Workers are Shunning Companies That Fail to Address Climate Issues

Concern about climate change has become so extreme that some people feel unable to perform at work because of “eco-anxiety”.

And some are becoming unwilling to join companies that have no ESG measures in place — and there are significant economic costs. According to Deloitte, mental health issues among staff cost UK employers £42bn–£45bn each year. The World Health Organisation puts the figure even higher: £70bn.

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It may not yet be a medically recognised condition, but eco-anxiety’s growing prevalence is impacting all aspects of life, and affecting all age groups. Force of Nature, a non-profit organisation, advises that over 70 percent of young people feel “hopeless” due to the climate crisis — and 56 percent believe humanity is doomed. Just 26 percent feel that they can contribute to solving the problem.

Absenteeism due to stress, depression and anxiety is at record highs. Sustainability consultant SaveMoneyCutCarbon (SMCC) is advising employers how to tailor their approach and build strategies.

The Force of Nature report found that 93 percent of employees say that workplace action on climate change would ease their symptoms. But SaveMoneyCutCarbon’s research found that only 18 percent of UK businesses address sustainability in their operations.

The crisis requires a social and relational solution, with an effective collaborative approach that encourages positive behaviour change.

In the British Medical Journal, university researchers advise that one of the best routes to alleviating rising levels of climate anxiety is to increase optimism by improving awareness. Giving employees access to reliable information on mitigation and adaptation measures can help.

Companies could follow pioneering work by mental health charities. sUStain is a climate anxiety project supporting adults and young people. It’s organised by Norfolk & Waveney Mind, in partnership with the University of East Anglia (UEA), the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA), and the Resilience Project.

Practical steps include reducing energy use, recycling, using less plastic, and conserving water — as part of a wider group making effective changes. Simple reappraisal strategies — such as recognising eco-anxiety as a helpful motivator — have been found to reshape fears.
Other steps could include outdoor working days, giving support to volunteering, installing facilities to encourage cycling to work, or setting up a swap shop where employees can trade “pre-loved” items.

SMCC’s seven-point plan addresses Scope 1-4 emissions created by a business (Scope 4 argued by SMCC as the carbon literacy of employees).

Steps include:

  • Assigning a dedicated carbon mentor to get to grips with the situation within a business, and address decarbonisation ambitions
  • Creating an easy-to-understand Scope 1, Scope 2 baseline carbon footprint and guidance on Scope 3 and Scope 4
  • SMCC’s team then audit buildings to identify potential savings in money, energy, water, and carbon
  • Creation of investment-grade proposals and tailored finance
  • Design, supply and installation of proven products and solutions
  • Staff engagement via SMCC’s EcoWise app and programme for measured and rewarded learning
  • Aggregated data: SMCC’s platform measures all these criteria with detailed data sets at each stage.

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