US Study Finds Sustainability a ‘High Priority’ for Employees

Source: GreenBiz.Com, 1 November 2004

The most recent Steelcase Workplace Index Survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation provides a glimpse at environmental perceptions in the workplace.
Through this survey of over 675 office workers in the United States, Steelcase, a global office environments manufacturer whose offerings help individuals to work more effectively and organizations to use space more efficiently, revealed that issues surrounding environmental sustainability are of great importance to workers and companies alike. However, the study also found a conflict of thought: the incentive motivating companies into action is the same barrier keeping them from doing so.

According to the survey, more than half of those surveyed believe environmental and sustainability issues are a "high priority" for their company. And, around 74% of Americans say their company "always" or "often" takes steps to improve its environmental standards, such as using less paper, recycling, and shutting off lights and other electrical devices when not in use.

"It is promising that a high percentage of companies are actively taking steps to improve environmental standards," said David Rinard, director of corporate environmental performance at Steelcase. "Protecting the environment is one of Steelcase’s founding principles, and it is reassuring to see that this value is shared among a rising number of companies and employees."

The Workplace Index Survey went a step further to examine the incentives and barriers that encourage or discourage companies from taking action. According to the survey, Americans believe cutting cost is the primary incentive encouraging their company to be more environmentally responsible. On the contrary, the survey reveals that the majority of Americans believe cost is the primary barrier keeping companies from minimizing their impact on the environment.

"Interestingly, the incentive motivating companies to be more responsible is also the primary barrier," explained Rinard. "Companies are looking for solutions that help cut costs while also acting in an environmentally responsible manner. In response to this need, Steelcase recently launched an environmental program to help companies determine how best to dispose of office furniture in a cost-effective and environmentally-sensitive manner."

Additionally, the Steelcase Workplace Index Survey examined the importance of environmentally-friendly products and furniture in offices. Among the findings:

54% of Americans say their company purchases recyclable or sustainable products and furniture

77% of respondents under the age of 55 say they would prefer that their employer purchase environmental products instead of other products; while only 50% of respondents over the age of 55 say they would prefer that their employer purchase environmental products

61% of Americans say they are more likely to buy an environmentally- friendly product even if it cost more than another product

95% say they would be more likely to buy a product with environmental attributes when the price remains the same.
Steelcase conducts the Workplace Index Survey to uncover pertinent issues in today’s work environment. This continual workforce feedback is essential to the development of Steelcase’s information and expertise in the workplace, and to the company’s product development and corporate ventures aimed to increase effectiveness, productivity and environmental responsibility.

Past surveys have been conducted on productivity in the workplace, technology used in meetings, lighting in the workplace and alternative postures in the workplace. Further information on workplace issues and on the Steelcase environmental program can be found on Steelcase’s Web site.

Steelcase website