Executives back green with greenbacks

Would you give up some of your salary to pay for a new Chief Sustainability Officer? Seriously?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In recruiter Korn/ Ferry’s latest survey, almost three-quarters of global executives said they’d be willing to sacrifice some of their salary so their employer could improve its sustainability efforts. In most cases, they were willing to give up 1%-2% of their pay packet - but a few actually claimed they’d sacrifice a whopping 10% if it would encourage their company to buck its ideas up.

Only 27% said they’d rather take the money, thanks very much – which suggests that the corporate world has a much stronger environmental conscience than we imagined. Or, alternatively, that some respondents lied because they didn’t want to seem callous – but even that would be an indication of how far sustainability has moved up today’s business agenda.

Companies are certainly starting to recognise this – over three-quarters of repspondents now consider their employer to have some degree of environmental sensitivity. And about half said their company had taken steps to improve their efforts – either by moving staff across to focus on the issue, or by hiring new people from outside. Some have even gone so far as to appoint a Chief Sustainability Officer on the senior team, though it sounds like this is still a bit of a rarity.

The bad news is that when times are tough, green issues may take a back seat. Nearly 70% believed that an economic slowdown would see sustainability projects shelved in favour of more profit-driven activities, with less than 30% suggesting it would make no difference.

Clearly many employees are now taking a serious interest in their company’s green credentials, so there’s a big reputational benefit for employers in doing more. But initiatives like these are easier said than done when an economic slowdown has left you worrying about your bottom line. And as long as mortgage, food and petrol prices keep going up, it’s a bit hard to imagine employees volunteering to pick up the bill...

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