How Going Green Draws Talent, Cuts Costs

Greencareers_logo_jpegOriginally posted Nov. 13, 2007
by Dana Mattioli, The Wall Street Journal

More corporations are going "green" and discovering that helping the
environment isn’t the only payoff. Eco-friendly policies can also help
companies attract young talent, increase productivity and reduce costs.

"Students are looking to work for companies that care
about the environment," says Lindsey Pollak, author of "Getting From
College to Career." "They are almost expecting greenness like they
expect work-life balance, ethnic diversity and globalization."

A recent poll on green employment by MonsterTRAK.com,
a job Web site geared toward students and entry-level hires, found that
80% of young professionals are interested in securing a job that has a
positive impact on the environment, and 92% would be more inclined to
work for a company that is environmentally friendly.

It is getting easier for young people to do so. The
U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization that awards
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, ratings to
buildings that meet a variety of environmental standards, says 2.2
billion square feet of commercial construction have been registered in
just seven months. That is much less time than the seven years it took
the council to register the first one billion square feet.

To attract job hunters, corporations are touting their environmental efforts in recruiting materials and on campuses. Merrill Lynch
& Co. outlines its environmental efforts on the back of every
brochure for its campus recruiting. Sarah Quarterman, who heads
Merrill’s campus recruiting, says some students ask about the firm’s
environmental policies, whereas 10 years ago greenness never came up.

Paper maker NewPage Corp. also distributes a brochure
highlighting the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility
when it recruits on campuses. The literature showcases the company’s
new corporate headquarters, in Miamisburg, Ohio, that uses 28% to 30%
less energy than a standard office building and is furnished with
environmentally friendly materials.

"At the end of the day, we are competing with everyone
else for the best talent, and this is a generation that is very
concerned with the environment," NewPage Chief Executive Mark Suwyn
says.

Last month, to meet the demand of students to work for
green companies, MonsterTRAK, in alliance with ecoAmerica, a nonprofit
environmental group, started GreenCareers. The site lists positions in
companies that reduce their impact on the environment, making it easier
for students to connect with businesses that support their
environmental goals.

Ron Albright, a senior majoring in legal studies at
the University of Central Florida, says he has noticed that companies
he wants to work for lay out their environmental policies on their Web
sites. "I don’t want to be part of something that contributes to the
problem," he says. "I want to be part of a company that may not
necessarily be the solution but will lessen its impact on the
environment."

Preliminary studies, including one conducted by the
Canada Green Building Council, have linked eco-friendly indoor
environments to higher productivity and less absenteeism. Green
workplaces tend to focus on natural lighting, which may improve the
mood of employees, and many green workplaces use advanced
air-filtration systems, offering better air quality.

Since December, when her employer moved into a new
headquarters that is certified "LEED platinum" for commercial
interiors, the top rating, Jill Kasza says she has noticed an
improvement in both her health and her productivity. Ms. Kasza, a
compensation manager at Exelon
Corp., the electric utility and power-generating company based in
Chicago, says she hasn’t had a single sinus infection there, after
suffering two or three full-blown infections a year and frequent
symptoms at the company’s old site. The new building’s improvements
include a better air-filtration system and eco-friendly paint and
carpeting.

For companies, going green has another compelling
benefit: the possibility of reducing operating costs. "I think the
trend may have started for public relations and branding purposes, but
there is pretty good evidence now that this is profitable," says
Seymour Garte, author of "Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real
State of Our Planet."

Pelican Products Inc., a Torrance, Calif., designer
and producer of protective equipment cases and lighting systems,
expects to save $130,000 on energy this year at its California
facility. The company adopted measures such as high-efficiency
fluorescent lights and equipment.

By installing lighting sensors, dimmers and a reflective roof, semiconductor maker Texas Instruments
Inc. cut lighting energy at its office building in Richardson, Texas,
by 80%. "In the first year alone, we should see $1 million in
electricity and water savings, and [the savings] will continue to grow
until we see $4 million a year," says Paul Westbrook,
sustainable-development manager.

There are also incentives making the transition more
affordable, and with proper planning, a green building doesn’t have to
cost much more than a standard one. "There was a myth that it would
cost you a pound of flesh to do something good for the environment,"
says Michelle Moore, vice president of policy and public affairs for
the U.S. Green Building Council. On average, the cost to go green is a
1% premium that is usually paid back within 12 months on energy savings
alone, she says.

William Tauber, chief executive officer of Progressive
Lighting & Energy Solutions Inc., a lighting retrofitting company
based in Tustin, Calif., says his clients even have seen their
insurance rates lowered after making changes. Going green is good for
the bottom line, Mr. Tauber says. "It’s far easier than increasing your
sales."

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