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SHRM Poll Shows Use of Sustainable Workplace Practices Remains Stable

By Bill Leonard  1/25/2013
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The number of employers with sustainable workplace practices has stayed fairly stable for the past few years, according to the results of a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) poll released on Jan. 29, 2013, revealed that the percentage of businesses engaging in sustainable business practices was similar to that found by a SHRM poll completed in 2010.

According to the survey respondents, the most common socially responsible practices were:

  • Donating money to local charities (74 percent).
  • Organizing company-sponsored volunteer projects (61 percent).
  • Donating money for natural disasters and catastrophes (54 percent).

The survey also included questions on environmentally friendly, or green, practices. The top three environment-related responses were:

  • Offering a workplace recycling program (86 percent).
  • Using virtual tools to conduct meetings (80 percent).
  • Using energy-efficient equipment and lighting systems (69 percent).

These response rates were essentially unchanged from 2010.

Seventy-two percent of the 550 respondents reported that their organizations had some form of sustainable workplace practices. Medium to large companies (more than 100 employees) were more likely to have implemented some sustainable business practices. More than 80 percent of respondents who worked for companies with 2,500-plus employees reported that their organizations had sustainable business policies in place.

Approximately 38 percent of respondents said their organizations offered telework options. The percentage of respondents with telecommuting policies in place was up slightly—only 2 percentage points—from the 2010 survey.

Approximately half (51 percent) of the respondents to the 2012 survey said sustainable business practices were very important to creating a positive employer brand and to attracting highly qualified job applicants. In addition, 40 percent of respondents said sustainability practices help improve employee retention, and slightly more than a third (36 percent) indicated that sustainability is crucial to developing an organization’s leadership.

More companies are reporting positive returns on investments for their sustainability efforts. Nearly 40 percent of respondents reported that their employers calculated an ROI for their sustainability efforts. Among the organizations that calculated an ROI, 56 percent of respondents reported a positive return.

Survey respondents were also asked to rank the positive outcomes from sustainability initiatives; the top responses were improved employee morale (53 percent), more positive public image (51 percent) and more efficient business processes (47 percent).

The 2012 data showed some small declines in the percentage of organizations participating in socially responsible activities and environmentally responsible practices. In addition, the new survey, when compared with the 2010 poll, found that the percentage of employers who use certain methods to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability dropped slightly from two years ago.


Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.

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