Focusing on a green future for everyone


How does sustainability fit into financial security? Pretty well, it turns out: An unsustainable future may put financial security out of reach for many. But building a greener, more resilient world can also feel big and unwieldy: When there’s so much to do, how does any single choice make a difference?

Graphic of the three green erg goals: educate, connect and provide.

At Principal, single choices and the urge to change came together in 2015 when a group of Principal employees decided to do something for Earth Week. Recycling, trash collection, and paper shredding ensued, as did collaborative enthusiasm for future efforts.

“We were a group of like-minded people and decided to stay together informally to share ideas,” says Kate Anderson, business analyst with Principal®.

First Des Moines, then the globe

Sustainability, of course, is part of the Principal DNA, with big-picture company goals such as reducing carbon emissions and responsible investing. That corporate connection made it even easier for that informal group to keep flexing those “green” muscles over the next four years as they continued to offer opportunities and education. In 2019, members turned their ad-hoc effort into a formal employee resource group (ERG).

Right now, the Green ERG is focused on education and resources that help every employee connect their enthusiasm for change with activities that make a difference.

Graphic showing 2021 by the numbers: 6,150 pounds of paper recycled, 3,516 pounds of electronics recycled, 106 trees planted

Recycling days have continued, for example, but so have community efforts to plan trees in historically underserved neighborhoods.

“We always knew we wanted to grow beyond the Des Moines campus,” says Karin Eshelman, distribution trainer and developer with Principal. She and Anderson co-chair the Green ERG. “We’re really aware that we’re a global company and our customers are everywhere.”

That will take time, but now Green ERG leaders are learning from other Principal groups, offering education and events, and emphasizing inclusion. “Our mission is to connect people to resources and promote sustainability, no matter where someone is,” says Anderson.

Green ideas for everyone

The Principal Green ERG has shifted efforts in response to the pandemic. Pre-COVID-19, a big win was helping usher in on-site composting in food lines. That’s less of a need right now. Instead of standing in cafeteria lines and offering insight into compostable materials, the group emphasizes options for trash at home with resources and links for inspiration and action.

What Principal does What you can do Why it matters
Donates 12,000 lbs of leftover food to divert it from landfills2 Compost food scraps Reduces your trash by 20%3
Installs 100% LED lighting Swap 1 traditional bulb for 1 LED Reduces your energy use for that fixture by 75%4
Planted 106 trees with Trees Forever Plant one tree (utility companies often provide at no or low cost) Improve property value and prevent soil runoff5

They’re also working on how to offer ideas for action outside central Iowa. “We don’t want employees to hit ‘delete’ on a message from us because they’re not in Des Moines and don’t have that event,” says Anderson. “Our message is, we may not be able to organize an event for your area, but these ideas work no matter where you are.”


1 Des Moines campus

Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Company®. Plan administrative services offered by Principal Life. Principal Funds, Inc. is distributed by Principal Funds Distributor, Inc. Securities offered through Principal Securities, Inc., member SIPC and/or independent broker/dealers. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.