Continuous Mediating Effects

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sustainability
Article
The Continuous Mediating Effects of GHRM on
Employees’ Green Passion via Transformational
Leadership and Green Creativity
Jianfeng Jia 1, Huanxin Liu 2 , Tachia Chin 3 and Dongqing Hu 4,*
1 School of Business Administration, Northeastern University, Shenyang 110169, China;
[email protected]
2 School of Management, Shandong University, Jinan 250100, China; [email protected]
3 School of Management, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Hangzhou 310012, China; [email protected]
4 Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200030, China
* Correspondence: [email protected]; Tel.: +86-18917066048
Received: 9 July 2018; Accepted: 7 September 2018; Published: 10 September 2018


Abstract: Responding to environmental challenges is a new manifestation of innovation for
organizations, which enables firms to gain competitive advantages by conducting innovative
activities for not only themselves, but also for the whole society. In this context, much attention
has been paid to “green creativity.” However, few studies have explored the impact of green
creativity from the perspective of interactions between individuals and organizational contexts.
Therefore, we aimed to explain the variance in employees’ green creativity by examining three
factors outside the organizational context: transformational leadership, green human resource
management (GHRM), and individual factors including employees’ green passion. Drawing from the
ability–motivation–opportunity theory, we found that transformational leaders can inspire employees’
green passion through influencing GHRM, and ultimately positively affect employees’ green creativity.
Data collected from two sources (employees and human resources managers) in medical firms in
northeast China at two time points demonstrated the important effects of transformational leadership,
GHRM, and employees’ green passion on green creativity, thus offering new theoretical insights and
practical suggestions.
Keywords: transformational leadership; green human resource management; green passion;
green creativity
1. Introduction
Creativity refers to the production of original, novel, and useful ideas [1]. As the primary
impetus of innovation, it greatly benefits organizations by enabling them to adapt to the complex and
ever-changing economic environment [
2]. The recent impact of environmental issues, particularly
global climate change, on economic development, cannot be ignored. Responding to environmental
challenges, therefore, can be considered as a new manifestation of innovation for organizations to
gain competitive advantages by conducting innovative activities for greater good [
3,4]. Against this
background, the new notion of “green creativity” has been proposed. Green creativity refers to the
production novel and useful ideas with environmentally friendly influences on products, services,
processes, and practices within organizations [
3].
However, improving green creativity depends on cooperation between company environmental
strategies and corresponding human resource management (HRM) practices. In other words,
if a company wants to achieve good environmental management and enhance green creativity,
it needs to encourage its employees to actively participate [
2,5]. Research on green human resource
Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237; doi:10.3390/su10093237 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 2 of 18
management (GHRM) provides new opportunities for the research of green creativity and HRM
within organizations. GHRM, which mainly emphasizes the aspects of HRM practices toward the
protection of environmental and the ecological influence of the companies, is the explicit link between
corporate environmental strategy and employees’ green behavior [
2,6]. However, the assumption that
GHRM may be likely to enhance the green creativity of a firm has not been established empirically [
7].
The factors that give rise to GHRM, including questions about how HRM practices influence employees’
green creativity, have received limited attention, besides a few studies that examine some specific
practices of GHRM (e.g., green training) for environmental management [
8,9]. One of the forms
of originality for this paper therefore lies in examining the processes of how GHRM can motivate
employees to engage in green activities and produce green ideas, which can handle the specific
challenge of managing environmental concerns through a set of HRM practices (including green
recruitment and selection, green training, green performance management, green pay and reward,
green involvement) [
10].
According to the ability–motivation–opportunity theory (AMO), personal ability and motivation
form the basis for action, which will then happen if proper opportunities are provided by the
organization [
11]. In the pursuit of improving employees’ green creativity, GHRM as one organizational
context can enhance the green ability of employees through recruiting those who have an awareness of
environmental protection, and providing certain training activities about environmentally friendly
skills, inspiring the motivation of engaging green activities by establishing fair green performance
management systems and distinguishing rewards and punishments, and also making a platform for
employees through green involvement [
10]. However, GHRM alone is not necessarily sufficient to
achieve a green competitive advantage. The influences of other organizational contexts (e.g., leadership,
firms’ support) and individual factors (e.g., employees environmental attitude) may also be necessary
for affecting employees’ ability, motivation, and opportunities for green creativity [
12,13]. Therefore,
in the light of the above considerations, it is necessary to find the determinants of employees’ green
creativity. The effects of various factors on individual workplace creativity have been widely discussed
in the literature [
14] and can be summarized at three levels: the individual level (e.g., self-concept,
personality traits, emotions) [
12,15,16], the team level (e.g., style and behavior of team leaders,
exchanges between leaders, exchanges between team members) [
13,17], and the organization level
(e.g., reward system, performance compensation, job design) [
18]. However, few studies have explored
the effects on workplace creativity from the perspective of interactions between individuals and
organizational contexts (including the team and organization levels), particularly in the field of
environmental management [
19]. Therefore, we aimed to fill this research gap.
We need to consider the interactive influences of other organizational contexts and individual
factors that affect employees’ ability, motivation, and opportunities for green creativity. Mobilizing
employees toward intra-organizational and cross-functional integration to enhance their green
creativity is generally recognized as the responsibility of high-level leaders, often with only modest
participation by human resources (HR) professionals [
20]. Nurturing green creativity among employees
to promote green competitiveness is the primary concern of managers [
3,21]. Leadership plays a crucial
role in enhancing creativity among employees. Studies have shown that transformational leadership
significantly enhances employee motivation, and increases opportunities to generate new ideas [
22,23].
However, even outstanding GHRM with excellent leadership cannot stimulate employees’ green
creativity if employees lack the enthusiasm to engage [
24].
Therefore, in this study, we consider how transformational leadership can influence the extent
to which GHRM and employees’ green passion contribute to enhancing the green creativity of firms.
More specifically, we argue that transformational leadership, GHRM, and employees’ green passion
are all essential for employees’ AMO for action, which in turn contributes to superior green creativity.
We seek to explain some of the variance in employees’ green creativity by examining three factors
separately from organizational contexts: transformational leadership, GHRM and individual factors
including employees’ green passion. Consistent with the AMO paradigm [
11,25,26], our theoretical
Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 3 of 18
arguments (Figure 1) assume that transformational leadership, GHRM, and employees’ green passion
together create the necessary conditions for employees to achieve green creativity. Transformational
leadership, via the mediation of GHRM, can also increase employees’ green passion to achieve this goal.
Ten years ago, the development of Chinese companies was more concerned with economic
indicators. Many firms did not view environmental management as a necessary investment, and they
treated it as an obstacle to their performance and profitability [
19]. In recent years, however,
the haze problem in northern and eastern China has become more serious. It is recognized that
environmental issues not only play an important role in human health, but also in economic
and social development [
27]. As president Xi Jinping’s famous saying goes, “it is necessary to
have Jinshan Yinshan, but also clean water and green mountains”. The Chinese government has
realized that economic development and the protection of the environment were equally important,
and it issued various legislative and administrative measures to address the growing environmental
problems [
28]. More importantly, the transformation of the economic development mode and the
protection of ecological civilization even have been written into China’s national five-year plan [
7].
Public awareness of environmental protection is gradually increasing, with people becoming more
sensitive to the environmental destruction caused by corporations, and consumers are increasingly
favoring green products. All of this illustrates the simple fact in China that environmental protection
has quickly become a mainstream issue, forcing businesses to confront these challenges [
4,28].
However, challenges can only be turned into opportunities if companies can make breakthroughs in
environmental management.
Therefore, it is both theoretically and practically important to understand how transformational
leadership can influence the extent to which GHRM and employees’ green passion contributes to
enhancing green creativity in firms, particularly considering the current trend of taking ecology
concerns as a strategic priority.
Sustainability 2018, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 3 of 18
including employees’ green passion. Consistent with the AMO paradigm [11,25,26], our theoretical
arguments (Figure 1) assume that transformational leadership, GHRM, and employees’ green
passion together create the necessary conditions for employees to achieve green creativity.
Transformational leadership, via the mediation of GHRM, can also increase employees’ green passion
to achieve this goal.
Ten years ago, the development of Chinese companies was more concerned with economic
indicators. Many firms did not view environmental management as a necessary investment, and they
treated it as an obstacle to their performance and profitability [19]. In recent years, however, the haze
problem in northern and eastern China has become more serious. It is recognized that environmental
issues not only play an important role in human health, but also in economic and social development
[27]. As president Xi Jinping’s famous saying goes, “it is necessary to have Jinshan Yinshan, but also
clean water and green mountains”. The Chinese government has realized that economic development
and the protection of the environment were equally important, and it issued various legislative and
administrative measures to address the growing environmental problems [28]. More importantly, the
transformation of the economic development mode and the protection of ecological civilization even
have been written into China’s national five-year plan [7]. Public awareness of environmental
protection is gradually increasing, with people becoming more sensitive to the environmental
destruction caused by corporations, and consumers are increasingly favoring green products. All of
this illustrates the simple fact in China that environmental protection has quickly become a
mainstream issue, forcing businesses to confront these challenges [4,28]. However, challenges can
only be turned into opportunities if companies can make breakthroughs in environmental
management.
Therefore, it is both theoretically and practically important to understand how transformational
leadership can influence the extent to which GHRM and employees’ green passion contributes to
enhancing green creativity in firms, particularly considering the current trend of taking ecology
concerns as a strategic priority.
Figure 1. Hypothesized theoretical model.
2. Literature Review and Research Hypotheses
2.1. Ability–Motivation–Opportunity Theory
The AMO theory [11] is an important theoretical paradigm in the strategic HRM literature
[25,26]. Its central tenet draws attention to the impact of HR systems on overall employees behavior
performance at the organizational level. A popular model named “performance = f{employees’
ability, motivation and opportunity to participate}” argues that organizational interests are best
satisfied by an HR system that aims to provide proper opportunities and platforms for skilled
employees [29]. AMO theory stresses that employees’ abilities, motivations, and opportunities
contribute to organizational performance; this is an integrating perspective illustrating why and how
leaders and strategic HRM practices promote firm performance [11,30].
Workplace creativity is often referred to original, novel, and useful ideas generated by
individuals in an organizational context. Workplace creativity can improve company performance
or, rather, employee creativity belongs to the first crucial stage of innovation that makes growth
Figure 1. Hypothesized theoretical model.
2. Literature Review and Research Hypotheses
2.1. Ability–Motivation–Opportunity Theory
The AMO theory [11] is an important theoretical paradigm in the strategic HRM literature [25,26].
Its central tenet draws attention to the impact of HR systems on overall employees behavior
performance at the organizational level. A popular model named “performance = f{employees’
ability, motivation and opportunity to participate}” argues that organizational interests are best
satisfied by an HR system that aims to provide proper opportunities and platforms for skilled
employees [
29]. AMO theory stresses that employees’ abilities, motivations, and opportunities
contribute to organizational performance; this is an integrating perspective illustrating why and
how leaders and strategic HRM practices promote firm performance [
11,30].
Workplace creativity is often referred to original, novel, and useful ideas generated by
individuals in an organizational context. Workplace creativity can improve company performance
or, rather, employee creativity belongs to the first crucial stage of innovation that makes growth
happen [
12,14]. Competent and motivated individuals may not necessarily guarantee good
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behavioral performance—providing the right opportunities and platforms cannot be ignored [29].
As an indispensable part of workplace creativity, employees’ green creativity can be seen as the
same process. The main difference is that employees’ green creativity is more concerned with the
environment. According to this logic, the generation of novel and useful environmental ideas created
via the interaction between individual and situational factors will inevitably be influenced by AMO
factors [
31]. Therefore, our article used AMO theory to analyze individuals’ green creativity in
the workplace.
Due to its close association with the field of strategic HRM, improving GHRM has almost always
been conceptualized in terms of a behavioral perspective of strategic HRM [
32]. This assumes that
under an HRM system, planned HR deployments and activities are intended to enable the organization
to achieve its environmental goals [
33,34]. For exle, Jabbour (2013) argued that making full use of
HRM measures like training employees and appraising their environmental performance can help a
company to vastly improve its environmental performance and enhance its green competitiveness [
35].
However, to improve green competence, the support role played by leaders and employees’
participation cannot be separated from this process [
5]. Employees are the main actors in the
implementation of various GHRM measures, are in touch with production processes and can
detect potential improvements and opportunities for new ideas. However, it is worth noting that
both the implementation of GHRM measures and employee development of green creativity are
within the leadership jurisdiction [
36]. Below, we demonstrated the importance of two valuable
factors—transformational leadership and employees’ green passion—in the strategic contribution of
GHRM to green creativity in the workplace.
2.2. Transformational Leadership and Employees’ Green Creativity
Proper leadership has great potential to enhance employees’ green creativity by motivating
them and fostering an atmosphere that is conducive to green creativity [
3740]. Although scholars
still debate which type of leadership is beneficial to organizational creativity, research has already
emphasized the significance of transformational leadership during this process [
37,41].
According to Avolio et al. (1991) [
42] and Avolio (2004) [43], transformational leadership
tries to promote the awareness of subordinates through higher ideals such as freedom, justice,
fairness, and humanitarianism, and encourages subordinates to value organizational interests
over personal interests. Four behavioral components—inspirational motivation, charisma, personal
attention, and intellectual stimulation—determine the ability of transformational leaders to inspire their
followers [
37].
Inspirational motivation refers to a desirable vision and high expectations that the leader applies
to arouse subordinates’ work enthusiasm, strengthening their commitment to the organization’s goals
and vision and making them more willing to contribute green ideas for the future [
44]. Charisma
(or idealized influence) arouses subordinates’ strong emotional identity, making them more willing to
invest in actions that are consistent with the leader’s goals [
22]. Therefore, when an organization is
committed to enhancing green creativity, employees under transformational leadership will be eager to
engage in green creativity, thereby contributing more green ideas. Personal attention involves leaders
actively listening to employees through giving priority to their needs, sharing experiences with them,
using communication skills rather than power, and assisting their hard work by providing them with
a framework to help them overcome challenges and caring about each individual’s unique abilities
and interests [
45]. In this approach, transformational leadership not only stimulates employees’ green
creative motivation and enhances their ability to cope with uncertainty and overcome challenges,
but also provides a platform and opportunity for them by encouraging the creation of green ideas [
46].
Finally, intellectual stimulation indicates the leader’s emphasis on creating an open environment,
pursuing new knowledge, and respecting the pioneering spirit. This will inspire employees’ initiative
awareness and give them opportunities to challenge traditional values and beliefs, and generate new
green ideas [
47,48]. Taken together, the above arguments lead to the following hypothesis:
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Hypothesis 1 (H1). Transformational leadership is positively associated with employees’ green creativity.
2.3. Transformational Leadership, GHRM, and Employees’ Green Creativity
Organizational environmental strategy can positively influence a firm’s green creativity [49].
In an environmentally-friendly atmosphere, the efficient use of raw materials and even unlikely
suggestions that can result in improved environmental performance are encouraged [
50]. GHRM reflects
a firm’s orientation and strategy toward environmental protection, leverages executives to pay more
attention to the process, and encourages employees to engage in reducing environmental pollution in
the work area [
5154]. In this study, several lines of argument support our expectation of a positive
relationship. We suggest that GHRM plays a mediating role between transformational leadership and
employees’ green creativity.
Transformational leadership fully embodies the values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of senior
managers, and has a crucial influence on a company’s HRM practices [
6]. Leaders have an important
influence on the formulation of HRM concepts, goals, and policies [
55], but HRM practices have become
an important platform for senior managers to deliver organizational strategies and visions [
56]. Studies
have shown that the intellectually inspired dimension of transformational leadership has a significant
positive effect on performance management, talent management, and employee efficiency [
44].
Therefore, when an organization pursues an environmental goal, a transformational leader can
effectively convey green goals to HRM and make a positive difference.
Although the link between HRM and creativity has found support in many studies [
5760],
there is little research connecting GHRM to innovation at the individual level [
2]. Based on the
AMO framework, we find that the concrete GHRM measures can be categorized as ability-enhancing,
motivation-enhancing, and opportunity-enhancing GHRM practices. All play an important role in
generating employees’ green creativity, which is a necessary part of innovation [
2,61].
First, ability-enhancing GHRM practices mainly include green recruitment and selection,
and green training. Specifically, green recruitment and selection refers to emphasizing the employee’s
attitudes, knowledge, and behavior toward the environment when recruiting, and tends to select
employees with great environmental awareness and environmental behaviors. Compared with
subordinates who lack environmental awareness and environmental protection skills, employees
recruited by this measure are better qualified to understand the company’s environmental management
objectives, and solve problems based on environmental protection, which stimulate their motivations
for green creativity [
6]. Green training refers to a system of activities that motivating employees to
understand the importance of environmental protection and enhance their environmental sensitivity,
giving them opportunities to learn environmental protection skills and building an environmentally
friendly organizational climate that all employees are encouraged to engage with [
10,35].
Second, motivation-enhancing GHRM practices include green performance management and
green pay, and rewards ranging from financial to non-financial [
62]. Green performance management
means that there exists a system of evaluating standards and practices to evaluate the performance of
employees in the specific implementation of environmental management [
8]. It establishes a series of
green criteria, and the same time provides some guides and feedback with those who directly involved,
which will inspire employees’ motivation to participate in the green practices [
10]. For exle,
if you do not meet the energy saving indicator, your bonus will be canceled this month. Employees
who feel that their efforts are being fairly rewarded will tend to be more willing to work hard
for the organization’s environmental goals [
35]. More importantly, alongside financial incentives,
non-financial rewards such as recognition and praise help meet employees’ internal needs, thereby
enhancing the intrinsic motivation of individual creative behavior and increasing their input in the
creative process [
10,25].
Finally, opportunity-enhancing GHRM practices can be described as green involvement.
Green involvement means that there is a platform for employees to engage in environmental
management, and they have some degree of independence and freedom in their tasks, which can

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facilitate harmonious relationships between firms and employees, encourage employees to participate
more in organizational citizenship behaviors relating the firm’s environmental goal, and inspire
employees to promote more green ideas [
6,63].
Thus, we propose the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 2 (H2). Transformational leadership, mediated by GHRM, is positively associated with employees’
green creativity.
2.4. Transformational Leadership and Employees’ Green Passion
Passion results in a series of positive emotional experiences such as happiness, pride, and a
sense of accomplishment, which in turn lead to engagement in behaviors [
64]. Individuals are
more likely to be passionate about something that has social significance [
65]. Green passion is
also referred to as a positive emotion that leads to an individual being more willing to engage in
pro-environmental behaviors [
66]. A sense of calling and workplace membership can invoke green
passion when employees have a rich knowledge and awareness of environmental degradation [
67].
A feeling of optimism can also help to arouse environmental passion [
65].
The impact of leadership on employees’ green behavior has been investigated in numerous
studies [
36,65,68]. The green behavior of leaders often demonstrates a company’s strategic
environmental objectives, so that leaders play a dominant role in assisting employees to deepen
their understanding of the social importance of corporate environmental goals [
37]. Transformational
leadership, an important factor influencing leader–follower value congruence, can not only fulfil
this kind of role effectively, but it can also actively mobilize employees’ positive emotions and
create an optimistic atmosphere [
56]. First, charisma will arouse subordinates’ strong emotional
identification with their leader, and increase their willingness to understand the green goals pursued
by the leader [
22]. Second, inspirational motivation means that the leader will contribute a desirable
vision and high expectations to arouse subordinates’ green work enthusiasm, which directly invokes
employees’ green passion [
44]. Third, personal attention emphasizes that leaders can respect employees’
needs and interests, use communication skills rather than power to communicate with employees,
and help them overcome challenges at work, resulting in more positive emotions for employees [
45].
Finally, intellectual stimulation inspires employees’ initiative awareness and gives them opportunities
to challenge traditional values and beliefs, increasing their confidence, optimism, and willingness to
actively engage in solving environmental protection issues [
19,47,48]. All of these factors can motivate
employees’ environmental enthusiasm. Therefore, we propose the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 3 (H3). Transformational leadership is positively associated with employees’ green passion.
2.5. Transformational Leadership, GHRM, and Employees’ Green Passion
Environment protection is conducive to the sustainable development of society. Green human
resource management is an important embodiment of the company’s environmental protection strategy.
It conveys the value and social impact of environmental protection to employees [
51]. Green training
can facilitate the cognitive and psychological processes of how employees can strive to be good to
environment, can enhance their knowledge and skills on how to achieve this goal [
66]. Through
green pay and reward, it can be recognized and applauded for employees’ efforts and contributions to
processes on promoting environmental sustainability, which is beneficial to arouse employee green
passion [
10]. Therefore, GHRM is vital beneficial to the generate of green passion.
The theoretical reasonings above have assumed that the positive relationship between
transformational leadership and employees’ green creativity (refer to Hypothesis 1), which is mediated
by GHRM (Hypothesis 2), and that transformation leadership positively relates to green passion
(see Hypothesis 3). Considering that the arguments above imply that GHRM should positively associate
green passion, we take together the foregoing discussions and further propose:

Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 7 of 18
Hypothesis 4 (H4). Transformational leadership is positively associated with employees’ green passion,
mediated by GHRM.
2.6. Employees’ Green Passion and Green Creativity
Many studies focus on the impact of individual characteristics on creativity [16,69,70], part of
which are concerned about the influence of individual state traits on creativity. Individual state traits
are referred as motions, needs, and preferences that is prone to change as time or other circumstances
change [
69]. When experiences a strong passion, an individual will more energized, motivated,
and inspired to engage in their task, the scope of their attention will be enlarged and the flexibility
of their cognition will be enhanced, which will enhance their ability to seize the opportunity and
generate new ideas [
66]. As a positive emotion, employees’ green passion can inspire employees’ green
creativity. Accordingly, we hypothesize that:
Hypothesis 5 (H5). Transformational leadership is positively associated with employees’ green creativity,
and mediated by employees’ green passion.
Hypothesis 6 (H6). Transformational leaders can inspire employees’ green passion through influencing green
human resource management, and ultimately positively can affect employees’ green creativity.
3. Methods
3.1. Sle and Procedure
For this study, we applied a questionnaire survey to verify the hypotheses from medical firms
located in the northeastern part of China. There are two reasons to select these firms as research
objects. First, both the medical production process and the product itself may pollute air, land, or water
resources, which leads these kind of firms to face strict environmental regulations. The medical
companies need to enhance their environmental management and to develop green products, which are
great beneficial for them to turn the environmental challenges to advantages. Second, due to the
climatic factors in autumn and winter in northern China, environmental problems such as haze can
be aggravated. Therefore, some enterprises in this region that may have environmental pollution
problems will face more stringent supervision. So it is meaningful to investigate the influences of
transformational leadership, GHRM, and employees’ green passion on how to inspire employees’
green creativity when environmental trends become a huge challenge for them. We used a survey for
examining the relationship shared by transformational leadership, GHRM, employees’ green passion,
and employees’ green creativity. All participants were informed that participation was voluntary and
that their responses were confidential. Subsequently, the questionnaires were randomly mailed by
using postage-paid envelopes to the company.
Data were collected from two sources (the employees and the HR managers) at two points in
time. At Time 1, we mailed the questionnaires, mainly including transformational leadership and
GHRM to the HR managers of the targeted firms (n = 150) in the region. The HR managers provided
their demographic information and ratings to assess GHRM, and the same time they distributed
surveys to employees who are responsible for ratings transformational leadership by thinking about
the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of his/her respective company. We used the employees’ perceived
transformational leadership to measure the attribute of the CEOs’ transformational leadership,
which has been proved by Waldman et al. (2001) [
71]. At Time 2, approximately three months
later, HR managers distributed a second survey that asked employees to rate their green passion and
green creativity. From the invitations, this study distributed 150 questionnaires and received 120 valid
responses. The response rate was 80%. Table
1 displays the descriptive statistics of the 120 usable
responses. A majority of the survey participants were male (64.17%), aged 36–40 (30.50%).

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Table 1. Demographic characteristics of respondents.
Characteristic Categories N %
Gender male 77 64.17%
female 43 35.83%
Age
a
under 25 9 7.50%
26–30 34 28.33%
31–35 14 11.67%
36–40 36 30.50%
41–45 14 11.67%
46–50 13 10.33%
Note: N = 120. a In order to facilitate statistics, the age is divided into age
groups, but the research objects actually filled in the questionnaire is the
age with a specific number.
3.2. Measures
We refer to the past literature to design questionnaire items. The questionnaires were developed
in English. However, for collecting the data effectively, the questionnaires were translated into Chinese
with the help of two different bilingual experts for protecting the conversion quality [
72]. Before the
questionnaire was finalized and surveyed, some employees of the target companies were required to
assess the suitability about the design and wording of questionnaire. We modified the questionnaire
in the first pretest according to the opinions of the pre-examinees. All responses were made using
a 5-point Likert-scale (1 = ‘strongly disagree’ and 5 = ‘strongly agree’) unless indicated otherwise.
Transformational leadership: The items of transformational leadership adopted nine items
developed by Lin, Dang and Liu [
73], who made some adaptions from the measures of Waldman
et al. [
71] and McColl-Kennedy and Anderson [74]. The sle items included: “The leader shows
determination when accomplishing goals”, “The leader makes people have complete confidence in
him/her”, and “The leader transmits a sense of mission”. The Cronbach’s Alpha was 0.89 (see Table 3).
Green human resource management: HR managers provided ratings of GHRM using 18 items
developed by Tang, Chen, Jiang, Paill
é, and Jia [10], which include green recruitment and selection,
green training, green performance management, green compensation, and green involvement. Sle
items included “We use green performance indicators in our performance management system
and appraisals”, and “We develop training programs in environmental management to increase
environmental awareness, skills and expertise”. The Cronbach’s alpha was 0.96 (see Table 3).
Employees’ green passion: Employees provided ratings of green passion using 10 items developed
by Robertson and Barling [
65]. Sle items included “I am passionate about the environment”,
and “I enjoy engaging in environmentally friendly behaviors”. The Cronbach’s alpha was 0.89
(see Table 3).
Employees’ green creativity: Employees provided ratings of green creativity using three items
developed by Chen and Chang [
3]. Sle items included “The members of the green product
development project suggest new ways to achieve environmental goals”, “The members of the green
product development project propose new green ideas to improve environmental performance”,
and “The members of the green product development project promote and chion new green ideas
to others”. The Cronbach’s alpha was 0.76 (see Table 3).
Control variables: Several individual-level variables were included in our analyses to control for
their influence on green- outcomes. We controlled for the employee’s age and gender, as some
evidence suggested that they might influence environmental attitudes and behaviors. For this same
reason, we controlled for employees’ tenure with their leaders.

Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 9 of 18
4. Results
4.1. Confirmatory Factor Analysis
In order to evaluate the distinctiveness of the key variables including transformational leadership,
GHRM, employees’ green passion, and employees’ green creativity, we conducted confirmatory factor
analyses (CFAs) using AMOS 22.0. As shown in Table
2, the four-factor model provided a good fit
to the data (
χ2 = 200.20, df = 129, RMSEA = 0.07, CFI = 0.96, TLI = 0.95, SRMR = 0.05). Specifically,
the fitness of the four-factor model was significantly better than the three-factor model, the two-factor
model and the single-factor model with the data (see Table
2 for details), which indicated that the
measurement had good discriminant validity. The single-factor model fitted the worst, indicating that
the common method bias problem may exist, but that it is not serious. In addition, the analysis results
showed that the factor loading coefficients of all the items in the four-factor model were significant,
and greater than 0.5, which reflected that the measurement had good convergence validity. Given these
results, all four constructs were applied in subsequent analyses.
Table 2. Results of CFA for the measures of the variables studied.
Model χ2 Df RMSEA TLI CFI SRMR
Four-factor model 200.20 129 0.07 0.95 0.96 0.05
Three-factor model
a 345.13 132 0.12 0.84 0.87 0.07
Three-factor model
b 366.63 132 0.12 0.83 0.85 0.08
Two-factor model
c 539.79 134 0.16 0.71 0.74 0.10
One-factor model 827.43 135 0.21 0.50 0.56 0.14
Note: N = 120. a employees’ green creativity and employees’ green passion combined; b employees’ green creativity
and GHRM combined;
c employees’ green creativity, employees’ green passion and GHRM combined.
4.2. Descriptive Statistics
Table 3 summarizes the mean, variance, and correlation coefficients of the variables. As can be
seen that transformational leadership is positively to green creativity (r = 0.31,
p < 0. 01),
GHRM (r = 0.47,
p < 0.01) and employees’ green passion (r = 0.36, p < 0.01). At the same time,
employees’ green passion showed a significant positive correlation with green creativity (r = 0.56,
p < 0.01). These results are consistent with the direction of our research hypothesis, providing
preliminary evidence for the validation of the hypothesis.
Table 3. Descriptive statistics, reliability estimates, and study variable intercorrelations.
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Age 1
2. Gender
a 0.35 ** 1
3. Tenure with the leader 0.56 **
0.15 1
4. Transformational leadership 0.13
0.02 0.18 * (0.89) b
5. GHRM 0.11 0.17 0.09 0.47 ** (0.91) c
6. Green passion 0.04 0.06 0.09 0.36 ** 0.52 ** (0.89) d
7. Green creativity 0.05 0.25 ** 0.04 0.31 ** 0.57 ** 0.56 ** (0.76) e
Mean 35.37 0.36 5.71 4.01 3.88 4.14 3.84
SD 7.26 0.48 4.93 0.58 0.50 0.56 0.58
Note: N = 120; GHRM: green human resource management; SD standard deviation; ** p < 0.01, * p < 0.05. a Gender:
male = 0; female = 1;
b The Cronbach’s alpha of transformational leadership; c The Cronbach’s alpha of GHRM;
d The Cronbach’s alpha of green passion; e The Cronbach’s alpha of green creativity.
Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 10 of 18
4.3. Hypotheses Testing
Hypothesis 1 proposed the positive effects of transformational leadership on employees’ green
creativity. As can be seen in Table
4, results of the analysis indicated that transformational leadership
had a significant positive effect on green creativity, thus, Hypothesis 1 was well supported (M7,
b = 0.32,
p < 0.01). Hypothesis 2 indicated that GHRM mediated the relationship between transformational
leadership and employees’ green creativity. Transformational leadership behavior also had a significant
positive effect on GHRM (M2,
b = 0.46, p < 0.01). Model 8 illustrated that GHRM was positively
to green creativity (M8,
b = 0.53, p < 0. 01). However, after adding mediating variables
(GHRM), the positive influence of transformational leadership on green creativity was affected and
non-significant (M8,
b = 0.07, p value was not significant), which indicated that the GHRM played
a completely mediating role in the relationship to transformational leadership and green creativity.
The results well supported Hypothesis 2.
Hypothesis 3 predicted that there existed a positive relationship between transformational
leadership and employees’ green passion. As shown in Table
3, transformational leadership
behavior had a significant positive effect on employees’ green passion; thus, Hypothesis 3 was
supported (M4,
b = 0.35, p < 0.01). Hypothesis 4 predicted that GHRM also played a mediated role
between transformational leadership and employees’ green passion. First it has been proven that
transformational leadership behavior had a significant positive effect on GHRM (M2,
b = 0.46, p < 0.01).
Secondly, in Model 5 and Model 10 of Table
3, GHRM was positively to employees’ green
passion (M5,
b = 0.35, p < 0. 01). However, after adding mediating variables (GHRM), the positive
influence of transformational leadership on green passion was affected and non-significant (M9,
b = 0.14, p value was not significant), which indicated that GHRM played a completely mediating
role in the relationship between transformational leadership and employees’ green passion. Thus,
Hypothesis 4 were supported.
Hypothesis 5 referred that employees’ green passion could mediated the relationship between
transformational leadership and employees’ green creativity. First, it has been proven that transformational
leadership behavior had a significant positive effect on employees’ green passion (M4,
b = 0.35, p < 0.01)
and green creativity (M7,
b = 0.32, p < 0.01). Secondly, Model 9 showed that employees’ green passion
was positively to green creativity (M9,
b = 0.51, p < 0.01). However, after adding mediating
variables (green passion), the positive influence of transformational leadership on green creativity
was affected and non-significant (M9,
b = 0.14, p value was not significant), which indicated that
the employees’ green creativity played a completely mediating role in the relationship between
transformational leadership and green creativity, so that Hypothesis 5 was supported. Hypothesis 6
proposed a continuous mediation model, which was also supported. Table
5 provided further evidence,
and from this, we can also see that the path transformation leadership
! GHRM ! employees’ green
passion
! green creativity was significant at the 95% confidence interval, which meant that Hypothesis
6 was validated.

Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 11 of 18
Table 4. Parameter estimates for the proposed model.
GHRM Green Passion Green Creativity
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5 Model 6 Model 7 Model 8 Model 9 Model 10
Controls
Age
0.18 0.20 0.11 0.12 0.03 0.07 0.06 0.16 0.12 0.18
Gender 0.17 0.15 0.09 0.08 0.01 0.31 ** 0.30 ** 0.22 * 0.26 ** 0.22 **
Tenure with the leader 0.23 * 0.14 0.17 0.10 0.04
0.02 0.08 0.16 0.14 0.17 *
Independent Variable
Transformational leadership 0.46 ** 0.35 ** 0.15 0.32 ** 0.07 0.14 0.01
Mediators
GHRM 0.43 ** 0.53 ** 0.37 **
Green passion 0.51 ** 0.38 **
F 2.76 * 9.83 ** 1.08 4.45 ** 8.05 ** 3.27 * 5.78 ** 12.99 ** 14.11 ** 16.28 **
R
2 0.08 0.28 0.03 0.15 0.29 0.09 0.19 0.40 0.42 0.50
DF 2.76 * 28.75 1.08 14.13 ** 19.21 ** 3.27 * 12.21 ** 34.16 ** 38.70 ** 20.16 **
DR2 0.08 0.21 0.03 0.12 0.14 0.09 0.10 0.21 0.23 0.10
Note: N = 120; ** p < 0.01, * p < 0.05; GHRM: green human resource management.
Table 5. Comparison of mediating effects.
Mechanism Effect Amount 95% CI
Total effect Transformational leadership ! Green creativity 0.31 (0.169, 0.461)
Indirect effect Transformational leadership
! GHRM ! Green
passion
! Green creativity 0.08 (0.043, 0.137)
Note: N = 120; GHRM: green human resource management.
5. Discussion and Conclusion
5.1. Discussion
When the challenge brought by the environment has become a factor that cannot be ignored,
promoting employees’ green creativity is critical for firms to build a green competitive advantage by
improving employees’ ability, motivation, and opportunity to generate new green ideas. This study
provides empirical evidence for a positive relationship among transformational leadership, GHRM,
employees’ green passion and green creativity in China. We also take the perspective of AMO
in environmental performance management to study how transformational leadership, GHRM,
and employees’ green passion influences employees’ green creativity, from two aspects of organizational
contexts and personal characteristics. To enrich the AMO theory, we further tested the impact of the
continuous mediating of GHRM and employees’ green passion.
5.2. Implications for Theories
The academics contributions of this study are three-fold. First, it provides robust empirical
support for the antecedents of employees’ creativity concerning environmental protection from
the perspective of cross-level interactions between individuals (employees’ green passion) and
organizational contexts (transformational leadership, GHRM). The exertion of individual creativity
is influenced by individual characteristics and organizational contexts [
75]. Previous research on
the individual determinants of creativity was often considered from two separate perspectives:
personal characteristics, or organizational context [
25,76,77], and the effect of cross-level interactions
between individual and organizational context variables were ignored. Partly motivated by this
gap, we explored the interactions impacts among transformational leadership, GHRM (this two are
selected as organizational context) and employees’ green passion (individual emotion) on employees’
green creativity. We found that GHRM and employees’ green passion have played a continuously

Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 12 of 18
mediative role in the relationship with transformational leadership and employees’ green creativity,
which provided further validation that the interactive impact of organizational context and personal
features on individual creativity.
Second, our research enriches transformational leadership and AMO theory in the environmental
management field. On one hand, the role of transformational leadership in building competitive
advantages and enhancing innovation has been extensively examined [
37,78]. However, insufficient
knowledge had been accumulated regarding the way in which transformational leadership contributes
to creativity, as creativity is the first and one of the critical indicators for innovation, not even
considering the impact of transformational leadership on green creativity. It has been confirmed
that the positive impact of transformational leadership on employees’ green creativity in our article.
On the other hand, this study extends the research on the influencing factors of green creativity from
the perspective of AMO theory. Previous research on employee creativity has focused on products,
production processes, etc. Little consideration, however, has been given to environmental factors [
1,2].
Therefore, our results enriched the research on the relationship between leadership style and green
creativity, and expanded the theoretical perspective of AMO theory in environmental management.
Third, we have further studied the antecedent variables and outcome variables of GHRM,
which responded well to the call for integrating strategic human resource management and environmental
sustainability [
6,7981]. Environmental issues have become challenges that cannot be ignored
for enterprises to achieve sustainable development and gain competitive advantages. Of course,
if companies solve them properly, these challenges will change into opportunities [
3]. Based on
the AMO theory, our results shown the important role of GHRM played in undertaking corporate
environmental strategy and stimulating people to achieve corporate strategic goals [
32]. As a behavioral
perspective of strategy HRM, GHRM reflected the company’s green strategy and stimulated employees’
green passion, which was beneficial to help the firms to gain green creativity and competitiveness by
enhancing employees’ ability, motivation, and opportunity to generate new ideas. This contribution
is an effective supplement for current GHRM literature which is largely under-theorized, and prior
studies tend to simply consider the combination of the existence of green elements and HRM [
82,83].
5.3. Implications for Practices
Our findings provide managers with a deeper understanding of how to achieve superior
green creativity among their employees, especially when firms desire to turn the challenges
brought by environmental issues into opportunities. First, it should be realized that investing in
environmental issues were not a waste of time, efforts, resources, which increased the burden of a
firm. In contrast, it has become an effective approach to gain competitive advantages by enhancing
green creativity nowadays, which can help firms to seize new green markets. Therefore, companies
should appropriately increase investment in environmental management and strive to establish
an environmentally friendly image to attract like-minded job seekers. In order to stimulating employees’
green enthusiasm and green creativity, firms are supposed to create an active support environment,
such as providing financial support, introducing advanced environmental management techniques,
and developing a system that encourages employees’ green creativity.
Second, companies would need to align the concept of green into their long-run environmental
strategies that it would require a high level system of GHRM practices, including green training and
development, green pay, and rewards and so on. The environmental strategy provides a direction
for companies to cultivate green competitiveness and creates an environment-friendly atmosphere,
which provides the necessary resources and support to generate ideas that are conducive to the
sustainable development of the company. So, the HR department should seriously implement GHRM
practices. For exle, when recruiting new employees, paying more attention to the environmental
quality and environmental awareness of employees. Green training should not only focus on enhancing
employees’ environmental protection skills, but they should also try to pass on the company’s
environmental management goals and values to the individuals.

Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 13 of 18
Third, this study provides crucial suggestions for managers using transformational leadership
to guide GHRM and inspire employees’ green passion. Leaders can leverage transformational
behaviors in the early stages of GHRM development to establish norms for cooperation, green,
and innovation [
19], and can commit a certain amount of organizational resources in order
to devise eco-friendly passion and creativity for employees [
23]. Therefore, transformational
leadership can improve firms’ green creativity by influencing GHRM and stimulating employees’
creativity. This reminds practitioners that in order to enhance green creativity and gain green
competitiveness, firms can focus on fostering transformational leadership, and making managers
can play a vital role by acting as messengers or representatives in the process of leading the
green creativity [
84]. Some managerial interventions, such as green team building, brainstorming
competitions, or compensation plans for increasing green creativity, might be good choices.
Finally, our research was carried out in the context of China. As we know, China is the second
largest economy in the world. Until the early 21st century, enterprises have been excessively pursuing
economic benefits and neglecting environmental issues in the process of development. However,
with the degradation of environment, the awareness of us relating environmental protection has
gradually increased. The Chinese government is also actively promoting the transformation of
the development model of enterprises, and urging enterprises to regard economic development,
and protection of the ecological environment as equally important which may bring certain challenges
to the firms [
23]. Through environmental management, mobilizing the environmental passion of
employees and enhancing their green creativity; however, it is also possible for companies to turn
challenges into opportunities and gain the competitive advantage. To companies that may face the
same development scenarios in emerging economies, our research can provide evidence for their
companies to transform their economic development models and to achieve green development goals.
5.4. Limitations and Future Directions
While conducting our study, there were some limitations need to be discussed. Firstly, our data
mainly relies on a cross-sectional survey, which means that establishing a causal relation between
research variables is hard. We recommend that future studies can use a longitudinal research design to
determine how transformational leadership, GHRM, employees’ green passion, and green creativity
affect each other at different stages of their development in different industries.
Secondly, the data mainly came from the same sle, which meant that a common method bias
maybe a potential problem. We used single-factor model fitting to evaluate whether the common
method bias had serious effects, and we found that it did not have a serious impact in this study.
For future research, we suggest collecting data from different sources of information to reduce the
likelihood of common method bias. Our study used employees’ perceived transformational leadership
to measure the attribute of CEOs’ transformational leadership. Although it has been proved by
Waldman et al. [
71], if the leader or CEO directly addresses the relevant items, the measurement of
transformational leadership will be more valid. Thus, we recommend that future research should be
based on the perception of the CEO or the leader of a firm when measuring transformational leadership.
Thirdly, this research mainly revealed the impact mechanism of active leadership (transformational
leadership) on employees’ green creativity, but there are some other leadership perspectives,
including responsible leadership form active leadership types or negative leadership such as abusive
management, destructive leadership, which are also important for understanding the contextual
factors of employee creativity. Therefore, we suggest that future research can further explore other
leadership when researching the contextual factors on employees’ green creativity from the perspective
of leadership.
Finally, our research mainly considered the mechanism of transformational leadership influencing
employees’ green creativity from the perspective of employee green passion, and ignored other
personal characteristics that affect employee creativity, such as employees’ green self-efficacy and

Sustainability 2018, 10, 3237 14 of 18
green attitude. We suggest that future research can integrate more perspectives to exploring the
mechanism of leadership’s influence on employee creativity.
5.5. Conclusions
This study has indicated that the transformational leadership and GHRM may play important
role in promoting green creativity among employees. More importantly, the relationship between these
variables was further studied from the perspective of the interaction between individual characteristics
and organizational contexts. Therefore, this study can improve our understanding of how firms can
enhance green creativity by fully mobilizing factors that influence the creative process. The presented
findings may prove to be beneficial to the forerunners of the organizations or the researchers to perform
similar studies in other countries to prove whether our findings have a wide adaptability, even outside
China. Overall, while environmental protection has become a key concern for global business leaders,
and it is imperative for enterprises to gain a better understanding of how to transform their social
liabilities to economic benefits. We believe that this paper indeed points out a feasible approach with
valuable empirical evidence for firms to follow. More specifically, echoing the new trend of achieving
both ecology- and economy-friendly innovation in business practice, this research, which highlights
the significance of GHRM and green creativity, can bring new insight into how firms take social
responsibility and innovate for not only themselves, but for the whole society.
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, J.J.; Formal Analysis, H.L.; Data Curation, T.C.; Writing-Review
#038; Editing, D.H.
Funding: This research was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (71672031 and 71872102),
Humanities and Social Science Foundation of the Ministry of Education of China (17YJA630093 and 16YJA630018),
Shandong Province Social Science Planning Young Scholars Programs (16CQXJ06), Fundamental Research Funds
for the Central Universities of China (N160602001), Social Science Foundation of Liaoning in China (L17AGL005).
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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