How To Build A Green Business Culture

There are many business advantages of running a sustainable business, but getting there is not easy and often starts with engaging employees to create a green company culture. To build a company culture committed to sustainability, business leaders must create a purpose-driven organization where employees find meaning in their work and feel like they are making a difference. 

Companies need an official sustainability program that guides green teams and enables employees to implement the green initiatives that best suit their business. They need a sustainability strategy and plan that is aligned with the company vision, mission and values.

Employee Tips and Best Practices For Developing Sustainable Values

Most companies have employees who are interested and often excited about helping the company be more sustainable. Part-time green teams often form and tap employees across all organizations that are passionate about the environment and social responsibility.  Here are some ways executives and leaders can empower and encourage employees to be more sustainable and how to define green projects that drive change.

  1. Be sure your employee operations and human resources organizations drive the cause – These leaders and teams need to create a workforce focused on sustainability. This focus and priority becomes part of the hiring and appraisal process
  2. Make green projects and activities fulfilling and fun –  Managers can make environmentally conscious activities interesting, engaging, fulfilling and fun. Internal and external group activities can create a stronger sense of teamwork and at the time instill new values.
  3. Get employees involved in local community service and causes – Businesses have an opportunity to engage with local citizen groups and volunteer their time to help local causes. This can be community farms, fundraisers, local youth organizations and many others.
  4. Get employees involved in charities – Companies can encourage employees to donate time and money to charities that are aligned with the values of the company. This may be enabled via online applications that are made available to employees for seamless donations. Companies can also match donations dollar for dollar to encourage involvement.
  5. Make sustainability part of town halls and corporate updates – CEOs, presidents and executives should be sustainability champions and green ambassadors. At company-wide meetings, they should rally employees to get involved and recognize those that do.

Benefits of Having A Purpose-Driven and Green Corporate Culture

There are many tangible and intangible benefits to having a corporate culture that is environmentally and socially responsible and committed to sustainability. Having a purpose-driven highly motivated workforce clearly has many advantages. Here are some ways a green culture is good for business.

A Green Culture Helps With Hiring

When hiring the next batch of employees, the goal is to attract the best talent available. You may be at a disadvantage if you are not promoting a green culture as it has been found that a high majority of job seekers  were more likely to work for a company that has a strong green culture. Furthermore, nearly half of them are willing to accept a smaller salary in order to work for a sustainable business. This is especially prevalent within the younger generations and is expected to only increase as sustainability and an established green culture becomes a core aspect of the future of business. Take a look at this article by NBS to get an in-depth look at the reasons why job seekers prefer companies with a green culture.

A Green Culture Improves Morale and Productivity

Green teams and green initiatives have shown to improve employee engagement and morale. One study showed that happy and engaged employees are 20% more productive and even 37% more productive in sales positions. Happy and engaged employees also tend to be more loyal to a company and more active within the community.  Take a look at this article that outlines the 14 benefits associated with employee engagement. The best way to realize these benefits is through the creation of a green teams and a green culture.

A Green Culture Drives Local Community Involvement by Employees

The concept of a green culture does not pertain only to a broad sense of environmentalism but can rather more accurately coincide with an employee’s interest in their community or local environmental initiatives. This linkage between relevant concerns in their personal life and those of the company, aligns the mutual goals and gets an employee excited about the company they work for and the results they achieve at the end of the day. In a green culture, it’s important to let employees and stakeholders know they are valued as more than just a “part” in the shareholder profit machine and that the company they work for is striving for a greater purpose other than strictly profit.

Ways To Give Back To Charities and the Local Community

There are multiple ways to reach out to local community organizations and charities.  One great example which requires minimal effort initially would be aligning a certain product or business lines with a popular charity or local initiative and donating a certain portion of that product’s profits to that cause. Hit Promotional Products, an active member within our GBB community and industry leader in sustainable promotional manufacturing, donates 5% of their profits from their AWS line of merchandise to an honored past founder’s favorite charities.

A Green Culture Builds Company Pride

Co-creating initiatives that align company goals and culture with your employees personal interests creates a sense of pride within the organization that perpetuates employee engagement. An additional indirect result of engaged employees is that their pride and positivity toward the company they work for will be expressed throughout the community in their personal lives. Startups to large corporations, whether it be establishing brand image or building trust within the community, will all benefit from an abundance of positive publicity within the communities they are operating in.

How to Create A Green Culture – A Step By Step Guide

1. Designate Champions and Create a Green Team

Creating a green culture that truly engages employees requires not only leadership from management but passionate individuals from various levels and departments within the organization. This provides confirmation of a greater movement happening within the organization and will encourage participation greatly due to the established group. Take a look at this article on How to Start a Green Team to get started.

2. Ensure Education of Sustainability and Company Goals

It is important to ensure that employees not only understand the concept of sustainability and the green culture that the company is trying to achieve but also why the company is focused on it and how they intend to achieve it. The more clear the message the more aligned the employee will feel to the company mission and engage.

3. Invite Observation and Suggestion

 Individuals, when empowered with education and actionable outlets, will look for ways to weave sustainability into the daily routine and business practices. This avoids any unwanted disruption of regular business culture but rather presents a gradual change to a green culture. Primarily, the focus is to ensure that employees feel that they can contribute and influence company actions based on their firsthand observations. This not only applies to sustainability but also general business practice.

4. Hold Consistent Meetings

When implemented across departments it will allow cross collaboration between different areas of the business that may have different resources or understanding to tackle a particular issue. This creates a sense of permanence and directs ownership of ongoing issues. Keep a cadence, whether that’s weekly, monthly or quarterly, to keep the momentum and engagement level high.

5. Participate in Local Initiatives

Participating in local community initiatives provides a sense of relevance for those employees who may not jump immediately at the thought of sustainability. One could argue that after the successful involvement with community initiatives, those employees can see tangible results and are more likely to participate. Either way the purpose is to achieve goals that affect your employees daily lives outside work.

6. Communicate Results and General News

Keep employees fully updated on company updates pertaining to green and local initiatives, as well as broader sustainability goals.  Focus on how the initiatives are benefiting the environment, the business and the local community. You may include general news on worldwide sustainability activities and trends. This created new ideas and leads into the goal of making every employee a sustainability participant.

7. Include a section in the Employee Handbook

When a new employee comes into a company, they are more likely to participate in the sustainability culture when they see it as part of their job/company description. This has the benefit too of reminding the trainer of the institutional focus on a green culture as well.

Ways To Keep Employees Engaged

1. Lighthearted Approach

The key is to keep the idea of participation fun, perhaps a break from formal business demeanor that is expected in most settings. Keep meetings unstructured and open. Allow for the creation of games and contests to encourage participation. This page has a few examples of fun and effective office game/contests that pertain to recycling.

2. Low Hanging Fruit Initiatives to Build Momentum

The prioritization of low hanging fruit initiatives early on will drive significant momentum and promote increased participation and adoption of goals. Utilize the Green Business Bureau EcoPlanner to find low effort initiatives and prioritize an initial list of easy to achieve initiatives. See an initiative example below where we’ve filtered on “EFFORT = LOW” from our list of 400+ initiatives.

Easy to implement green initiatives can be prioritized by businesses to help build green culture.

3. Track Achievements and Celebrate Success

Where possible track goals and achievements in a visible or public manner. If able to, create competitions to promote involvement. Incentives can be an effective approach in some situations. Try experimenting with unique incentives like a paid company volunteer day for a local organization. Set the goal of reaching a certain EcoPoints level  in the GBB scorecard and celebrate success when that level is reached.

4. Featured Stories of Employees, Customers or Community Actors

Share stories to have a significant positive impact on morale and show the appreciation for those employees that have adopted the culture, thus further promoting it. Promoting local community participants or green customers can have multiple benefits including increased linkage between the employees and the community and awareness of the greater issues outside of the company.  It’s important to show employees the company is interested in helping all stakeholders, employees, customers, partners and the local community. In this article Domitar provides a good example of how to include the community. 

5. Determine Issues that are Important to Employees and the Community

Listen to feedback from your employees by conducting surveys. This will paint a picture of what matters most and give you ideas on how to best align with employees current interests.


About the Author

Bill Zujewski


Bill is the Chief Marketing and Operating Officer of the Green Business Bureau and is responsible for building the company’s brand and promoting the value of being a certified green business and GBB community member. He is passionate about helping businesses get greener to make the world a safer and better place.

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