Case Study: Green Policies Attract and Retain Workers

Many BC tourism operators have discovered that a commitment to environmental sustainability doesn’t just benefit the planet; “green” policies have also become increasingly important when it comes to attracting and retaining staff.

Rocky Mountaineer Vacations is one such organization. Their commitment to sound environmental practises includes the development of “The Green Team,” an employee driven committee that leads new and existing initiatives. These endeavours include an enhanced recycling program on board Rocky Mountaineer trains, a commitment to in-office recycling and a cardboard bailing initiative in the Kamloops maintenance yard.

“The reality is that our commitment to sustainable business practises adds credibility to our organization,” explains Dana Babic, past HR generalist with Rocky Mountaineer Vacations.

Awarded the Foresight Sustainability Award by Destination BC, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations is committed to keeping sustainability issues top of mind. By making their environmental stance clear on their website, within internal newsletters, during Lunch ‘n Learn Sessions and throughout the interview process, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations has been able to attract and retain employees with similar values.

“The feedback [from our employees] has been overwhelmingly supportive. We tend to employ people who are very passionate about the environment,” explains Dana, who goes on to note that word of mouth is also a powerful tool when it comes to attracting new staff.

“When employees are proud of the organization they work for, and believe strongly in that organization’s core values, they become corporate ambassadors, and the impact that has on the business is something that simply can’t be measured,” says Dana.

Arther DeJong, mountain planning and environmental resource manager for Whistler Blackcomb Mountain Resort, agrees that being committed to sustainability has helped his organization attract the “right kind of staff.”

“Because we’ve made environmental protection a cornerstone of who we are as an organization, we tend to attract staff members who care about their environment and who want to be engaged,” says Arthur.

Whistler Blackcomb has been honoured with 16 different awards which recognize the organization’s stewardship of the natural environment. But Arthur insists that there is still a long way to go.

“We don’t go around chest-thumping about our policies. We do it because we’re genuinely committed to this cause,” explains Arthur, who notes that “marketing environmentalism” doesn’t work; it has to be something that is undertaken with genuine intentions.

“Employees are very savvy these days. They don’t want to be told that everything is fixed. They want to know that the organization they’re working for is taking steps in the right direction,” says Arthur.

Whistler Blackcomb’s “green” initiatives, which are outlined on the company website and have garnered frequent media attention, include the Employee Environmental Fund, which has been set up so that each dollar an employee donates from his or her pay cheque is matched by the organization’s Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.

But Arthur is quick to point out that dollars aren’t as important as actually committing time and energy, which is why Whistler Blackcomb has also created the Habitat Improvement Team, or HIT. Any staff member or member of the broader community is welcome to participate in this “environmental boot camp,” which takes place every second Tuesday of the “non-winter” months. And while these initiatives have been undertaken for the purpose of ensuring a sustainable natural environment, there are also fringe benefits.

“These environmental endeavours aren’t just good for the planet; they also make good business sense. You make money by saving energy and expelling less waste. You raise your profile as an organization that is committed to environmental stewardship, which is sound marketing. You become an integral part of the community and have a better chance at developing solid partnerships with external stakeholders. And you attract and retain staff members who share your values,” explains Arthur.