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Survey: Employees lack trust, guidance with sustainability in workplace

Most employees are both unhappy with their employer's lack of climate action and don't know how to incorporate sustainability into their own roles, the survey found.
Olivia Peluso
employees in an office
Photo by Israel Andrade on Unsplash

Three-quarters of workers are unhappy with their employer’s lack of climate action, according to a survey published this week by climate and sustainability training organization AimHi Earth. 

The survey of nearly 2,000 professionals found that 77% of workers reported being unhappy with their employer’s lack of climate action, while roughly half (52%) think their employer is likely to greenwash. Further, nearly all (93%) of workers don’t know how to apply their company’s sustainability strategy to their day-to-day roles, the London-based firm found.

Some nine in ten (88%) did not believe sustainability was critical for their department, and more than half (53%) said it was not essential to their company’s long-term viability. 

The survey also revealed that employees do not feel confident when it comes to understanding and discussing climate and biodiversity crises, with just over half (55%) claiming that they have only a surface-level knowledge of sustainability. Some two-thirds of these employees don’t believe their individual actions at work can have an impact on reducing emissions and contributing to more climate-friendly practices. 

Sue Husband, community impact director at Business in the Community, told People Management: “As we transition towards a net-zero, resilient future, it is becoming increasingly clear that sustainability must be embedded into every role, whether an employee works specifically on sustainability or not.”

Husband advised that, to ensure workers feel like a significant part of the decarbonisation journey, business leaders should use “clear and jargon-free language” when discussing sustainable initiatives and to educate all employees on the importance of their role in helping transition towards a net-zero future. 

"The change we need can’t be achieved fast enough by a few passionate individuals. Rather than a 10x bigger sustainability team, I'd sooner have 1000x more employees earnestly thinking about sustainability at least 5% of the time. That's what would really accelerate change,” said one head of sustainability at a Fortune 500 company who was surveyed. 

The AimHi study follows previous research by Indeed in which 55% of working people said having a role that positively impacts the environment was more important to them now than when they started their careers. 

Companies are taking different approaches to getting their workers involved with sustainability initiatives. LEGO Group recently introduced an annual KPI that links a portion of bonus payments for its salaried workers to the company’s annual operational emissions, putting decarbonisation in focus across all departments. 

There are also tools to help employees identify their impact. Drawdown Labs’ Climate Solutions at Work guide was made to help employees find ways to be more ambitious with climate action in the workplace. WeSpire’s Employee Carbon Management Solution offers employees insight into their own carbon footprints and recommends steps to reduce their impact.