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Organizational Change
Employee Survey Uncovers Crisis in Workplace Climate Engagement

93% of workers don’t know how to apply their company’s sustainability strategy to their work, 77% are unhappy with employers’ lack of climate action, and 52 percent think their employer is likely to greenwash.

Bosses are under increased scrutiny, according to a new report from a climate and sustainability training organization — revealing that nearly all workers (93 percent) don’t know how their company’s sustainability strategy applies to their day-to-day jobs.

AimHi Earth — a London-based company that empowers entire organizations to be part of climate solutions at work — has discovered that over three-quarters of employees are unhappy about their bosses’ lack of climate action (77 percent), exposing a lack of faith in senior business leaders’ sustainability efforts, and over half of those surveyed (52 percent) think their employers are likely to greenwash.

The survey of 1,727 professionals revealed that employees also feel unconfident when it comes to understanding and talking about the climate and biodiversity crises — with over half (55 percent) acknowledging they only have a surface-level knowledge of sustainability. Over two-thirds of these employees (70 percent) don’t believe their individual actions at work can have an impact on reducing emissions and protecting nature.

“We all want a livable future — with fresh air, clean water and healthy food on the table. So, yes — it’s alarming that so many employees lack faith in their employers’ efforts to combat the climate and nature emergency,” said Matthew Shribman, co-founder and Chief Scientist at AimHi Earth. “However, we’re now seeing rapidly growing demand for extensive climate and sustainability training from forward-thinking leaders. With the climate and nature emergency accelerating, these leaders understand that this kind of training is no longer a nice-to-have.”

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The AimHi Earth study follows recent research by hiring platform Indeed, in which 55 percent of employees surveyed said having a job that positively impacts the environment was more important to them now than when they started their career; and by the Net Positive Employee Barometer – whose 2023 survey of over 4,000 workers across the US and UK found that, despite economic uncertainty, 51 percent would consider resigning if their employers’ values do not align with their own.

What to do?

So, how can employers begin to address the alarming lack of employee confidence in their companies’ sustainability commitments?

As Sue Husband, community impact director at Business in the Community, told People Management: "As we transition towards a net-zero, resilient future, it is becoming increasingly clear that sustainability must be embedded into every role — whether an employee works specifically on sustainability or not.”

She added that, to ensure everyone feels a part of their company’s sustainability journey, businesses should use “clear and jargon-free language” when discussing sustainability and educate all employees on the importance of their role in achieving company goals: “In doing so, employers can better engage their employees and set them on the right track with the skills and accountability they need to be part of the solution.”

Recent WE Communications research also points to this kind of targeted, internal-communications strategy as a way to bridge the gap between the majority of employees they surveyed (78 percent) who say they have little to no involvement in their companies’ sustainability efforts but want to take part.

“Companies looking to improve their communication of sustainability strategies can look to develop measurable company-wide sustainability indicators and targets and communicate actual performance to all employees,” Bobby Banerjee, professor of sustainability at Bayes Business School, told People Management. “They can also focus on encouraging employees to measure their individual carbon footprint and discuss ideas on how to reduce it, and link performance bonuses and compensation to meeting company sustainability targets.”

LEGO Group recently did just that: The company introduced an annual KPI that ties a portion of bonus payments for its salaried workers to the company’s annual, operational emissions — to encourage all employees, regardless of role, to help the toymaker lower emissions across its factories, stores and offices around the world.

Helping employees find their inroad to making impact, regardless of job function, is critical for helping them feel effective and engaged — both in and out of work. Tools such as Drawdown LabsClimate Solutions at Work guide helps employees find ways to take bolder climate action in the workplace; while WeSpire’s Employee Carbon Management Solution offers employees insight into their own carbon footprints — particularly, outside the workplace — along with prescribed steps to take to have a tangible impact.