Press Release

A leading environmental charity has found that 85% of sustainability managers believe that there is “a lot more” their staff could do to make their organization run sustainably.

In conversation with representatives from a cross-section of UK organizations, Global Action Plan (GAP) uncovered seven barriers that sustainability managers face when trying to motivate their colleagues to take action on the environment in the workplace.

GAP hosted a series of business round tables in 2015. At these events, they invited their business, NGO and public sector contacts to share of the challenges they faced in their day-to-day work, and explore solutions to these challenges.

While most large organizations have an employee engagement programme or champions network to encourage sustainable behaviour, the majority of sustainability professionals GAP spoke to felt their colleagues could do more for the environment at work. Participants in the round tables discussed a range of issues, but some common themes stood out across all the sessions.

Perhaps the biggest barrier they identified was a lack of senior buy-in. They acknowledged having someone at executive level who publicly endorse sustainability work can make a huge difference to its impact, because people carrying out the work on the ground need the praise and recognition that will motivate them to continue.

Another key challenge was engaging therefusers” – with participants describing a range of excuses given to them by colleagues who were unwilling to change their behaviour. Not seeing the work as relevant to them, being too busy and being unwilling to change their habits were three common reasons.

The other challenges were: embedding good practice – the need achieve consistency across teams and departments; building an effective champions network; keeping momentum; selling the environmental message; and knowing how and when to measure results.

GAP Partner Chris Large said: -

“These conversations with sustainability professionals highlighted that success in supporting workforces to adopt sustainable practices is confined to isolated improvement. Despite employers communicating with staff on environmental issues being the norm, employees can still do much more to reduce the environmental impact of their workplaces. We have to be more targeted in our ask of employees, provide practical support and incentives alongside encouraging communications and improve our measurement of preferred behaviours,”

The charity will be addressing each of these challenges in detail in the coming months, in a series of blogs that look at ways sustainability teams can overcome them. Participants at the round tables put forward a number of suggestions and examples of good practice

Each blog will take solutions discussed at the round tables, as well as examples from GAP’s own work, and explore how to apply them in each context. The blogs are aimed at anyone who is responsible for developing and implementing their company’s sustainability strategy, to give them ideas for building a body of engaged and active employees, who are each doing their bit to make the organisation more sustainable for the future.