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As organizations attempt to stay profitable and competitive, they must constantly adapt to new ideas and techniques. This is especially true today, when workers can find new jobs more easily, the cost of supplies disrupts profitability, and unengaged workers are the rule rather than the exception.

However, employers can reduce their expenses, engage their workers, and retain more staff members by understanding and appealing to one of their employees’ key values: environmentally sustainable business practices.

In the Face of Climate Change, More and More Workers Value Sustainability

In a recent HP Workforce survey, 56 percent of respondents said “ignoring sustainability in the workplace is as bad as ignoring diversity and inclusion.” Forty percent said they would look for new jobs if their current employers did not engage in sustainable business practices, and 39 percent even said they would warn others of their company’s poor sustainability practices.

The good news is that sustainability is more than just a value your workers want you to adopt. It’s also good for business.

One immediate bonus of sustainability is improved worker engagement, which, as Gallup notes, can boost profitability by 21 percent. As Simon Mainwaring, CEO of We First Branding, told The Guardian, “Every employee is looking to feel good about where they work and make a larger contribution. Through sustainability they can feel better about their role within a company.”

Reduced costs are another bonus. The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University reports that “[c]ontrary to the popular belief that doing more environmentally friendly activities leads to more costs, researchers find that the opposite rings true in many cases. Implementing sustainable manufacturing initiatives can save companies money and, in some cases, can increase revenues by millions or more annually.”

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Many companies have reported results that back up Indiana University’s research. By taking steps like reducing food and pharmaceutical waste, Gundersen Health System was able to save nearly $4 million per year. Similarly, GE and Dow have seen massive savings of $300 million and $9.8 billion respectively through more efficient resource consumption.

The US Military: A Model for Corporate Sustainability

Civilian corporations looking for guidance in adopting more sustainable practices may want to pay attention to the military. As first glance, this may seem surprising. After all, the military accounts for 80 percent of all energy consumed by the federal government. However, the military also has massive incentive to decrease its energy consumption: Between 2003 and 2007, more than 3,000 service members and contractors were killed or wounded on fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cutting fuel use can save the lives of Americans deployed in conflict zones.

One of the first voices to advocate for reduced dependence on petroleum was Marine Corps General and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who in 2003 urged that the military must be “unleashed from the tether of fuel.” Recognizing the military’s need to reduce its dependence on fuel, Congress created the Division of Operational Energy Plans and Programs in 2010 with the goal of cutting costs and saving lives through conservation measures and renewable energy innovations. For example, the Department of Defense’s Net Zero Energy initiative aims to create bases that generate all their energy needs from renewable sources, saving taxpayer dollars and reducing emissions in the process.

Like civilian organizations, the military would be wise to advertise its sustainable practices to potential recruits. At the moment, many Americans are disconnected from the military; they do not understand the full scope of military jobs available. Like any organization, the military needs to support the values of the people it wishes to recruit if it seeks to attract and retain new talent. The military’s aim to reduce oil dependence is in line with the values of American workers, particularly those of military age, which means it could employ and retain more key personnel simply by showing off the hard work it has already done to reduce its environmental footprint.

Civilian companies and the military both meet their recruiting and retention goals by listening to and supporting what their prospective and current workers value. To recruit and retain engaged employees in today’s environment, organizations of all kinds must invest in sustainable operating practices. Moreover, implementing environmentally friendly changes will also reduce costs and increase profitability. From every angle, environmental sustainability is a win for organizations.

Kevin Johnston is a contractor and technical writer working for the Headquarters Marine Corps Talent Management Oversight Directorate. The views expressed within this article are his own.

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