Selfless or Selfish?

Workers question their companies’ green motives.


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Being “green” is nothing new to finishers, many of whom had the concept thrust upon them years ago. Most have long since learned to deal with local, state and federal environmental regulations that impact their businesses.

Similarly, spending money to comply with local, state and federal environmental mandates is just part of the cost of doing business for the vast majority of finishers. Most want to be conscientious environmental stewards, and would agree that minimizing output of potentially hazardous chemicals into the environment is a good thing. Of course, environmental compliance is also a good thing if you want to remain in business and avoid fines and imprisonment.

But there’s a new green movement taking root. Ostentatious environmental correctness is the new fashion, with companies trumpeting their recycling and other eco-friendly efforts. Suddenly, corporations from General Motors to the corner store want to be perceived as eco-friendly.

But workers at those companies harbor doubts about their employers’ motivation, if a recent survey is to be believed. Barely half (50.8%) of 775 American workers surveyed in May by Zogby Intl. say their company has a significant green initiative such as carpooling or recycling.

In the survey, conducted for The Marlin Company, a consultancy specializing in workplace communications, most survey respondents report being skeptical about their employer’s motivation for going green. Asked why they think companies go green, nearly one-fourth (24.1%) said companies went green to save money, 22% said they did it to garner positive publicity and 14.1% said they did it to be politically correct. Only 17.4% cited social responsibility as the motivation, while 12.9% said companies were going green as a way to counteract rising energy prices.

Another question asked, “Who’s greener, you or your company?” Most workers surveyed believed their employer lagged behind themselves, with nearly two-thirds (63.4%) of workers saying they were greener than their companies.

Evidence to fuel this belief may come from another question, which asked if companies were helping educate workers about being more environmentally conscious at home. Barely one-fourth answered yes, while more than 70% said no.
Still, most workers expressed a desire to work for a green company. Asked how important it was to them to work for an employer that was going green in a meaningful way, 77.7% of those surveyed said it was either very important or somewhat important.

The bottom line: employers need to do more than talk the green talk. “Being green is an important part of many employees’ lives, and companies do a disservice to themselves and their employees by not acknowledging that,” says The Marlin Company CEO Frank Kenna III. “Workers easily see through hypocrisy and lip service, and that certainly applies to green programs, too.”

You can probably guess my advice to workers who want to walk the green walk and work for an environmentally conscious employer: head over and apply at your local finishing shop, where being environmentally correct is so woven into everyday operations that it’s almost taken for granted.