· News

Workers sceptical of employers' green claims

Nearly half (43%) of employees say their company is guilty of greenwashing, where companies make empty claims about their environmental footprint.

Younger employees are even more likely to level the accusation, with 56% of 18 to 24-year-olds reporting that their company engages in greenwashing, according the report by software and service provider Advanced.

Younger people also felt more confident about climate issues, with 83% saying they understood their organisation’s carbon footprint, compared with the average across all ages of 69%. 

Growth in green jobs market remains sluggish

Budget and Spending Review: what did chancellor Rishi Sunak say?

What would a COVID Plan B mean for employers?

Prashant Vaze, senior fellow at the Climate Bonds Initiative, and member of the Green Technical Advisory Group (GTAG) said employees can see better than anyone if companies are falsifying their green records.

Speaking to HR magazine, He said: “Employees are in an excellent position to work out what’s really taking place in the business.

“If they see a company acting hypocritically, it’s certain to score poorly in terms of the employees’ perceptions of that company.”

Figures from a Competition and Market Authority (CMA) study found that 40% of green claims made online could be misleading. 

Harvey Francis, executive vice president of construction company Skanska, said that employers have a moral obligation to back up their words with action.

He told HR magazine: “Greenwashing, or for that matter any other areas where a company’s actions don’t meet its stated commitments, can only lead to negative impacts on reputation, both with employees and customers.

“It’s important for companies to be deliberate in their actions – they need to be clear about the concrete steps that are going to follow the rhetoric.”

Laurel Dines, HR operations director at Ranstad UK, however, told HR magazine that while a significant proportion (39%) of potential hires think environmental, social and corporate governance issues are important to consider when choosing an employer, traditional factors still come top of the list.

She said: “While climate plans are important, work-life balance, attractive salary and benefits packages and job security are the three most important factors cited by the UK workforce.

“What makes an attractive employer differs between sectors. Tech professionals, for instance, tell us they are interested in organisations that use the latest technologies, are financially healthy, and offer good career progression – but, again green policies don't feature high up the decision tree.”

Companies that decide to boast falsely of their green credentials, whether to attract customers or talent, will soon face strengthened regulations.

The CMA warned businesses in September that they have until January 2022 to ensure their environmental claims comply with the law. The GTAG, likewise, is currently drawing up a green taxonomy so that regulators can clamp down on financial greenwashing.

Cecilia Parker Aranha, director of consumer protection at the CMA, told HR magazine that the regulator’s powers were due to be beefed up.

“The government is currently consulting on bolstering the CMA’s consumer powers. This includes allowing the CMA to put an end to a firm’s unlawful trading practices – or order refunds for people who have been left out of pocket by illegal practices – without first going through the courts.”