Do Employees Work Harder for Green Businesses?

It’s easier to get people to shovel manure if they think it’s for the good of the environment. That’s what Ante Glavas, assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame, is attempting to prove.

Glavas’ research project, “Business for the Greater Good,” has already shown that corporate sustainability impacts employee morale. Now the professor has joined up with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to see what specifically motivates employees in the dairy industry.

Why the dairy industry as a testing ground? According to Glavas, sustainability is a driver of sales in the industry, which produces 2% of U.S. carbon emissions. Consumers reportedly respond most to taste and quality, but they will drink more milk if they think it comes from socially responsible sources.

Glavas plans to test whether that goodwill extends to dairy farm employees–starting with a survey of 1,000 dairy farm, retail, and processing employees to gauge their motivations. Do employees work harder for methane-powered farms that feed cows healthy diets? Glavas thinks it does.

The Notre Dame professor isn’t the only one who thinks green goals impact employee attitude. EBay, for example, encourages employee participation in its Green Team, which supports sustainable practices at eBay and in local communities. The green team has over 2,400 eBay employees in over 23 countries–strong evidence that workers take pride in company sustainability.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.AS