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Staff want employers to declare a climate emergency

Research finds firms could lose talent if they don't address environmental concerns, as a separate study calls for the working week to be shortened to cut emissions

More than a third (35%) of employees want their employer to take action on climate change, according to Kin&Co.

Its research, which surveyed 2,084 UK employees, found that 60% felt tackling climate change is the responsibility of their CEO, and 30% said they want their CEO to declare a climate emergency. This figure rose to 41% among 25- to 34-year-olds.

The research suggested that organisations could lose workers if they fail to address concerns about the environment, with 13% of employees saying they would resign if their organisation didn't to take action. It also warned that businesses are at risk of consumer boycotts and pressure, after separate analysis from the firm found that just 10% of companies have set a carbon emissions reduction target.

It was revealed on Thursday (23 May) that Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos refused to address employee demands for the company take action on climate change and publish a public report.

“We need to be clear that tackling climate change is everyone’s responsibility. Our research has shown that employees want their organisations to come up with a clear robust plan on tackling climate change, and those who don’t could find that they are losing out on talented staff," said Sarah Holloway, director of Kin&Co.

“Just as consumers are looking for ethical companies and brands the exact same is true for staff. Employees want their CEOs to take a tough stance on this, and HR can play a really important role here, through having those sometimes tough conversations with their executives and getting the message out there.”

A separate report released this week by think tank Autonomy suggested that shortening working hours could drastically reduce carbon emissions.

Based on OECD and UN data across industries in Sweden, Germany and the UK, the research found at that at current carbon levels, all three countries would have to drastically cut the working week as part of an effort to tackle climate breakdown.

“Our research around the four-day working week has shown that working less hours can improve employees’ health and wellbeing, and improve productivity. As pressure from the public mounts around climate change this is effectively a way of killing two birds with one stone,” Will Stronge, co-director of Autonomy, told HR magazine.

Stronge added that organisations that do not address this are putting their reputations at risk.

“This is also a way for organisations to show that they are behaving ethically and to distinguish themselves from companies with really bad records and show that they are listening to their employees on this,” he said.

“Our advice to employers who might be apprehensive about shortening working hours would be just to trial it. Automation can help through carrying out menial, time consuming tasks, and a lot of people will be so grateful for the extra day off that you'd still see productivity improve.

"Ultimately, we have less than 12 years left to ward off a climate emergency. Do organisations want to do something about it, or do they want to carry on with business as usual?”