisor support raises the percentage of employees involved in eco-initiatives from 33.5% to 58.5%. Types of effective support include encouraging environmental innovation, helping employees build competencies, communicating, giving rewards and recognition, and managing goals and responsibilities.

Implications for Managers

To encourage employee eco-initiatives, managers can:

  • Adopt a convincing environmental policy and communicate it to employees. This may include a published environmental policy, performance targets, and an environmental management system.

  • Encourage innovation.Encourage partnerships with other departments in order to implement new ideas.

  • Develop employee skills.Discuss and implement a learning plan with each employee.

  • Communicate with employees.Listen openly to feedback and adopt relevant suggestions. Share ideasbetween employees, managers, and divisions.

  • Reward and recognize employees.Acknowledge employees who have achieved or surpassed goals and give bonus pay or other monetary rewards.

  • Manage goals and responsibilities. Set clear and measurable goals for employees and discuss progress.

Implications for Researchers

Future surveys should control for a social desirability bias for eco-initiatives, since companies chosen for this study were environmentally proactive. Future research could explore whether managers' personal values affect employee eco-initiatives, and how employee capacity and motivation influence the promotion of eco-initiatives.

Methods

This study developed a logic model to determine which environmental policy factors and management support behaviours were positively related to employee eco-initiatives. Researchers conducted interviews with 353 mid- and low-level employees at 6 environmentally proactive companies in Europe. Companies were from the chemical, entertainment, manufacturing, medical devices, oil, and retail sectors.

Ramus, Catherine, & Steger, Ulrich. (2000). The Roles of Supervisory Support Behaviours and Environmental Policy in Employee `Ecoinitiatives' at Leading-Edge European Companies. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4): 605-626.


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