Government and non-profit employees have higher public service motivations than corporate managers, according to surveys of government and non-profit employees in Georgia.

They don't simply do the minimum when it comes to eco-friendly initiatives, they also engage in discretionary programs. They just care more than other people, which is a nice bonus, since it is well-known that government workers have higher salaries than the private sector in the United States. It is why if they leave government service, they often take years to get back to their government salary levels.

The results in the American Review of Public Administration are based on a survey of hundreds of public servants about their environmental and organizational behaviors. 

"Some people are born with a higher intrinsic need to serve the public," said paper co-author Robert K. Christensen, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. "They have a desire to help others and serve society. Government and nonprofit managers, for example, typically have higher levels of public service motivation than business managers."

"Eco initiatives are discretionary, pro-environmental behaviors that an employee can participate in during the day," said Justin M. Stritch, an assistant professor at Arizona State University. "Eco initiatives involve things like recycling or energy conservation. Reusing water bottles and turning off your computer screen are examples."

Eco initiatives include sustainable micro-level behaviors, small tasks that are done voluntarily by the employee. When an employee chooses to do things like save paper or turn off lights at work, they are participating in eco initiatives. Eco initiatives are done because employees choose to do them, not because they're enforced.

In the survey, public servants in the southeastern city from departments like neighborhood and business services, fire, police, human resources and the city manager's office reported their environmental and workplace behaviors. The results showed that eco initiatives had to do with how motivated these public servants were to help society.

Public service motivation, a type of altruism, determines how people feel about the public and how they want to service public values. People with public service motivation can fulfill their desire to help society by choosing a job in government or a job in the private sector that helps citizens.

"Eco initiatives are correlated with the public service motivation of an individual," Christensen said. "Public servants with high public service motivation engage in micro citizenship behaviors to benefit society on a broader basis."

Along with public service motivation, two other predictors indicate a person's likeliness to perform eco initiatives.

"The three key drivers are public service motivation, organizational commitment and environmental connectedness," Stritch said. "The three work together to determine whether a person engages in eco initiatives."

Environmental connectedness describes an individual's attachment to nature. Having a strong connection to nature will increase an employee's likelihood of performing environmental initiatives. An employee's concern for the environment will help predict whether, and to what extent, they engage in eco initiatives.

"Even after accounting for an individual's connectedness to nature, an employee's public service motivation is a key factor in understanding voluntary, eco initiatives in the public workplace," Christensen said.

Stritch and Christensen hope that future studies will examine how institutional arrangements and mandated sustainability initiatives in cities change environmental commitment and behavior.

"Our hope is that people begin to think about stewardship and public resources in a broader way," Stritch said. "We want to see how public servants consider the environment over time and in different places."

"We have some compelling, if not preliminary, evidence that government workers often have the motivation to go above and beyond to benefit the environment while working in jobs that benefit society," Christensen said.