NOTRE DAME, IN — There are an incalculable number of academic and case studies that show the business benefits of sustainability initiatives, but new research out of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business finds that even a job involving shoveling manure is perceived as more rewarding if workers see the benefit to the greater good -- in this case, the environmental benefits of fueling a methane digester.
Ante Glavas, an assistant professor of management at Mendoza College, has been looking at dairy farms to gauge how employee productivity shifts when the farms undertake green initiatives.
The dairy industry is responsible for about 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and as GreenBiz.com executive editor Joel Makower wrote earlier this month, the global dairy industry working hard to trim its carbon footprint.
"Sustainability actually is a top driver for increasing sales," Glavas said in a profile on the Notre Dame website. "They found that a lack of sustainability in the industry wouldn't negatively affect consumers' love of milk ... they mostly care about taste and quality, but people will drink even more milk if they believed it is produced responsibly."
But as with many if not all other industries, dairy farmers are beginning to realize the cost-savings and value-added benefits of sustainability initiatives, including generating energy from methane to reduce or completely eliminate electricity bills.
Glavas is working with his colleague Matt Bloom to research the added benefits of sustainability to employee performance by surveying 1,000 dairy farms, their employees, and employees' spouses to learn what motivates them.
In the video below, produced for Notre Dame University, Glavas says that early results suggest that productivity goes up as much as 40 percent when workers feel their jobs contribute to the greater good.
Photo CC-licensed by Razvan Antonescu.