This article is part of our Rising Stars Portfolio series.

Companies with high-quality, engaged workforces make solid long-term investments. But how can companies recruit such workers in the first place? Investors and managers alike may not yet know about one key factor to forge a strong employee foundation.

It's no secret that consumers have responded warmly to more environmentally aware businesses in recent years. If they hadn't, I doubt that corporate giants like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) would embark on massive sustainability initiatives. Companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI) have even made greener operations critical parts of their missions.

Now, new research suggests that sustainability initiatives may actually help companies attract workers as well. A recent Harris Interactive study commissioned by carpet manufacturer Interface (Nasdaq: IFSIA) revealed that many workers may consider workplace sustainability as important as profit.

Of the 504 full-time workers surveyed, 63% considered environmental impact important when evaluating a prospective employer, while 61% gave profit margins similar importance. Some 71% of the respondents ranked "environmental protection" as "important or very important."

It's perfectly logical that Interface would commission such a study, since the company describes itself as both a carpet manufacturer and a leader in environmental sustainability. Spreading the word that employees care deeply about sustainability could help Interface push its green floor coverings into more workplaces -- and help it compete with rivals such as Mohawk Industries (NYSE: MHK), which also boasts green initiatives.

After revealing the survey results, Interface announced its new InterfaceFLOR factory in China. The facility is focused on sustainable design, customer service, efficient operations, and premium products. It even adheres to U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction (LEED-NC) program.

On the domestic front, Interface also announced the opening of a FLOR store for residential carpeting in New York's SoHo neighborhood. That store boasts an "environmentally progressive retail space," using locally sourced labor and materials and energy efficient lighting.

Happy employees who take pride in their employers represent one strong component of common-sense capitalism. The aforementioned survey may make good marketing for Interface, but it also shows that sustainability initiatives aren't merely frivolous add-ons. Stewardship for all stakeholders can actually pave the way for future profitability. That's just one reason why Interface resides on the watchlist for my Rising Star portfolio.

This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series, where we give some of our most promising stock analysts cold, hard cash to manage on the Fool's behalf. We'd like you to track our performance and benefit from these real-money, real-time free stock picks. See all of our Rising Star analysts (and their portfolios).

Google and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Whole Foods Market is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Wal-Mart has also been recommended by Motley Fool Global Gains and Motley Fool Income Investor. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Wal-Mart Stores. The Fool owns shares of Google, and Wal-Mart Stores. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market; for more on this and other topics, check back at Fool.com, or follow her on Twitter: @AlyceLomax. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.