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Environmentally Conscious Companies Have More Productive Employees

If a company is trying to be better for the planet, its workers will strive to be better for the company.

Environmentally Conscious Companies Have More Productive Employees
Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Want to increase employee productivity? You could give everyone the option of working from home–or you could make your company more environmentally responsible.

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A recent study from researchers at UCLA looked at how companywide “green” standards affect employee productivity and found that businesses that follow international environmental standards have employees that are 16% more productive than less sustainable companies.

Whether a company is sustainable or not is certainly subjective, so the researchers relied on certifications to help: a company was included if it was organic, Fair Trade, or conformed to the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 14001 environmental management standard.

Information on individual companies was taken from data acquired by a French employer-employee survey of 10,600 people at 5,220 companies, while productivity was measured “as the logarithm of the firm’s value added by the number of employees,” according to the paper. The result: environmentally conscious companies are more productive.

It may not just be the sustainability of these companies that’s increasing productivity, however. “These companies have a cluster of good practices, like more training and better relationships among employees,” explained study co-author Magali Delmas in an interview with Ecomagination. “These are companies that people want to work for.” In other words, companies that are better managed may be environmentally aware as a result–the productivity boost comes from good management, not necessarily from organic or Fair Trade certification.

There is much more research to be done in this area, as the researchers acknowledge in their paper: “The literature so far has focused mostly on the impact of the adoption of corporate social responsibility practices at the macro level and our research opens the path to investigate the more micro organizational impacts of the adoption of such practices. Scholars could, for example, test the effect of environmental standards on safety, stress, or employee absenteeism.”

But for now, the news on employee productivity should give another talking point to anyone arguing for more efficient and environmentally aware companies.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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