Experimental expectations

by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
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A new survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. shows that not just consumers but employees, too, expect companies to show more environmental awareness and sensitivity – to "go green." Moreover, they’re willing to pay for it: an astonishing 64 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to support their employer’s environmental initiatives with a reduced paycheck.

"Environmental awareness seems to be expanding in an interesting way," Aaron Franklin, project director at ORC, told MEATPOULTRY.com. "It has changed from being an area of interest to an expectation of accountability. When people say they’re willing to take a hit in the pocketbook, it represents a new way of thinking about the employee-employer relationship with regard to environmental concerns."

The survey, which polled 1,004 adults living in private households by telephone from May 1 through May 4 of this year, shows that more than half of the respondents feel strongly enough about corporate environmental policies and initiatives to allow those policies and initiatives to influence who the respondents might choose to work for.

"I think what this means is that people are really expecting mainstream industry to take the lead on environmental issues. This is part of the way business is going to get done in the future," said Franklin. "The status quo is no longer acceptable."

The survey identified respondents by gender, age, region and ethnicity. In total, 54 percent of respondents answered "Very important" when asked, "How important is a company’s environmental policy to your decision to work at that company?"; the categorized results for the question fell within a 23-percent range, 45-68 percent, with Hispanic respondents responding most frequently, 68 percent, in the affirmative. Results were higher in response to the question, "How important to you is it that your company takes action to reduce their impact on the environment?" A total 76 percent of respondents said "Very Important" or "Important," and the range was considerably narrower, 72-80 percent. Responding to the question, "If the actions the company undertook to reduce their environmental impact meant they would have to eliminate or reduce salary increases, would you support that action?," a total 64 percent said "Yes," and no category for the affirmative was below 55 percent.

"Clearly, people are caring more," commented Franklin, "but it’s important to remember, I think, that this isn’t about grand gestures – about putting windmills on the roof, that sort of thing. I think the survey shows that employees want a commitment. It’s like the difference between the grand gesture in a relationship – a limo and a big rose bouquet – compared to the person who’s grounded, steady and reliable. It’s really about turning the stunt into a comprehensive policy."

In terms of consumer preferences, the portion of those surveyed who answered the question, "When choosing products, does the ‘energy footprint’ of the product, such as Energy Star certified appliances or locally-grown food, figure into your decision?" in the affirmative totaled 77 percent. In the highest-disposable-income age categories – 35-44, 45-54, and 54-64 – the affirmative portion ranged from 82-88 percent.

"I think it’s important to employ a healthy amount of skepticism when looking at these numbers," Franklin admitted to MEATPOULTRY.com. "Still, there’s no question that minds are changing. What we’re seeing is a cultural normalization of environmental issues. They’ve become not just the mainstream but the mainstream expectation."

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