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Sustainability in the workplace – how do employees really feel?

It’s no secret that sustainability has become one of the most popular topics.  Our colleagues at Skillsfirst asked 135 people about sustainability in the workplace and the results will shock you.

The United Nations defined sustainability as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. They have developed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

There are 17 goals in total ranging from clean water & sanitation to responsible consumption & production and climate action.

But, it’s not just policy-makers and United Nations representatives that have the responsibility to be more sustainable. We all have to do our part to look after our planet. The SDGs are applicable to how we live every day to make more sustainable choices.

And, that includes at work.

So, we asked 135 people from a range of sectors and job levels how they feel about sustainability in the workplace, the impact they wanted to have and how much they knew about the SDGs.

1. People feel more personal responsibility for sustainable practices at home than they do at work

The overwhelming majority said they either agreed or strongly agreed that they feel responsible for saving energy and reducing waste. But, there were clear discrepancies showing how much more accountable they felt in their own homes. In fact, there was a 20% gap in those surveyed who strongly agreed they were responsible at home and those that strongly believed they were responsible at work.

2. Sustainability practices are a major factor when choosing a workplace 

To many, sustainability is no longer a buzzword. In fact, half of those asked felt that sustainability practices would influence their decision to work for a business. This echoes research showing that strong and clear actions for the environment are increasingly important for employees.

3. Companies do have dedicated staff responsible for sustainability (but that’s not enough)

Encouragingly, half of respondents said that their companies did have a dedicated sustainability role within their workplace. Showing that organisations are beginning to prioritise sustainability as a key function within the workplace. As encouraging as this may be, 51% noted that they either didn’t know if they had sustainability resource or their company didn’t have it at all.

Furthermore, when asked if their employer does enough for the environment, there was an almost 50/50 split between those who agree and disagree. So, although there is appetite for more sustainable practices in the workplace, employers still have a way to go to satisfy it.

4. Few people know about the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) but those that do are confident they can implement them

Only 9% of respondents are aware of all 17 SDGs with the remaining having little to no knowledge. Of those that are aware of the goals, the majority (85%) know how they can embed this within their workplace.

The direct correlation between awareness of the SDGs and the knowledge to install sustainable practices in the workplace is a significant one. This suggests that one of the biggest barriers to a more sustainable workplace is simply a lack of knowledge.

What does this mean for my employees and me?

It is clear that knowing where to begin with sustainability is a critical issue. An issue that can only be resolved by implementing strategies for company-wide knowledge of sustainable practices and the SDGs.

Skillsfirst are delighted to be working with The Sustainability Academy to develop new Sustainability qualifications and resources.

To find out more, contact Skillsfirst at workwithus@skillsfirst.co.uk