2 years ago

Cultivating employee green behaviour at workplace

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Integrating environmental sustainability in corporate strategies is now common in many organisations to promote and sustain green behaviour in the workplace. Some key functional areas of integrating environmental sustainability include green accounting, green banking, green marketing, and green supply chain management. Incorporating sustainability dimensions also helps organisations foster competitive advantage.

Green human resource management (GHRM) is relatively a new dimension of corporate environmental sustainability focusing on employee green behaviour in the workplace. GHRM particularly concerns employees' actions to help protect the natural environment. These actions are technically known as "green" or "pro-environmental" behaviour that seeks to minimise the negative impact of one's actions (e.g., minimise resource and energy consumption, use of non-toxic substances, reduce waste production).

Green behaviours are largely context-specific in a sense that people demonstrate different aspects of green behaviours based on whether they are, for example, at home, at supermarket, or using transport. Employee green behaviour is recognised as the performance of employees' pro-environmental behaviours relevant to their job specifications or normal course of actions in relation to their routine task roles. For example, an accounts auditor may audit the reports digitally instead of printing those out, or print the draft on scrap papers if needed. Employee green behaviour may also involve voluntary actions that are not related to their task roles. This may include, for example, employees motivating their colleagues to turn off their workstation before leaving their desk or switch off electric fan, lights, air conditioners, and/or heating system before leaving the room.  

Corporate policies and procedures are eventually implemented by the employees who are ultimately significant contributors of organisational performance. In line with this, employees play the most critical role in implementing organisational pro-environmental initiatives. Acknowledging that employees are largely incapable of going beyond their routine tasks, task-related employee green behaviour can significantly contribute to the overall corporate pro-environmental performance.

It is important for organisations to encourage positive attitudes toward task-related employee green behaviour via education and training about the importance of performing green behaviour for both environmental benefit and positive business outcomes (e.g., energy savings and waste reduction). Research suggests that employees in collective society (e.g., Bangladesh, India) are most likely to be influenced by their friends and peers in demonstrating relevant green behaviour. This is also in line with general organisational theory that employees' behaviour is shaped by their perception of how they are viewed by their colleagues or supervisors. Accordingly, employers and environmentalists could use testimonials of colleagues and peers who are influential in stimulating positive environmental attitudes and relevant green behaviour at workplace. In line with this, organisations can highlight the positive employee green activities in company's communications such as brochures, websites, and other media. Appreciation of such green efforts might also encourage non-green employees (i.e., those reluctant to act green) to enhance pro-environmental behaviour.

It is also important for organisations to provide employees with relevant skills, information, and resources (e.g., energy efficient technologies, recycling alternatives) to facilitate task-related green behaviour at workplace. For example, conducting and participating in video conferencing instead of in-person meeting requires technical skills, and acquiring such skills involves additional time and cost. Adding to this, adequate employee training and pro-environmental education will boost employees' environmental awareness and relevant performance in the workplace. Having adequate control over work-related behaviours (e.g., printing on both sides of the paper) and confidence in positive environmental impact of such behaviours may enhance employee engagement in pro-environmental behaviour.

Individual employees generally do not engage in green behaviour unless their organisational policies and regulations require them to do so. Accordingly, organisations should have sustainable corporate policies and viable procedures in place to constantly communicate environmental messages and relevant corporate practices involving the employees in the workplace. Adding to this, pro-environmental initiatives driven by senior management have the power to encourage employees to participate in green behaviour in the workplace. The creation of a positive organisational climate that encourages environmental protection will likely lead to deeper employee understanding of corresponding organisational expectations. Research suggests that most employees hold positive mind-set about environmental protection that can be translated into relevant actions in the workplace through promoting green organisation culture and facilitating such actions.

Organisations can also play role in inducing environmental concerns and pro-environmental habits beyond workplace settings. For example, employers can encourage employees to choose public transport or to correctly dump waste. Such habits may enhance employees' green behaviour in the workplace as well.

Human-sourced causes are mostly responsible for climate change that calls for humans to be pro-environmental in their actions. Relevant pro-environmental or green behaviours are often viewed as context-specific. If everyone plays his or her part in specific context, the total impact can make a big difference in mitigating climate change through contributing to relevant pro-environmental behaviours.


Dr Khan Md Raziuddin Taufique is a fulltime faculty member of Oxford Brookes Business School, OXFORD, UK. He is also a visiting Associate Professor of BRAC Business School, BRAC University, Bangladesh. [email protected]

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