Employees at green firms work more unpaid overtime

When companies are deciding whether to adopt more stringent environmental standards, they have to ask themselves: Is it worth it? After all, revamping their operations to be more green comes at a cost.

Now a new study suggests that going green improves employees’ attitudes toward work — and thus the company’s bottom line. People who work at environmentally-friendly firms feel more useful and are more likely to work overtime for no additional pay, researchers have found.

There are many reasons why committing to environmental standards might boost a company’s performance. For instance, people who care about social issues might be more motivated and productive at their jobs. They’re willing to “donate” labor to companies whose values align with their own by taking lower salaries and showing up at work more often.

Implementing green practices might also improve workplace safety — say, by lowering workers’ exposure to pollution or dangerous chemicals — and thus make employees feel they are being more fairly treated. And the adoption of standards might lead to organizational changes that give workers the chance to lead or develop new skills.

The study authors focused on whether employees at green companies had a greater sense of well-being. They analyzed data from a French survey of 7,700 firms, which collected information about the companies’ practices, recent changes, and the employees’ jobs and feelings about work.

At companies that had committed to environmental standards, workers were more likely to feel useful, the team reports in Ecological Economics. Employees also felt that the balance between the work they performed and the benefits the company provided was more fair. Finally, they were more willing to work unpaid overtime. “[E]mployees seem to appreciate working for a firm whose stance on environmental and social issues accords with their own feelings on these subjects,” the authors write. Roberta Kwok | 20 February 2014

Source: Lanfranchi, J. and S. Pekovic. 2014. How green is my firm? Workers’ attitudes and behaviors towards job in environmentally-related firms. Ecological Economics doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.12.019.

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