People need incentives to bring green habits to work

While most employees make attempts to save energy and recycle at home, their environmental conscience tends to be less active once they get to work.

According to research commissioned by business consultants Logicalis, workers would be greener if companies gave them incentives and bosses led by example.

A survey of over 1,000 employees in December 2006 found that almost two thirds thought incentives should be put in place while 57% said they would be encouraged to do their bit if their boss took the initiative.

On the flip side of the coin, almost all (94%) of those questioned said they switched off lights at home when not in use while 85% said they would switch off their PC after shutting it down. Over half said they tried save energy by not over-filling the kettle.

Far, far fewer claimed to implement these habits at work, with 66% thinking about the lights, 53% not leaving IT equipment on standby and just 10% considering the kettle.

UK businesses are needlessly paying thousands of pounds more on their energy bills and emitting thousands of tonnes of carbon because of this.

Tom Kelly, managing director of Logicalis said: "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 organisations must tap into the environmental consciousness being displayed in the home to cut business energy costs and reduce the carbon and environmental footprint."

The gap in 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.

There is also the financial issue, that saving energy at home saves money, whereas there is no immediate benefit for employees to do the same once they get to work.

Working with the environmental charity the Global Action Plan, Logicalis drew up a list of five steps to encourage employees to help their company reduce its environmental impact.

In a nutshell, those steps were:
  • Incentives: Organisations must look to offer incentives to employees to bring their good environmental practice into the workplace. These might include a profit share on energy saved or contractual benefits such as a day off for departments which meet targets.

  • Leadership: Organisations must demonstrate a commitment to the environmental and energy agenda before employees will feel committed to take part. 80 per cent 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 organisation'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, such as intelligent building systems that automatically manage heating, lighting and cooling would demonstrate commitment from the employer.

  • 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. These could range from the basic, such as eco-friendly kettles in all communal kitchens to using technology such as video conferencing, to reduce corporate travel.

  • 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.

    Sam Bond

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