Research from PLAY, a product development studio, has found that more than three-quarters of people (77%) want the company they work for to be more transparent about their environmental impact.
With the climate emergency firmly in the public psyche, the study found that employees are sceptical about their employer’s sustainability initiatives. Overall, only 14% of those surveyed believed that companies’ sustainability initiatives were ‘always’ impactful or genuine. This fell to under one in 10 (9%) for general employees, compared with over a third (34%) of business leaders, suggesting business leaders may be over estimating the impact and value of their existing environmental initiatives for employees.
The findings were revealed as part of a new report by PLAY, titled, Corporate climate crisis: why businesses need to support employees in making sustainable behavioural changes. For the report, PLAY surveyed 1,000 UK-based employees, split between 750 general employees and 250 business leaders/Chief Sustainability Officers, about their views on sustainability initiatives in business.
The business leader disconnect
While there is a discrepancy between employees’ and business leaders’ views on whether existing sustainability initiatives are impactful, the study showed a consensus between both groups when it came to how best to support the fight against the climate emergency. Overall, 77% of those surveyed agreed that major behaviour changes are necessary to ensure individuals, companies and countries achieve their sustainability goals. This figure was as high as 90% of those in the legal sector, 88% of those working in finance, and 84% of those in IT. Business leaders (85%) were also more likely than CSOs (79%) and employees (75%) to agree, implying that behaviour change is a priority on companies’ radar.
While business leaders want to support in improving sustainability goals and initiatives, the research shows there is a disconnect between their actions and words. While 82% of business leaders say they agree that their organisation should support employees to make sustainable decisions and display sustainable behaviours, only 38% of employees said that their company provides them with the tools and resources to build sustainable habits, and 22% don’t know if those resources are available to them. Furthermore, when queried on if their company asks or surveys employees on the areas of sustainability they see as most important and on how they perceive the company’s progress on sustainability, only 46% of business leaders said they survey on which areas are important, 34% said they survey on how employees perceive the company’s sustainability progress, and only 13% survey on both.
Innovative strategies needed
The data suggests a clear desire among employees for their company to provide more tools to help them act sustainably, and to engage them more in the process of defining and measuring sustainability targets. At the same time, employers clearly need to do more to make their efforts impactful.
When asked about what strategies they think would be most effective in achieving their company’s sustainability goals, 39% of business leaders and CSOs thought behavioural design tools, such as gamification, would be an effective strategy. For CSOs in particular, this was the most effective strategy (47%), followed by integrating sustainability into key performance indicators and appraisal processes (44%), and internal communication clearly communicating sustainability goals and agenda (38%).
Marcus Thornley, CEO and founder of PLAY comments: “Our research shows the need for business leaders to take sustainability initiatives seriously. There’s a strong desire from employees to get involved in their company’s sustainability projects, but these initiatives currently lack transparency and credibility. Businesses need to support employees with valuable and measurable sustainability goals and approaches; if not they will continue to see these projects delivering little success.
“Business leaders need to change this to keep employees engaged, reimagining their approach to sustainability and implementing more innovative means of behaviour change and measurement supported by technology.”