Earth Day is one of those holidays that’s taken about as seriously by some companies as St. Patrick’s Day or National Doughnut Day. Actually, at least St. Patrick’s Day means green shortbread cookies in the breakroom. Usually, all Earth Day gets is a company-wide email.
This year, however, everything has changed. Many of us are stuck at home, juggling our regular jobs with attempting to teach kids using the same screens we’re in front of all day. For many, everything from a simple daily walk to a strenuous hike or bike ride has become critical to our sanity. It’s possible that one benefit that will come out of this international crisis is a greater appreciation for our outdoors and our planet.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and it's a perfect time for companies to step up and make it an official company holiday. Earth Day is an opportunity to honor our most precious asset, and it’s a reminder of the very real responsibility we have to protect our planet — a planet that is in dire need of help. Earth Day needs to go beyond a casual mention to a legitimate company holiday. Here’s why:
Happy Earth, happy employees
Like everyone else, I find myself wrapped up in emails and meetings and obligations that can consume my entire day. Your employees experience the same thing, and I’m willing to bet they’re so busy they often forget to look out the window and see if the tulips have started blooming or if any nests are built in the trees around the parking lot.
Earth Day encourages an appreciation for nature by urging employees to take a look at the world around them. Guardianship arises as an extension of that appreciation, which means employees are more likely to return to work the next day (even if virtually) more interested in conservation, sustainability, recycling and other green practices. That can have a far-reaching positive impact, starting with a more positive culture and more fulfilled employees. And that means a more productive working environment.
But it goes beyond that — sustainability is also beneficial to your bottom line. Harvard Business Review published "The Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability" a few years ago, and it includes some great case studies and statistics that support the claims of economic viability of sustainability in business. Several other reports on the same topic recently have been published, and they all come to the same conclusion: Sustainability is good for business. Reading and understanding the data prior to discussing with your executive suite will be very important.I’m not saying that by making Earth Day a company holiday we can immediately reverse the damage, but I am saying that it could go a long way in reminding our people what matters most.
There’s power in numbers
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of pollution and damage inflicted on our planet daily. And that can leave some people feeling like they shouldn’t even bother trying to pitch in because it won’t make enough of an impact.
But when companies come together for corporate-sponsored Earth Day projects, it’s easy for employees to participate and inspirational to see the results.
After all, it’s much easier to see the difference cleaning a beach with 100 employees makes instead of just one. And employees genuinely enjoy these activities: They greatly prefer bonding with their co-workers over trees instead of spreadsheets. They love contributing to the betterment of their communities and seeing immediate results. There’s even evidence that playing in the dirt genuinely improves mood, which can help your employees feel better and can encourage them to keep getting outside. Some of these activities will be on hold this year to maintain social distancing, but companies still can lay the foundation to host these impactful projects later this year.
Having Earth Day as a company holiday demonstrates to others that you place the planet above profits and you’re willing to prove it. Companies can start planning now to include Earth Day as a holiday on the vacation calendars for 2021.
It’s good for the company
Young Living officially made Earth Day a company holiday in 2019, and more than 2,000 employees participated in over 30 service projects. Acting in harmony with the environment is a key part of our company culture, and Earth Day is a chance for us to show others we’re serious about caring for the planet.
From a business perspective, it’s great for visibility with customers and in our community. Our customers feel good about purchasing our products because they know they’re contributing to a company that’s environmentally friendly. Participating in service projects in our community also gives us the opportunity to give back and build relationships in the areas in which we operate. It’s improved our brand perception and customer loyalty.
Our employees feel great about working here, too, because they work in a place that gives back. We enjoy less turnover and are able to recruit higher-quality candidates who value the work we do and want to be part of it. I can say with surety that Earth Day positively affects every single facet of our company.I can say with surety that Earth Day positively affects every single facet of our company.
Planet over profit
Our entire business depends on the health of the planet. But it goes well beyond that: the quality of our lives and the quality of our childrens’ lives depends on how well we treat our earth.
And yet, over the course of our lifetimes, we’ve witnessed what happens when corporations sacrifice the good of nature for the good of shareholders. We’ve seen the annihilation of rainforests, the burning of continents and the extinction of countless species as a result of greed and carelessness. It needs to stop. I’m not saying that by making Earth Day a company holiday we can immediately reverse the damage, but I am saying that it could go a long way in reminding our people what matters most.
How to start
I’d like to encourage you to implement Earth Day as a company holiday. The first step is gaining buy-in from every member of your organization, starting with those at the very top.
In addition to seeking and gaining buy-in from all levels of the organization, you need to identify a cause to support on Earth Day. The key to making Earth Day an impactful corporate holiday is giving employees and the organization a worthwhile endeavor to pursue while they are not at the office. A meaningful volunteer opportunity not only allows the organization to give back by providing person-hours, but is also a big benefit to the health of employees. A study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (PDF) cites physical, mental and social health benefits all from volunteering frequently. The company can benefit from healthier, happier employees as well as an improved community in which to operate.
Finally, to get the most out of Earth Day as a corporate holiday, you need to identify the right partners to work with. Earth Day provides an amazing opportunity for community impact and finding partners that are ready and able to receive your help is important. This takes a decent amount of effort prior to the day and is also a great opportunity for employees to give input on what group(s) would be good for the organization to support and work with. Many great volunteer organizations are ready to receive your help, so you need to take the time to determine which group aligns with your purpose/values and where your efforts will have the most impact for your goals.
We’ve had nothing but great things come out of our commitment to Earth Day, and we promise you’ll experience the same satisfaction and rewards. So try it out — there’s nothing to be lost and an entire world to be gained.