Staff at businesses taking ambitious climate action report higher job satisfaction, survey finds

The survey was conducted by research and communications firm Kite Insights, polling more than 6,800 workers globally with more than 1,000 UK respondents across 15 sectors. The aim was to measure employee attitudes to climate issues and whether they believe their employers are playing their part in addressing these challenges.

Of the UK-based respondents, there was an overarching consensus that climate change is a threat with negative consequences for the environment, society and the economy. 96% said that changes need to be made to reduce emissions and improve resilience.

With this base level of awareness in mind, 93% said that it is important for their motivation and wellbeing in the workplace to feel that they are playing their part in addressing climate issues. 78% said they are willing to take more action at work to improve their organisation’s climate approaches and impact.

The survey revealed that, in many cases, employee appetite for climate education and action was outpacing the delivery measures made by their employers. 61% of those polled said they are unable to explain their employers’ climate commitments. Of those who could explain them, around one-third believed that they are not ambitious enough, and/or not backed up with significant plans to translate commitments into action.

Kite Insights has warned that, while more and more businesses are setting top-level net-zero commitments individually and through forums like the Race to Zero, these commitments have “been slow to translate to employee engagement and decarbonisation”. This is despite the fact that a business’s ability to deliver on targets will ultimately require changes to be made beyond the sustainability department.

Training was found to be a key sticking point. Half of the respondents said they have asked for climate-related training at work or are planning to do so. One in ten said they were “willing to walk” unless training is provided by their employer. Without training, half of the respondents said they feel unable to champion climate action within their teams.

Kite Insights is imploring businesses to broaden their definition of a ‘climate job’ to all roles and to back up long-term targets with better employee engagement plans. The firm’s chief executive Sophie Lambin said: “As businesses move to address the climate crisis and commit to the green transition, employee engagement will be one of the main indicators and predictors of business performance and resilience. The companies whose employees are ready to embrace and pursue change, armed with the knowledge and skills to do so, will lead and succeed in the green transformation.

Lambin added: “The transformation mindset starts and ends with people. It’s about reimagining economic and planetary prosperity, and averting future crises with ingenuity and justice, and measuring the extent to which companies are actually giving their employees the means to be part of it.”

Earlier this year, the John Lewis Partnership launched energy efficiency training modules for all staff. Last year, Deloitte partnered with WWF to deliver ‘climate literacy’ training to all employees, and this initiative has since received support from other firms.

A snapshot of Europe’s approach

In related news, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has today released the results of its climate action investment survey, which polled 13,500 firms across the EU and the UK. Businesses of all sizes and major sectors are represented.

That survey revealed that, in the 2021-22 financial year, 43% of these firms made investments in climate mitigation and/or adaptation measures.  Finnish, Danish and Dutch firms generally made the most significant investments. However, 40% of firms report that they will likely have challenges raising investment this year amid rising utility and commodity costs, with investment that does happen likely to be allocated to energy efficiency and clean energy generation and procurement.

The report acknowledges that there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit for businesses to pick in terms of modernising their operations, thus reducing energy bills and emissions.

It also reveals that many businesses are already looking towards longer-term risks and opportunities relating to climate, with the Covid-19 pandemic having increased the prioritisation of risk management. 58% of the firms surveyed said that their business is already being affected by physical climate risks. This high risk perception was most pronounced in Spain and Portugal. Similarly, around half of the businesses polled said their performance is already being impacted by transition risks and opportunities.

This means that, in general, European firms place more of an onus on climate-related risk than their counterparts in the US. The EIB does note that many small firms are not currently able to access free or low-cost resources to help them measure climate risks and opportunities, or to get the finance to improve their approach.

edie’s recently hosted a webinar in association with Manifest Climate on the theme of ‘moving from risk to resilience: practical solutions to climate-proof your business’. Climate risk and opportunity reporting, and how this disclosure should influence governance and strategy, were the key topics discussed. Click here to read a write-up of eight key takeaways from that webinar.

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