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Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164

Encouraging innovative environmental actions: what companies and managers must do
Catherine A. Ramus*
Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131, USA

Abstract Increasingly environmentally proactive ®rms are interested in ®nding ways to encourage employees to take environmental actions that will improve the environmental performance of company operations, products and services. Results of an employee survey show that both environmental policies and supportive supervisory behaviors can increase the probability that employees will try environmental initiatives. We describe environmental policies and supervisory behaviors that exist in ®rms that are committed to sustainable development and employee environmental initiatives. From the survey results, we draw some lessons for managers and organizations that would like to support employee participation in sustainable development activities. # 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Many corporations have embraced the mantra of sustainable development, committing to policies of environmental protection in an attempt to move their organizations toward the ill-de®ned goal of sustainability.1 Managers believe that environmental innovations are necessary to transform businesses into sustainable enterprises (Davis, 1991; Fussler, 1996), but it is not always apparent to managers how to encourage creative environmental ideas to help the business move toward this goal. Employee creativity is an important environmental problem-solving resource for companies (Beard & Hartmann, 1997). Since innovations, by de®nition, are creative ideas from individuals or teams that have been implemented (Amabile, Conti, Coon, Lazenby, & Herron, 1996), it follows that companies that want innovative solutions to
Tel: ‡1-805-893-5057; Fax: ‡1-805-893-7612. E-mail address: ramus@bren.ucsb.edu (C.A. Ramus). 1 Sustainable development is de®ned as ensuring that we meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). No ®rm is yet sustainable, but environmentally proactive ®rms have attempted to prevent pollution, to minimize resource use, and to redesign products and services so they have less impact on the natural environment, in order to move toward sustainable operations. Currently the movement toward sustainability is a process rather than a discrete end.
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improve their environmental performance need to develop effective systems to support employee actions. But which types of support from the organization are effective and which are not? This is a dif®cult question. Especially since organizations are not always supportive of employees' ideas and innovation in general (Peters, 1990, 1991; Van de Ven, 1986; Wagner, 1991; Zaltman, Duncan, & Holbek, 1973). Part of the dif®culty with developing organizational support is that environmental management is not the focus of many line managers attention. Even in ®rms with a stated commitment to environmental sustainability, and with sustainability policies in place, managers still do not give the same level of support and attention to employee environmental activities as general management related tasks (Ramus & Steger, 2000). Having the sustainability policies is a ®rst and important step for ®rms. These policies show line management and employees that the ®rm expects and desires environmental ideas and actions. Supervisors' behaviors that demonstrate support for environmental actions also provide an important message to employees. In general, higher levels of employee creativity and innovation result from managerial behaviors that support employee actions (Bowen & Lawler, 1992; Kanter, 1989; Redmond, Mumford, & Teach, 1993; Spreitzer, 1995). The results of our survey show that employees need a clear signal of organizational support (environmental policies) and supervisory support (daily behaviors aimed at encouraging environmental actions) in order to focus their creative energy on environmental problem-solving.

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Business Development Manager. resulting from creative ideas from managers. individual employees may have skills and competences that enhance their abilities to participate in environmental initiatives. and those that developed a more eco-ef®cient product/service. Environmental policies and supervisory behaviors: best practices Amabile et al.1. 3 Many companies today measure the environmental impacts of their businesses against a set of goals. Decker. a team of employees developed a microchip cleaning process which replaced a hazardous volatile organic compound with water. 1996). 2000). What are employee eco-initiatives? Employee environmental innovations (eco-innovations) exist in companies today. results. Steger.2. In addition. an employee who implemented a new recycling program may have borrowed the approach from another company. in November 1999. Employees can bring these skills when they accept employment. We wanted to discover which forms these two categories of factors might take in ®rms that were committed to supporting employees' environmental creativity. Neil. And then we describe the environmental policies and supervisory behaviors that employees perceive to have a direct or indirect impact on their willingness to promote environmental initiatives. adding to the company's pro®tability while resulting in cleaner air in Helsinki where it ®rst was sold in fuel stations (Neste. and validity of the survey are explored in detail (Ramus & Steger. as well as lessons draw from the survey results. and/or they can develop environmental skills on the job. Ecoinitiatives occur at all levels within companies. & Lorentz. provide practical information. Finland developed a cleaner diesel fuel. Thus. . which companies that want to strengthen their environmental management programs can use to transform their current operations. 1997). methodology and results of an employee survey that consisted of the policies and supervisory behaviors. of®ce personnel. They are actions (or initiatives) taken by individuals and teams that improve the environmental performance of companies. we use the results of the survey to determine possible priorities for companies interested in engaging employees and line managers in efforts to improve the environmental sustainability of the ®rm. we observed three types of environmental initiatives: those that decreased the environmental impacts of the company. At the Allentown. which could in¯uence employee actions. What in¯uences employees to try eco-initiatives? Both organizational and individual factors can affect employee willingness to eco-innovate (Hostager. For example. 1. but we do not try to measure the existing environmental competencies of employees at the time of employment. From structured interviews with managers and employees. Rather we focus on measuring the set of organizational factors.A. Pennsylvania Lucent Technologies manufacturing facility. A team at Neste's research laboratory in Porvoo. those that solved an environmental problem for the company. 1997). we call measurement of this progress against environmental goals. which was marketed with great success. 2 Note that the author has published the empirical data and results of the survey in a separate article where the measures.152 C. The oil and gas divisions of Neste Oy became Fortum Oil just prior to his presentation.4 1. bluecollar workers. For example. environmental policies and supportive behaviors from supervisors can signal organizational support. at IMD International's MIBE Forum. This ®rst part of the paper provides lists and descriptions so that managers can visualize the types of organizational factors they could put in place to encourage employee environmental actions. employees may come to companies with intrinsic motivation and values that motivate them to take actions to protect the natural environment. European headquartered ®rms. much like they measure their ®nancial performance against a set of ®nancial goals. 1998). Then we describe the purpose. thus eliminating an environmental problem for the company (Ramus. These preexisting skills and values are not tested in our study. since these are the factors that managers can in¯uence. In practice. Fortum Oil. Employees at GE Plastics Europe's Bergen Op Zoom facilities in The Netherlands took responsibility for developing innovative waste reduction and recycling programs as part of company-wide efforts to decrease environmental impacts (Ramus. The descriptions of policies and of behaviors. And to show which of these factors have the most important (signi®cant) impact on employee willingness to try environmental initiatives. First we provide a brief description of employee eco-initiatives in ®rms and possible in¯uences on employee environmental actions. or other types of employees. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 The purpose of this paper is to provide managers in business organizations with a detailed description of the environmental policies and supervisory behaviors that exist in environmentally proactive. The ®rm can signal desirability for and provide organizational incentives for employees to take environmental actions. we measure employee perceptions of supervisory behaviors that encourage environmental competence building. & Winter. Examples of employee-lead environmental initiatives abound. we discovered 4 This example was presented by Juha Kiljonen. environmental performance. but the program was innovative in the new setting. 2.2 In this second-half of the paper. (1996) found that organizational and supervisory factors encourage employee creativity.3 For example. And as importantly. The unique contribution of this paper to the current literature is that it provides a blueprint for businesses that want to encourage employees to try environmental initiatives.

4. It indicates to internal and external stakeholders that the company intends to take environmental protection seriously. Campbell. and overall corporate performance (Epstein.2. 1998). life cycle approach to setting targets across all activities and for all products and services. and reports (Brophy. a group of 12 environmental officers sat together and developed a list of environmental policies that existed in their companies. For example.5 These policies ranged from having a written environmental policy to having use-reduction policies in the areas of fossil fuels. economic and environmental performance in a single report. Rather. 2. 9. 5. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 153 that 13 environmental policies and six categories of supervisory behaviors existed in companies who were trying to support employee eco-initiatives. Many companies use the report primarily as a tool for increasing employee involvement in environmental management. Corporate environmental policies Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. 2. Having a written policy in itself does not make a company proactive or sustainable. demonstrated this through having environmental policies.) 2. and winning top management support (Lober.1. 5 MIBE is the environmental management research project at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) sponsored by companies who see environmental management as a source of competitive advantage. and had had some success in supporting employee environmental actions. it tells employees that the company will take a responsible approach to environmental issues. Environmental reports are written for both internal and external audiences. 1996). the Body Shop and British Telecom produce sustainability reports. Which policies are some proactive companies adopting to move their businesses toward sustainability? Managers from 12 international companies in the MIBE project at IMD created a list of 13 sustainability policies they had in their companies. Bynum. By taking a comprehensive. but the managers agreed that the trend was to develop such a set of sustainability policies that cut across departments and managerial responsibilities. The written environmental policy often acts as a guide for employee actions when it provides environmental targets and objectives. In 1996. the company can move itself toward sustainability. Companies produce environmental reports in order to present the environmental objectives of the organization and its performance against explicit targets. Table 1 List of environmental policies which exist in environmentally proactive ®rms 1. audits. 7. toxic chemicals. 1997).1. Not all of the policies existed in all of the companies. 8. We describe the sustainability policies and supportive supervisory behaviors found in these companies.C. increasing employee morale. 6. Without targets. Publication of an environmental (sustainability) report Since 1992 there has been a strong increase in the number of companies that have been publishing their environmental performance for stakeholder review (Sustainability & United Nations Environmental Program.3. And. an environmental index can be created to lay out targets for facilities.1. Written environmental policy Specific targets for improving environmental performance Publication of an environmental (sustainability) report Environmental management system Environmental purchasing policy Environmental training and education Employee responsibility for environmental performance Life cycle analysis (assessment) policy Management understands sustainable development Fossil fuel use reduction policy Toxic chemical use reduction policy Policy of reducing use of unsustainable products Same environmental standards at home and abroad 2. incorporating aspects of social. with many companies stating that external stakeholders are of secondary concern when they publish their environmental report. Once the impacts have been quanti®ed.1. Brazil in 1992 many companies have gone beyond the publishing of an environmental policy stating their intent to reduce environmental impacts. a written environmental policy forms the backbone and skeletal framework from which all other environmental components are hung. assessments. including the environmental management system (EMS).A. These two sets of factors form the basis for the survey discussed later on. 2. Speci®c targets for improving environmental performance At a minimum environmental targets set goals for improving company environmental performance.1. The companies were selected because they stated they were committed to environmental sustainability. business units. 11. 10. 13. environmental progress is seldom made. (Table 1 contains a list of the 13 environmental policies. 3. In 1997 a survey of 596 companies from Fortune 500 and Standard & Poor 500 showed that 108 produced environmental reports. But companies can take the target setting exercise further by developing a system to measure environmental impacts across the life cycle of the company's products and services. & Jacques. . etc. 12. it is a necessary prerequisite for sustainable development. Many of these policies go beyond compliance and environmental impact reduction and stretch the company toward sustainability goals. A new trend for proactive companies is to move toward ``sustainability'' reporting. Written environmental policy In a company. 1997). Many global corporations have adopted a set of environmental policies aimed at integrating environmental considerations throughout the company.

Environmental training and education Environmental training. companies used life cycle analysis (LCA) (sometimes called ``life cycle assessment'') as a tool for designing products and services with reduced environmental impacts. 2. Proactive companies often partner with and/or apply pressure on their suppliers to this end. . 1996. The Natural Step.1. LCA can be an effective tool for aiding companies who want to achieve sustainable development (Welford. Management understands sustainable development There is an active movement within many companies today to take responsibility for the sustainable development of their enterprises. Life cycle analysis (assessment) policy Originally. an international organization. Scott Ltd. now look down the value chain too. Another is using a comprehensive questionnaire asking about the supplier's environmental practices and performance. For example. 1993). Employee responsibility for environmental performance The successful implementation of corporate environmental policies and management systems depend on environmental responsibility being shared with employees and managers at all levels of the company (Hutchinson.e. But how effective are companies with sustainable development goals at sharing responsibility for these with managers? Do managers in companies with proactive environmental policies really understand the wider issues of sustainable development? Are managers taking steps to address sustainable development in these enterprises? It is clear that managers have an important role to play in bridging the gap between traditional business processes and those necessary for the transformation into a sustainable enterprise. is a necessary but not a suf®cient condition for reaching ecological sustainability for business activities (Roome. Some companies make line managers explicitly responsible by incorporating environmental targets into performance evaluations and linking bonuses to ful®llment of these environmental targets. delineated a number of systems conditions necessary for enterprises to attain sustainability. systematic process for implementing environmental goals. Welford. Welford. The implementation of an environmental management system.1. it is clear to employees whether or not the company expects them to help reach the company's environmental goals. Some corporations try to integrate environmental considerations into most or all of their training programs for different levels of employees and managers. 2.A. In addition to these general environmental policy questions. which care about the sustainability of their activities. 2000). 1992. 1998). Robert in Sweden. outside courses. in the United Kingdom dropped the worst 10% of their suppliers after such an environmental performance assessment (Hutchinson. The capacity of employees to participate in environmental problem-solving as well as the motivation to do so can both be improved if a company has a strong environmental training program in place (Wehrmeyer. like International Standards Organization's (ISO) 14001 or the European Union's Environmental Management and Auditing Scheme (EMAS).8. in press). While there may not be an explicit written policy stating that employees are responsible for environmental performance. some companies. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 2. there are a number of speci®c sustainability policies that some companies are embracing.5. policies and responsibilities. This is especially true since the largest environmental impact for many products comes during the use of the products and at the end of their life (i. at disposal). other companies use external education opportunities such as job rotations. manufacturing. Broadly de®ned. an EMS is a transparent.1. others offer programs that are focused on environmental. and often missing. Beyond looking up their value chain to their suppliers. 1996). 2. EMS's provide a tool for employees and managers to take environmental impacts into consideration when performing daily job functions. and auditing these elements (Steger. Environmental management system Environmental management systems are in vogue. (Note: The adoption rate of the ISO 14001 certi®ed EMS is far lower in the United States than in Europe where there are institutional incentives for implementing environmental management systems (Delmas. One mechanism companies use is the requirement that suppliers have a certi®ed environmental management system.1. begun by Karl H.6 2. Reduced use of unsustainable sources of 6 We found that even in our sample of environmental proactive companies..4. and site visits. 2000). health and safety subjects alone.9. They work to reduce the environmental impacts of their distribution networks and to improve the useful life and recyclability of their products and services. Environmental purchasing policy Many companies include in their environmental policy a statement that they intend to work with suppliers to minimize impacts on the environment.) 2.154 C. 1998). a signi®cant number of companies have applied these systems. Supervisory encouragement for employee participation in environmental capacity building activities is important. The success of environmental training is not solely dependent upon the quality of the programs or the stated corporate intent to train employees. distribution. education and skill development improve employees' abilities to give high quality contributions to environmental activities. Since the mid-1990s.1. Thus. a company who tries to minimize environment impacts across the life cycle of all its processes including purchasing.7.1. but now it is also used for assessing and minimizing environmental impacts of company business processes.6. 1998). product/service use and disposal can truly improve its environmental performance. managers were often weak at supporting employee environmental competence building (see Ramus & Steger.

as well as those that existed in companies who had successfully supported employee ecoinitiatives and found them to be similar. and learning 2. 1990). designing teams to work on environmental problemsolving or product/process development. 2. and learning from a myriad of people.) The characteristics of managers who used learning organization behaviors to support environmental innovation are detailed as follows. They learn from both inside and outside of their own organization. the higher standards that are enforced by law in developed countries in North America and Europe would be automatically applied in sustainable enterprises that operate globally.1. In conclusion.1.1. Fossil fuel use reduction policy Companies. Communication: Encouraging employees to communicate their suggestions. 2. In essence. They look for learning situations for employees. there is evidence that environmentally proactive companies are increasingly adopting environmental policies that go beyond pollution reduction. Senge. must focus on using renewable energy sources. experimentation. 1993.2. (Table 2 contains a list and brief description of the six categories.10. etc. and providing resources and other support for environmental projects. mentors. Mumford. Rewards and recognition: Using formal rewards and informal praise to recognize and reinforce desired employee behaviors 6. Competence building What do managers who want to support employee environmental competence building do? They use training and education to foster innovation.C.3. They quickly implement changes. Innovation: Encouraging new ideas. which truly want to move toward sustainable development. Innovation What are some of the things that managers do to encourage environmental innovations on the part of employees? They make it acceptable to take risks. Garvin. Toxic chemical use reduction policy Persistent toxic chemicals.2. because of their negative and long-term impacts on the natural environment. experimentation. They see mistakes as learning opportunities.13.A. Some proactive companies have adopted these four policies. These managers signal through their behaviors that they are open to new environmental ideas. so the organizations can grow. They encourage experimentation to develop new processes.11. and critiques 4. Management of goals and responsibilities: Using quantitative and qualitative measures to share goals and responsibility for performance with employees interviewed 50 employees at ®ve companies with reputations of supporting employee environmental creativity.1. & Mulrooney. must be replaced by more benign substitutes if an enterprise wants to become sustainable. 1995. Supervisory behaviors that support employees eco-initiatives Supervisory behaviors can also have an effect on employee willingness to try eco-initiatives. We Table 2 List of categories of managerial behaviors found in ®rms that support environmental initiatives by employees 1. Learning organizations. Roderick. often have managers who are good at empowering employees (Bowen & Lawler. What types of supervisory behaviors exist in ®rms that are good at supporting eco-initiatives? This was a question we asked ourselves when developing our employee survey. They use assignment rotations as learning tools. We looked at those supervisory behaviors that exist in learning organizations. change and innovate (Cavaleri & Fearon. Redmond. thoughts. Same environmental standards at home and abroad A central tenant of sustainable development is that a company should use the same high standards to protect human health and the environment in all places that a company operates. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 155 energy. which is seen as causing irreparable damage to eco-systems on which humans and animals depend.3. and other organizations. managers who want to support employee innovation have a set of skills that encourage new ideas. Thus. and asked them which of their supervisors' behaviors support or failed to support their environmental actions. must be replaced with sustainably harvested substitutes. Competence building: Supportive of training and education activities 3. They implement employees' suggestions.3. unsustainably harvested ®sh can threaten species diversity. For example. 2. 2. 1989). or organizations that support the continuous learning and knowledge creation of all their employees. business units. persistent chemicals. 1996). 2. Pearn.12. site visits. They ensure that employees get training on new skills . 2. From this starting point we developed an empirical tool measuring six categories of behaviors. departments. 1993. 2. Kimberley & Evanisko. like courses. & Teach. whose harvesting and use do irreparable damage to eco-systems and the natural environment. these managers are good at asking employees regularly for creative environmental ideas. Information dissemination: Sharing important company information with employees 5. Behaviors that support eco-initiatives 2.1. as well as environmental equity are the four system conditions outlined by The Natural Step (Robert. Policy of reducing use of unsustainable products Products. 1981. They partner with other departments to implement new ideas. Many ®rms are beginning to endorse policies that focus on pollution prevention and environmentally sustainable actions. 1992. For example. and natural resources.

like environmental reports. site expansion plans. we learned from our interviews with employees which managerial behaviors the employees felt encouraged their environmental activities. Rewards and recognition What do managers do to reward and recognize employee environmental problem-solving? They look for opportunities to publicly praise good ideas. They reward their team for good efforts and for progress toward goals. For example. site visits. 1986) of communication are very good at supporting employee environmental innovation. 3. easily accessible information to internal and external audiences. For example. They instill ownership while at the same time providing guidance to facilitate employee success in environmental activities. but rather look for ways to share ownership for overarching goals. They realign employee responsibilities to allow the employee time for training.4. environmental targets. They always recognize environmental ideas by employees. In general. They encourage employees to express concerns about company decisions and policies. These managers use formal award systems. They use both qualitative and quantitative measures to assure individual contributions to company environmental targets. Note that these six categories correspond to those de®ned in the learning organization literature (Campbell & Cairns. Employee eco-initiatives survey7 Research on employee creativity and innovation in ®rms. see the article in the Academy of Management Journal by Ramus and Steger (2000). This top-down. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 that will help the employees engage in environmental activities.A. Management of goals and responsibilities How do managers use goal setting and responsibility sharing as tools to motivate employee environmental participation? They seldom delegate tasks. as well as the literature on learning organizations. They inform employees about changes in company vision. They spend time with each employee developing and implementing an environmental learning plan. 2. For example. 2. They encourage individuals and groups to communicate on problems and to propose solutions. these managers are not threatened or defensive about employee criticisms or comments.6. policies. they signal clearly that they. . And. and the organization. but rather. in private. 2. They answer questions honestly even if the answer is not what the employee wants to hear. manager to employee dissemination of information is supposed to help employee to ®nd environmental solutions as it keeps the employees informed of the company environmental vision and goals. They inform employees of what they need to know and where to get information they want. but also look for daily opportunities to give feedback and praise in order to help motivate employees to ®nd solutions to environmental problems and to develop less polluting products and services. chemical release data. 2. we found that managers who have democratic and participative styles (Lawler. care about giving the employee the necessary knowledge and competences to engage in environmental problem-solving. even if they aren't implemented. They accept criticism of ideas (and even of themselves) and dissent. validity. In doing so.5. Our empirical study tested which of these categories of behaviors had a signi®cant impact on a large number of employees in different ®rms.3. these managers feature environmental successes during regular staff meetings. and exploring new techniques for doing his/her job. 1994).3. they openly discuss employees' concerns. and limitations of the study.3. They develop open and direct styles of communication. these managers use regular performance evaluation meetings to discuss the employees' environmental training needs.3. use it as a learning opportunity. They talk regularly with employees to assess progress toward goals and to offer help. to share information amongst employees. In learning organizations. and by doing so they create a work environment where employees contribute their creative environmental solutions. They use information systems like email.3. They never publicly reprimand an employee for a failure or a mistake. etc. managers give information that affects employees' decision-making. In conclusion. indicate 7 For a complete discussion of the measures. They are good listeners. They value the inputs of managers and employees from all parts of the company. but rather listen with an open mind to environmental communication. These managers ®nd ways to focus time and resources on employee development in the environmental area. They use company bonus systems and other monetary awards to reward employees who achieve and surpass their environmental goals. accurate. and encourage employees to share their ideas with other managers and business units within the company. They forewarn employees about signi®cant changes. electronic bulletin boards. They foster employee trust through open communication. and progress toward goals. data analysis. Information dissemination What do managers do to encourage the ¯ow of information in order to help environmental problem-solving? They provide clear. Communication What do managers who want to create an open environment for employee communication on environmental management issues do? They discourage organizational hierarchies and ``we'' vs. ``they'' thinking in the organization. etc. These managers are good at using the performance evaluation process and regular review meetings to share responsibility for environmental goals with employees.156 C.

Norway. France. sharing of environmental information. communication.'' They selected one behavior to describe the supervisor's most typical behavior related to general management. Finland. In fact. The respondents answered 13 policy questions (like ``my company publishes an environmental policy''.465 surveys were distributed). and some of our ®ndings run counter to these assumptions. For example. In addition. rewards and recognition. respondents selected the most typical daily behavior from a list of 7±10 rank-ordered behaviors in the six categories (innovation. 1996. we developed an understanding of policies and behavioral factors that could impact employee environmental actions through interviews with employees in environmentally proactive ®rms.9 To ensure respondents of con®dentiality. 3. had no signi®cant impact. the United Kingdom. 3. Storen. when perceived by employees. and management of goals and responsibilities). and ``my company makes employees responsible for company environmental performance'') using a 5-point scale (Strongly Agree. The environmental management literature assumes that the factors that effect creativity and innovation in general will also be the factors that will affect environmental creativity and innovation. they selected one behavior to describe the supervisor's most typical behavior when managing environmental issues. medical devices. (This was a 24% response rate. which are found in so-called ``learning organizations''.000 people. and the United States) who were employed by six companies with proactive environmental policies were the focus of our empirical investigation into these questions. Using data from an employee survey. Then we developed a questionnaire to test which of these two types of factors had an important positive relationship to employee eco-initiatives.500 to 41.1. Some of our ®ndings con®rm the assumptions that those factors that support innovations in general also improve the likelihood that employees will eco-innovate. Shrivastava. Stern. In order to obtain a diverse sample of employees. Other policies had no direct positive effect on employee eco-initiatives. What is of interest for our study is the effect that perceived commitment to environmental policies has on employee willingness to try environmental initiatives. encourage employee environmental initiatives. We found that if the employee believed the company was committed to a written environmental policy it more than doubled the probability (from 19 to 50%) that the employee would have tried an environmental initiative. The sixth category. the behaviors ranged from the least positive ``refuses to commit resources and employee time for training and education activities'' to the most supportive ``spends time discussing and implementing a learning plan with each employee. and represented a number of industries including: chemical. as discussed above and shown in Table 1). 1. entertainment. Spain. Canada. all questionnaires were returned directly to the author for processing and only aggregate results were reported back to the companies. not whether the company says it is committed to such policies.A. oil and retail. We made an empirical test of which behaviors resulted in increased probability of employee environmental initiatives and which had no signi®cant impact. could focus employees on environmental problem-solving. Don't Know. which was assumed to effect employee eco-innovation. resulted in a greater probability that the employee would take an environmental initiative. We tested two hypotheses. we offer lessons for managers who want to support employee environmental participation. Italy. Belgium. 8 Here we are measuring employee perceptions of company commitment to environmental policies. They employed between 1. And. then from the same list. Environmental management researchers have assumed that supportive supervisory behaviors. The hypothesis that environmental policies signal organizational priorities and. many leading-edge ®rms had up to 13 environmental policies. 1995.2. We received responses from 353 employees in 1996 and 1997. Method As described above. The respondents all worked for large European headquartered companies with all or most of the 13 environmental policies. 1992. in the category of competence building. directed at different environmental improvements. competence building. . information dissemination. Prior to our survey research there was no empirical test of which factors were effective in supporting employee environmental initiatives. Our research shows that companies with a commitment to environmentally sensitive business development have a number of environmental policies to communicate these sustainability goals.8 When answering questions related to their direct supervisor. Partially Agree. we sent our survey questionnaire out in four languages. Of the six categories of supervisory behaviors that we found could signal to employees the desirability of environmental actions (described above and listed in Table 2). Germany. The Netherlands.C. we found that ®ve of the six categories of behaviors had a signi®cant impact on employee willingness to try eco-initiatives. we offer a revision of the theories we tested. 9 Each of the six companies was listed in the top 200 in terms of sales in the countries where they were headquartered. Partially Disagree and Strongly Disagree). 1997). Thus. Data sources Middle and low-level employees from 12 countries (Austria. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 157 that organizational and supervisory support will increase employee willingness to take actions. we identi®ed which of the 13 environmental policies. if effectively communicated. the hypothesis that supportive supervisory behaviors were of paramount importance in enticing employees to try ecoinitiatives (Milliman & Clair. manufacturing.

64 SD 0.22 0.04* 0.15 0. Specific targets for environmental performance 3.21*** 0.26*** 0.25*** 0.17*** 0.19*** 0.) A complete discussion of the research methodology.81 0.03 0.25*** 0.38*** 0.02 0. Life cycle analysis 9.08 0.39*** 0.20*** 0.30*** 0.31*** 0.18 À0.31*** 0. Systematically reduces fossil fuel use 11.30 0.13** 0.17 À0.14 0.31 À0.15*** 0.19*** 0. (These tables are reprinted from Academy of Management Journal by Ramus & Steger (2000).20 0.17*** 0.00 0.46 0.66 0.19 À0. Environmental considerations in purchasing decisions 6.158 C.02 0.36*** 0.13 0. Data analysis The objective of our analysis was to examine the relationship between environmental policies and employee environmental initiatives.14 À0.86 0.35*** 0.35*** 0. Employee willingness to try an environmental initiative is the dependent variable.32*** 0. Applies same environmental standards at home and abroad Mean 1.47*** 0.20 0.19 0 0.46 1.23 p-values for constants 0.07 Independent variables Published environmental policy Specific targets for environmental performance Publishes annual environmental report Uses environmental management system Environmental considerations in purchasing decisions Employee environmental training Employees responsible for company environmental performance Life cycle analysis Management understands/addresses issue of sustainable development Systematically reduces fossil fuel use Systematically reduces toxic chemicals use Systematically reduces consumption of unsustainable products Applies same environmental standards at home and abroad Coefficients 0.04* 0.01 1. Strongly Disagree (À2).21*** 0.36*** 0.16 1.36*** 0. We believe that these results can be helpful to managers who are thinking of making changes to their environmental management programs.01* 0.08 1.78 0.27 1.35*** 0.15 p-values 0.25*** 0. Systematically reduces consumption of unsustainable products 13.08 0.27*** 0. We have summarized these empirical results below to demonstrate those factors that have the greatest impact on employee environmental initiatives.14** 0.13* 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Scale: Strongly Agree (2). We also wanted to ®nd out if employees perceived that their supervisors were as supportive of environmental activities as other general management activities.13 À0. 3.14 À0. ** p 0:01.18*** 0. Partially Disagree (À1).59*** 0.40 0.73 0.05 1.34*** 0.21*** 0.20 À0.54 0.29*** 0.12 Dependent variable: employee environmental initiatives.45*** .25*** 0. Partially Agree (1).71 1. The results of the statistical tests can be found in Tables 3±7.75 0. Table 4 Logit analyses of dependent variable on environmental policy independent variables Constants 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 À0.28*** 0.11 0.3.39*** 0. and the relationship between supervisory behaviors and employee environmental initiatives.37*** 0.37*** 0.31*** 0.00 0.34*** 0.09 À0.37*** 0.18*** 0.27*** 0.34*** 0.01 0.18*** 0.14 0.02* 0.73 0. * p 0:05.33*** 0. Don't Know (0).29 0.91 1.23*** 0.19*** 0. We used Chi-square tests of differences for this comparison.28*** 0.37*** 0.29*** 0.15 1.33*** 0.A.41*** 0.32*** 0. To examine these relationships we used logit analyses and likelihood ratio tests.14** 0.35*** 0.21 0.51*** 0.22 1.47 0. .37*** 0.16** 0. Uses environmental management system 5.45*** 0. Published environmental policy 2.05 0.30*** 0.99 1.23*** 0. Employees responsible for company environmental performance 8.61 1.40*** 0.40 0. Management understands/addresses issue of sustainable development 10.21 0.09 1 0.37 0. Systematically reduces toxic chemicals use 12.12 1.41*** 0.07 À0.07 0. *** p 0:001.13 0.33 À0.38 0. statistical tests and results of the data analysis can be found in an article by Ramus and Steger (2000). Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 Table 3 Descriptive statistics and correlation table for environmental policies Independent variables 1.53*** 0.16 0.74 À0.58 0.31*** 0.51*** 0.22*** 0. * p 0:05.48*** . Employee environmental training 7. Publishes annual environmental report 4.08 1.31*** 0.25*** 0.23*** 0.15 0 À0.10 0.14 À0.24*** 0.

29*** 0.35*** 0.59 15.85 6.27*** 0.01** Independent variables Environmental Environmental Environmental Environmental Environmental Environmental General General General General General General innovation competence building communication information dissemination rewards/recognition management goals/responsibilities Coefficients 0. .41*** 0.01** 0. Table 7 Chi-square test of the differences in answers to environmental and general management concerning supervisory behaviors Environmental vs. 8.27*** 0. 10.11 0.92 0.50*** 0.07 p 0:001.58 27.38*** 0.41*** 0.33*** 0.05* 0.42*** Scale: maximum ˆ 10.16 0. Table 6 Logit analysis of dependent variable on supervisory behaviors independent variables Constants 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 À0.37*** 0.42 À0.70 40.49 5.71*** 0. general Chi-square value Empirical Innovation Competence building Communication Information dissemination Rewards/recognition Management goals/responsibilities *** p-value Theoretical 16.77 p-values of constants 0.10 p-values 0.24*** 0.61 À0.15 0.31*** 0.45*** 0.41*** 0.54*** 0. 5.31*** 0.38*** 0.81 À0.98 À1.40*** 0.02 5.70 À0.47*** 0.60 2.01** 0.05* 0. 9.10 0.22*** 0.01** 0** 0.00 6. minimum ˆ 1.39*** 0.50*** 0.001*** 0*** 0*** 0.92 12.93 À0.28*** 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 159 0.43*** 0.40*** 0.23*** 0. 4.51 16.08 0.09 6. 12.43 28.26 6.21 1. 11.42*** 0.28 7.79 2.65*** 0.29*** 0.67 À0. Environmental innovation Environmental competence building Environmental communication Environmental information dissemination Environmental rewards/recognition Environmental management goals/responsibilities General innovation General competence building General communication General information dissemination General rewards/recognition General management goals/responsibilities Mean 6.81 À0. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 Table 5 Descriptive statistics and correlation table for supervisory behaviors Independent variables 1.10 0** 0** 0.67 1 0. ** p 0:01.39*** 0. 6.37*** 0.93 5.32*** 0.42*** 0.26*** 0.01** 0.27*** 0.18 2.68*** 0.33*** 0.27*** 0.41*** 0.17 0.34*** 0.02* 0.79 2. 7.51*** 0. 2.31 2.47*** 0.38*** 0.11 0.84 6.30*** 0. *** p 0:001.01** 0.95 5.54*** 0.40*** 0.006*** 0*** 0.37*** 0.70 6.25 0.39 0.13 0.02 24.38*** 0.38*** 0.09 À0.58*** 0.38*** 0.001*** 23.25*** 0.05* 0** 0.36*** 0.35*** 0.37*** 0.40*** 0.25 2.51*** 0.34*** 0.30 1.26*** 0.17 29.13 2.32*** 0.09 0.43*** 0.79 À0.A.05 0.77 À0.08 0.01** innovation competence building communication information dissemination rewards/recognition management goals/responsibilities Dependent variable: employee environmental initiatives. * p 0:05.02* 0.54 2.29*** 0.51 15.21 SD 2.09 0. 3.07 0.08 2.12 0.01** 0** 0.51 15.48*** 0.43*** 0.C.

But.A. Results and discussion Our study showed what many ®rms might have suspected. 11 of the other 12 environmental policies had only an indirect impact on employee ecoinnovation. . But. they were more likely to eco-innovate if their supervisor used learning organization support behaviors directed at environmental activities. having an environmental management system. (See Section 5. for example) had no signi®cant direct impact on employee environmental actions. environmental communication from employees. communicating company commitment to an environmental policy statement more than doubled the probability that an employee tried an eco-initiative. One of the 13 policies and ®ve of the categories of supervisory behaviors had a direct positive effect on employee willingness to ecoinnovate. When employees are aware that the company is committed to a written environmental policy statement. existed in all cases except in the case of the fossil fuel policy. An interesting exception in our results exists for policy 10. having an environmental management system. and managing environmental goals and responsibilities have a positive effect. increasing it from 19 to 50%. We found that Fig. Indirect impacts. Having a fossil fuel use reduction policy had a signi®cant negative impact on employee eco-initiatives. even in environmentally committed companies. and less likely to eco-innovate if their supervisor used behaviors that were perceived to be less supportive of environmental actions. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 4.) A summary of the employee survey results is shown in Fig. 1. environmental education. When employees perceived these 12 environmental policies (including having a written environmental policy).7 for an explanation of this counter-intuitive result. Environmental policies and supervisory behaviors which support employee environmental initiatives. they are more likely to try environmental initiatives. Policies like. 1. Managerial behaviors that supported environmental innovation. publishing an environmental report. are less supportive when managing environmental activities than other activities. meaning that the respondents who perceived the existence of policies were more sensitive to supportive or unsupportive behaviors on the part of their supervisors. Clearly. are important because they sensitize employees to support from their supervisors. that line managers. rewarding and recognizing environmental actions. dissemination of company environmental information had no signi®cant effect on employee willingness to eco-innovate. Other environmental policies (like environmental purchasing.160 C. We looked at direct impacts of each environmental policy and each supervisory behavior on the dependent variable (employee eco-initiatives). Employees who felt their supervisors were supportive of environmental actions were more likely to try environmental initiatives than those who did not feel their supervisors used supportive behaviors. environmental reporting. etc.

We all know that managers should listen to their employees. or the communication of these policies can back ®reÐresulting in a decrease in eco-innovation. including allocating time and resources. but our result indicates that it is important for managers to listen to and elicit employees' environmental ideas. we found that having line managers who use learning organization behaviors when managing environmental activities increased the probability of employees trying eco-initiatives.g. Lessons for companies and for managers 5.2. The implication is that companies should prime their managers to be supportive of environmental activities prior to communicating environmental policies. non-hierarchical approach to encouraging communication from employees. Environmental competence building: Encourages environmental competence building by employees. Most of the 13 policies of sustainability existed in the companies for which the employees in our survey worked. (Only two of the six ®rms had a fossil fuel use reduction policy. Employees are more likely to be creative when their environmental ideas. Employee awareness of these other policies makes them ripe for environmental actions.A. Our study seems to indicate that those employees who are more knowledgeable about the policies are also those who are more likely to try environmental initiatives. just as every company knows it should listen to its customers. Companies.10 (Note that we did not observe an indirect effect between fossil fuel policy and supervisory behaviors. The companies selected for our survey all stated they had a commitment to sustainable development. the most important was environmental communication.) 5. Sometimes an employee from one area will have the solution to an environmental problem in another area of the company. only where the company had communicated a clear environmental vision using these policies did we see an increased probability of employee eco-initiatives.1. Companies need an environmental vision and policies Employees are more likely to engage in environmental problem-solving in ®rms that clearly communicate their environmental vision through policies. companies can bene®t from encouraging managers at all levels to listen . dif®cult it is for ®rms to make environmental management a priority for managers. when employees perceived supportive environmental communication behaviors from their supervisors it more than doubled the probability that they would have tried environmental initiatives (from 28 to 62%). Our study shows that having environmental policies on the books is not enough. yet we found that line managers in these ®rms consistently used less supportive behaviors when managing environmental activities than other general management activities. A manager who takes a non-hierarchical approach will encourage the employee to communicate directly with the other business area. 4. 5. Therefore. in the airline industry fuel consumption is one of the biggest expenses) or the products/services being produced (e. we ®nd that in an organization where managers don't listen and don't care. 5. including use of a democratic. 3. Environmental rewards and recognition: Using daily praise and company awards to reinforce environmental successes and problem-solving. But.. if they sense that their supervisor does not want them to engage in environmental problem-solving. but other interpretations of this result are possible since energy policy in companies is not only motivated by environmental concern. Thus. or suggestions are heard and acknowledged. Environmental communication: Participative environmental management style. with the categories of supervisory behaviors that had the strongest impact at the top of the list. but the indirect impact of other sustainability policies is also important. Line managers in ®rms who embrace democratic approaches when managing employees are more likely to reap the full bene®ts of employee environmental problem-solving. The following is a rankordered list of the results. an oil production company may not be committed to reducing the use of the major commodity that they produce). For example. Yet. there may be a hidden factor that can explain these results.) In general. 1. Management of environmental goals and responsibilities: Shares environmental goals and responsibilities with employees. But. then they do not take actions. these environmental solutions are unspoken.C. This demonstrates how 10 Energy policy can be motivated by non-environmental issues like cost concerns (e. since it seems to lead to increasing numbers of environmental initiatives.) The data showed that those employees who perceived that the policy did not exist were those who were more likely to eco-innovate. (And possibly an increase in employee dissatisfaction with the company and its management. A participative communication style applied to environmental management Of the six categories of learning organization behaviors..g. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 161 the majority of the ®rms in our survey did not have this policy. 2. One possible interpretation of this result is that knowledge of which policies exist has a direct affect on employee eco-innovation. Environmental innovation: Shows openness to new environmental ideas and encourages employees to experiment to ®nd solutions to environmental problems. A written environmental policy has the most signi®cant impact on employee actions. which have line managers who used supportive behaviors. are also those that bene®ted from a larger number of eco-initiatives. criticism. The energy it takes for a manager to give an employee feedback on environmental ideas is well spent.

5. 5. and innovative approaches to problem solving are good at encouraging employee eco-innovation. Share environmental responsibilities with everyone Our research shows that employees eco-innovate when they ``own'' part of the corporate environmental targets. From employee written comments on the questionnaires. The emergency of the day and getting daily tasks accomplished is seen as more pressing than building competencies that can be advantageous for the future. etc. environmental problem-solving seldom occurs. One possibility is to start screening potential hires for environmental values. 5. 5. but your managers are not using supportive behaviors.6. A counter-intuitive result: information dissemination One interesting result was that environmental information dissemination did not have a signi®cant effect on employee . and were supportive of environmental initiatives. But often line management do not make it a priority to send employees on courses. The result was a greater commitment to progress toward the company's sustainable development goals. For example. The managers could give the vouchers on the spot whenever they observed a positive environmental action. Ramus / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 151±164 to the environmental ideas of their employees. These behaviors. performance evaluation targets. and other management development tools. This appears to the employees to be especially true of environmental skills and knowledge development. in one company we studied. bonus pay. and employee environmental creativity blossomed under the attention.4.7. what can you do? Start over? Maybe yes. available for managers can be a ®rst step in creating an awareness in line management of the need for daily feedback on environmental actions. Reward and recognize environmental actions From our results we can see that a word of praise directed at an environmental effort can go a long way in encouraging employee participation. might be dif®cult to instill in line managers. The only way for these managers to reach their targets was to share responsibility with their subordinates. 1990). All of the companies in our survey had environmental training programs. Systems like these can multiply environmental actionsÐnot because of the value of the awardÐbut rather because of the value of being praised! In this company line managers learned to look for environmental initiatives. Making environmental awards. For example. 3608 feedback.A. The most frequent response was ``my manager neither encourages nor discourages environmental competence building. Doing both simultaneously will show that the company really cares about achieving its sustainability vision. The success of line managers in sharing goals is directly correlated to employee eco-innovation rates. 5. experimentation.3. gift certi®cates. Thus. like some of the other learning organization behaviors discussed above. employees often fail to get management support for learning activities. and cares about supporting employee participation in eco-initiatives to move toward sustainable development. It is not surprising that employees who found their managers to be good at using rewards and recognition in the environmental area were those who tried environmental innovations.'' Thirty-eight percent of the respondents selected this behavior to describe their managers' most typical daily behavior. Since many managers have dif®culty seeing the advantage of managing environmental activities. Even when resources are available. Competence building provides the environmental problem-solving tools Environmental education supports employee eco-innovation. How can companies encourage managers to allocate time and resources to employee environmental education? The ®rst step is to provide line management with environmental/ sustainability training. If your company wants to have employee eco-innovation. it is clear that companies have trouble ®nding time to train employees.5. Another is to invest in instilling these values into existing line management through training. Developing managers who believe in environmental value creation Our research shows that supervisors who are open to new environmental ideas. If managers see the value of this type of training ®rst-hand they will be better able to envision its value to their employees. one company required its line managers to take environmental leadership training. coaching. Our research shows that this change alone will lead to more environmental problem-solving from employees. and other opportunities for building environmental problem-solving know-how. otherwise the evidence shows that they will not support environmental management (Rands. companies who have managers who are good at instilling responsibility in employees for environmental solutions are those managers who have a greater probability of having employees who eco-innovate. One example is a company that gave line managers discretion over giving dinner vouchers at local restaurants to reward environmental initiatives. they seldom make it a priority to develop and implement environmental learning plans with their employees. Without environmental goals. every line manager was evaluated in their performance review against speci®c environmental targets. site visits. Most of the employees in this company reported that they felt their managers were good at sharing environmental performance goals. assignment rotations.162 C. One implication of our results is that becoming an ``environmental'' learning organization requires line management to care about environmental values.

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