Behavioural ScienceChelle Watson

Going Green in the Workplace

Over recent years going green has hit the mainstream. We read about the melting ice caps in the papers, see ever-increasing numbers of natural disasters on the news, and hear the likes of  Leonardo DiCaprio claiming "Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity". Watch Dr Seuss' The Lorax and you will see how "green" has become embedded in pop culture; even among the young. 

Going Green in the Workplace

Yet despite the amount of lip service paid to environmental issues, globally we still see some resistance towards going green in everyday life. Research suggests that this boils down to 3 main reasons:

  • Being green gets confusing: The list of green behaviours gets longer by the minute, and an individual can feel overwhelmed with no knowledge of where to start.
  • "Drop in the ocean" mentality: The actions of an individual are perceived to make little difference.
  • Complacency: People have a natural aversion to changing behaviours, even if they have positive outcomes.

Convenient green steps that do not require a lifestyle change are more easily adopted. For example, reusable bags and keep cups are on trend. But convincing people to reduce car use or meat consumption is more of an uphill battle. Based on short survey we conducted with staff at 2CV, we see that 92% consider themselves "part-time greenies": they act green whenever it suits them, but not if it requires extra effort.

Research by The Guardian shows that environmental responsibilities are ignored to a greater extent at work. Even employees who engage with eco-friendly behaviours at home struggle to adopt these behaviours in the workplace as they don't carry the financial consequence of energy usage, but also have less control of resources such as heating and lighting.

2CV has recently decided to tackle the challenge of going green in the workplace with the birth of Team Green in March 2016: a team of volunteers to promote eco-friendly behaviour. Their initiatives so far have included:

  • Recycling food waste (adopted by 71% of 2CV staff)
  • Sorting rubbish correctly (69%)
  • Taking the stairs more (63%)
  • Reducing number of documents printed (56%)
  • Meat Free Monday (19%)
  • Using eco-friendly paper in all company printers

The response so far? Overwhelmingly positive! 98% of staff at 2CV claim to have changed their behaviour as a result of Team Green activity, particularly the quick wins. Based on feedback, we see that posters around the office and regular emails provide the small nudges needed to keep people engaged and interested. Almost a third (29%) say they would like to see more green initiatives around the office. We believe that whilst people are generally less likely to engage in environmental behaviours in the workplace, there are steps that can be taken to make a positive change, and we are looking forward to tracking our future progress.

Chelle Watson

Senior Research Executive

2CV London


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