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Lack of Incentives Prevent Employees Going Green at Work

Lack of incentive and leadership from bosses is causing UK employees to leave their environmental conscience at home, leading to higher energy bills and emissions by companies, according to independent research commissioned by Logicalis.

The survey (Download - PDF) of over 1,000 employees, undertaken in December 2006 across UK public and private sector organizations, found that despite a clear understanding of the steps they need to adopt to become more environmentally friendly, employees still look towards their employer to lead by example when it comes to being environmentally responsible.

Just under two thirds (62 percent) of staff said their employer should offer incentives for being green in the workplace while 57 percent said they could be encouraged to act greener if their employer 'led by example'.

The survey found that workplace attitudes sit in stark contrast to environmental efforts at home, where an impressive 94 percent of people switch off lights, 85 percent switch off their home PC after use, and over half (54 percent) save energy by regularly using only the minimum amount of water needed when boiling the kettle. Comparatively only 66 percent, 53 percent and less than 10 percent of employees respectively, carry out these simple green practices in the office.
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Tom Kelly, managing director, Logicalis UK, "What the research is telling us loud and clear is that there is a huge, wasteful consumption of energy and resources taking places in offices throughout the UK, and that organizations must tap into the environmental consciousness being displayed in the home to cut business energy costs and reduce the carbon and environmental footprint."

Such dichotomized attitudes between work and home can perhaps be explained by the fact that just under half (43.3%) of all those surveyed believed their employer only pays lip service to environmental issues, or is simply not interested in them at all, despite increasing environmental legislation and awareness, and increasing government scrutiny of the environmental impact of businesses in the UK.

This belief is supported by the research which found that three quarters of employers provide facilities for recycling paper, but don't use recycled materials themselves. Moreover, while three quarters of staff have access to double-sided printing and copying facilities, less than a quarter had been offered training in using the equipment.

Questioned about the environmental impact of their own organizations, 49 percent of staff believed their company wastes too much electricity, and a similar figure (45 percent) believed their employer should put schemes in place to help save resources in the work place. Over a third (37 percent) of staff said they would like more training on how to be environmentally friendly.

Chris Gabriel, head of solutions marketing, Logicalis UK, "This research shows that 2007 must be the year for turning well-meaning talk into action. The first step to achieving this is to put environmental issues at the top of the boardroom agenda, so that environmental best practise can filter throughout the organization from the top down. Only through strong, deliberate environmental leadership, and a commitment from government, business and employees to work together, will we see a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions from UK plc. Tokenism will no longer cut it."
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In light of the independent research and its work with government environmental charity, Global Action Plan, Logicalis suggests some key steps where organizations can focus their environmental efforts to ensure employee buy-in:

  • Incentives: Organizations must look to offer incentives to employees to bring their good environmental practice into the workplace. Schemes to promote environmental responsibility must provide either a financial or personal incentive, such as 'energy savings profit sharing’ or a change in working contracts, to encourage more flexible working practices and a better work life balance. Government must also look to using more ‘carrots’ in corporate and personal tax liabilities to encourage this behaviour.
  • Leadership: Organizations must demonstrate a commitment to the environmental and energy agenda before employees will feel committed to take part. 80 percent of staff whose employers don’t have an environmental policy, say they would like them to have one. Corporate and Social Responsibility must leave the boardroom and become ingrained in an organization’s culture, in order to create a shared sense of responsibility.
  • Innovation: Employees want their workplace to be more environmentally friendly and want to be able to control their own impact. Increased use of traditional approaches such as recycling must be complimented with building and workplace innovation, removing the feeling of lack of control from the employee and embedding it within the working environment. Investments in intelligent building systems that automatically manage heating, lighting and cooling would demonstrate commitment from the employer and encourage better overall working practices.
  • Technology: The deployment of low-carbon and high-efficiency products can have a dramatic effect on the way people work and the amount of energy they use. Suggestions range from the basic, such as eco-friendly kettles in all communal kitchens which use up to 30 percent less electricity than normal kettles, to using technology such as video conferencing, to reduce corporate travel. Half (46 percent) of staff have access to tools such as remote email which enables home working, and reduces a company’s carbon foot print, but only 15 percent of contracts support them working in this way.
  • Education: Helping employees understand the impact of their actions is a cheap and effective way to encourage them to adopt a more environmentally friendly attitude in work. An average PC is responsible for almost 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually - 15 PCs can generate the equivalent CO2 that a typical car produces in a year. Just by switching off PCs when not in use, an SME could save one tonne of carbon - enough to fill four double-decker buses.

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