26 Sep 2019, 20:05

Are we all just a bunch of hypocrites when it comes to the environment?

With so much focus on the environment recently, thanks, in no small part, to Swedish teenage environmentalist Greta Thunberg and her speech at the UN climate summit in New York this week, you would be forgiven for thinking that we were perhaps reaching a turning point in public opinion about the need for change.

Across the world, millions of people, mainly young, marched for progress against global warming yet a recent survey of over 2,000 UK workers found that one in three workers say they feel no responsibility to be environmentally friendly in the workplace.

The survey by UK company Metro Rod, was undertaken to understand whether or not UK employees are as environmentally responsible in the workplace as they are at home. To this end, respondents were asked which of the following activities they are most likely to practice both at home and at work:

  • Recycling
  • Switching off all appliances at the end of the day
  • Unplugging phone chargers
  • Trying to use as little paper as possible
  • Avoiding single-use plastic
  • Separating glass, plastic, and metal for disposal

The results show that across the board, people are much more likely to be environmentally conscious at home than at work:

82% said they recycle at home, but only 66% said they do the same at work.

55% said they unplug phone chargers at home, while only 34% do the same at work.

67% separate glass, plastic and metal at home, with only 40% doing the same at work

What is perhaps most surprising is that in the survey, those aged 16-24 were least likely to undertake any of the above activities – a stark contrast to what we’re witnessing with the recent environmental protests.

So, are we all a bunch of hypocrites, or is there something more fundamental at work?

Diffusion of Responsibility

Diffusion of responsibility is ‘a sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present. The individual assumes that others either are responsible for taking action or have already done so.’

The fact that 45% of those in the same survey said that overall responsibility for good environmental practice fell to senior leadership and management teams, seems to support that theory.

Work policy      

Employers do have a responsibility to act and implement environmentally conscious working policies, as not everyone has the same level of input into working practices. 47% reported not being involved in shaping their organisation's environmental policies and four in five respondents reported having never received any environmental impact training at work.

So, what is the answer?

As an employer, lead by example and Implement your own environmental policies. Make it easy for your staff to recycle at work and consider becoming ISO14001 accredited.

Buy Green

Insist on buying from green suppliers. Whether that’s office supplies, your energy supplier or sub-contractors, explore the provenance of what they supply and check their environmental credentials and policies.

If you need any help or guidance in making your business more environmentally friendly, give us a call and we can help you implement some simple and effective measures.