The Impact of Workplace Initiatives on Low Carbon Behaviours

This research, commissioned jointly by the Scottish Government, Defra and the 2020 Climate Group, investigates ‘what works’ in delivering low-carbon behavioural initiatives in the workplace.



  • An Individual, Social, Material (ISM) framework is used in this chapter to identify common themes about what works in encouraging low carbon behaviours from across the case studies. The chapter identifies learning points for organisations to consider in choosing to implement low carbon initiatives.
  • Low carbon initiatives are most extensive and sustained in their effects when they build on shared values between organisations and employees.
  • Understanding staff motivations for taking part - the 'what's in it for me' question - and communicating these benefits widely is important to engage as wide a range of employees as possible.
  • Staff involvement is essential to success because employees are one of the best sources of new ideas for carbon reduction. More generally, organisations with a high involvement culture achieve better organisational performance.
  • Senior managers and other key players need to demonstrate low carbon behaviours to the rest of the workforce. Formal or informal champions or teams who have benefited from engaging in low carbon projects are powerful role models for change
  • Build a strong low-carbon or green image to help attract and retain customers and staff.
  • Developing new policies are key drivers of change. Policies should be co-designed with staff wherever possible. They give backing to initiatives where employees may initially be reluctant to participate, such as limiting work-related travel by car or - for longer trips - by plane.
  • Make it easy for staff to comply with policies by considering, for example, self-funding subsidies for public transport, and providing equipment for cycling.
  • Sharing ways of cutting carbon emissions with clients and at networking events can spark inspiration and help solve problems and specialist advisory organisations also offer support.
  • Moments of major change for organisations can provide opportunities to review and cut carbon emissions, whether this is through financial pressure, merger/acquisition, expansion or relocation.
  • Low carbon technology can lead to considerable savings on fuel and energy costs through changing energy sources, lighting systems or providing technology to enable virtual working.


5.1 The previous chapter outlined the type and scale of low carbon activity and organisational motivations for change. This chapter seeks to draw out the implications for organisations on what works in implementing these types of change. To do so, it uses an Individual, Social, Material (ISM) framework to identify common themes about what works in encouraging low carbon behaviours from across the case studies. The chapter identifies learning points for organisations to consider in choosing to implement low carbon initiatives. The chapter picks out key principles which organisations can adopt to make initiatives successful and refers to the case studies where more detail can be found. The major learning points are based on two key themes which are explored throughout the chapter:

  • critical success factors that explain the relative impact of the initiatives
  • blockages and barriers to the adoption, implementation and impact of initiatives to encourage low carbon behaviours and how organisations have overcome them

Theoretical framework

5.2 To help redress the shortage of suitable theoretical frameworks which have been applied to low carbon initiatives in the workplace, this report has developed a framework to help analyse the findings and present conclusions and learning points which are transferable to other organisations.

5.3 This classification of factors and influences on behaviour builds upon and extends the three-part typology developed by the Sustainable Practices Research Group (SPRG) in their International Review of Behaviour Change Initiatives for The Scottish Government26. The typology - of Individual, Social, and Material contexts - is designed to present a rounded view of the factors influencing behaviour, drawing on multiple academic disciplines, and underlining that changes in all three dimensions are required for lasting behaviour change to occur.

5.4 A summary figure showing the three contexts and the factors and influences in each context is shown below.

Figure 5.1: Factors & Influences in Individual, Social and Material Contexts ('the ISM model')

Figure 5.1: Factors & Influences in Individual, Social and Material Contexts ('the ISM model')

5.5 The classification of factors and influences on behaviour focuses on three aspects:

  • Individual factors tend to be internal to individuals, and to be consistent with an understanding of behaviour which highlights individual choice. The individual context includes factors concerned with how individuals think about and view the world, which consequently help shape their behaviours. These factors relate to motivations and calculations including perceived costs of action or inaction. The factors and influences included in this context are: Values, Beliefs, Attitudes, Emotions, Agency, Habit, Costs & Benefits; a glossary of definitions is provided in the table below. Most factors in the individual context derive from psychological theories which are primarily concerned with how individual citizens view the world.

Table 5.1: Glossary of terms relating to individual factors affecting behaviour change




Guiding principles that individuals use to judge situations and determine their courses of action. Values are at the root of all other motivations, including beliefs and attitudes.


General orientations towards or 'worldviews' about particular aspects of life (e.g. low carbon living). Beliefs sit between values and attitudes in the motivational system.


A positive, negative or neutral view of a specific subject, activity or behaviour (e.g. recycling).

Emotions or 'affect'

Feelings in relation to a particular subject, activity or behaviour, which have a role alongside information or other calculations in determining how we respond.


A person's level of confidence that they can undertake the behaviour in question, and see it through to completion; also a reflection of their perceived level of control over the behaviour in question.


Usually described as a factor driving behaviour, working alongside (or more often against) rational intentions; habitual behaviours tend to be those which we perform frequently, in the same context, and with little conscious thought.

Costs and Benefits

A rationalist approach to behaviour suggests that individuals' choices are determined by calculating the relative costs and benefits of a given course of action. Costs and benefits can be measured in terms of money or other units like time. Behavioural economics has shown how these calculations tend to be imperfect, and can be influenced by how information is presented to individuals

  • Social factors concern how individuals operate in groups, and include motivations, cultural conventions and social norms of behaviour shared with others. Also included here is the power of other individuals, and of networks themselves, to influence individuals and predetermine their behavioural options. The factors and influences included in this context are: Norms, Roles, Identity, Influencers, Networks, Meanings; a glossary of definitions is provided in the table below.

Table 5.2: Glossary of terms relating to social factors affecting behaviour change




Perceptions that people have regarding how other people would regard their behaviour; in turn these perceptions have a strong influence on the behavioural decisions that people make.


Multiple identities or personae which an individual plays out in different social situations; these roles bring with them different repertoires of behaviours and attitudes.


An individual's fundamental sense of who they are, which shapes their attitudes and behaviours; note that this sense of self is also constructed in relation to how others are perceived.


People who have power to shape the behaviour of others through defining social conventions; their power to influence may be derived from personal characteristics or status e.g. in an organisation.


Connections between individuals and organisations that predetermine the options and avenues available to people; as well as determining options, networks also define the limits or frontiers to areas of activity.


Socially-constructed understandings including images, meanings, ideas and associations; these meanings effectively set the context for a behaviour or practice, and in so doing help to sustain it.

  • Material factors primarily consist of visible or invisible structures patterning daily life which are to varying extents beyond the control of individuals. They include aspects of both hard infrastructure (e.g. objects, amenities) and soft infrastructure (e.g. institutions, organisational policies, and time-based schedules). The factors and influences included in this context are: Infrastructure, Objects, Technologies, Frameworks, and Schedules; a glossary of definitions is provided in Table 5.3.

Table 5.3: Glossary of terms relating to material factors affecting behaviour change




Hard infrastructure relates to the material barriers out there in the environments in which people live which determine the possibility of a behaviour occurring;such factors can often prevent even motivated people from undertaking the behaviour in question.


Moveable tangible pieces of equipment or physical artefacts which are used when a practice is undertaken (e.g. cycle racks, recycling bins).


A particular class of (fast-evolving) objects, but also the associated skills and meanings that go with them e.g. videoconferencing, energy monitors, wind turbines.


Formal structures and organisations (such as workplaces) but also the shared meanings and conventions which hold them together; institutions tend to be shaped by and for the practices they are engaged in.


Organisational policies and other arrangements providing rules, incentives or boundaries which can shape behaviour e.g. cycle to work schemes.


Anchor practices at particular time points and locations e.g. the school day, bank opening hours; practices often occur because of the scheduling of other practices (e.g. commuting).

Critical success factors and ways of overcoming blockages and barriers

5.6 This section discusses factors identified from the individual, social and material categories in turn, to highlight their importance in making low carbon initiatives successful, with examples from the case study organisations of how these factors operate in practice.

Individual factors

5.7 Individual factors, as described in section 5.5, relate to how individuals think about and view the world, which consequently helps shape their behaviours. This section outlines some of the most common factors relating to individuals that were found in the case studies, followed by a discussion of those which were most important and successful.

5.8 Among individual factors:

  • Creating positive perceptions of costs and benefits for employees was the most common factor identified as being critical to the success of initiatives.
  • This was closely followed by the need to create positive perceptions of agency i.e. employee ability to influence outcomes.
  • Embedding shared values, beliefs and attitudes, habits and the emotional impact or 'affect' of initiatives were the next most important group of individual factors that influenced project success. However, across the case studies, there were almost as many examples of where these factors acted as barriers as where they were success factors. This suggests that organisations may need to pay attention to these factors.
  • The least common individual factors which surfaced were some of the dimensions of costs and benefits including discounting, framing and mental accounting. Only Coca Cola was consciously working on framing and discounting. Mental accounting factors were not particularly common but also occurred solely as negative barriers to behavioural change, in cases where individuals regarded time spent on a low carbon activity as undesirable (see Section 5.18 for more discussion).

Embed values through enjoyable education

5.9 Organisations which engaged employees with the meaning and purpose of the low carbon initiatives appeared to experience the most successful results in terms of impact on employee behaviours and the overall development of a low carbon culture. Notably these firms engaged employees in the purpose of schemes by appealing to motivations beyond purely short-term instrumental goals such as cost saving. Some organisations succeeded notably in embedding the concept of environmental sustainability within the organisation's values and ensuring that these were meaningful to employees in the context of their everyday work. This was achieved through broad-based educational activities to help employees appreciate the wider impact of good environmental management practices.

Employees at the Commercial Group and Wiles Greenworld in particular had been engaged in ongoing education programmes which included diverse elements ranging from screenings of environmental documentaries to participatory events including quizzes and competitions held during team meetings or over a pizza in the office. Managers at Wiles Greenworld described how:

'We discuss topical issues and try to actually relate them to the bigger picture; how they affect us as a company; and what's happening in the world; what the UK is doing about it; and what we're doing about it within that. Education is absolutely key'.

5.10 Employees reported that these activities were fun. They also reported deriving a strong sense of company pride and satisfaction from living more sustainably and a perception that they were personally making a difference to the environment. Some employees, particularly those in low skilled roles, spoke about this with great enthusiasm, suggesting that it was a major source of job and life satisfaction e.g. at Wiles Greenworld and Commercial Group. One employee at Commercial Group described how the work of the Green Angels team generated interest among the rest of the staff:

'I'm always trying to listen in to what they're doing, just to find out, because you know it's going to be a really fun day and that once they've launched the scheme, it will carry on' (Employee, Commercial Group)

5.11 Other organisations had equally strong corporate commitment to environmental sustainability values, but in some organisations where less extensive education programmes were in place, these sometimes failed to translate meaningfully down to front line employees. Employees in case study organisations who showed relatively less commitment to organisational values such as the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor and Coca Cola tended to challenge the introduction of low carbon behaviours on the grounds that these were 'not part of their job'. In addition, where employees had adopted low carbon behaviours at work, sometimes in order to comply with company policies e.g. on recycling, they were less likely to report spillover effects of low carbon behaviours outside work. This challenge was more common in larger, multi-site organisations where it is typically more difficult to embed corporate values. These problems can arise for a number of reasons. Firstly, values are often expressed as abstract concepts and it can be difficult to translate these into behaviours for staff to adopt. Secondly, the process of embedding values sometimes relied on online or paper-based communication, which offers fewer opportunities for individuals to question and engage with the material. Thirdly, the sheer size of large organisations can make it more difficult for employees working in an individual workplace to identify with values that are promoted by a head office located elsewhere. Fourthly, it was not always clear how far organisational activities to embed values extended beyond corporate induction programmes. Fifthly, lower skilled workers may express less attachment to corporate values because they have less sense of personal identification with their employer compared to managerial staff. This was evident at EAE, Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor, Commercial and Coca Cola, where managers expressed a stronger connection to organisational values than employees. This variation in a dimension of organisational commitment is sometimes linked to individuals' perceptions and expectations about promotion prospects, so for staff who either do not aspire to career progression or see little opportunity for it within the organisation, their level of identification with company values may be lower.

5.12 Some organisations tried to overcome the challenges of embedding corporate values in large firms by working intensively to develop meaningful ways to express them for each workplace. BT and InterfaceFLOR recognised that they have particularly target-driven cultures, so many of their staff respond well to values embodied in local level goals. BT had worked to break down all its energy saving and carbon reduction targets and displayed these in each office. This served to make daunting corporate targets appear more realistic and relevant for staff by framing them within a local context. By using a smaller scale of measurement, the targets also appeared more achievable, increasing employee perceptions of agency and likelihood of reaching the goals set. InterfaceFLOR had successfully woven waste reduction and cost-saving targets together to support environmental sustainability values through careful design of incentive schemes which were important in the workplace culture. Other organisations tackled lack of engagement with low carbon initiatives and organisational values through processes of individual discussion with employees undertaken by staff in a range of roles including line managers, project managers of particular low carbon initiatives or environmental champions.

Make personal benefits clear to employees and seek to minimise costs

5.13 Staff who were being invited to participate in new low carbon initiatives often raised questions or concerns about the personal costs and benefits which they would experience from taking part.

The benefits of personal financial savings from reduced commuting costs through flexible working schemes, subsidised public travel and reduced car use and learning fuel efficient driving techniques were all attractive incentives which stimulated employee interest in the schemes. They helped to make initiatives successful at Halcrow, Aberdeenshire Council, BT, and the Commercial Group. Coca Cola provided a share of cost savings made from adopting fuel efficiency techniques to a team of its drivers. Interface FLOR had designed environmental waste saving targets into its incentive schemes for managers and workers. It stressed that competition between managers to avoid a low position in the various league tables of environmental performance and the financial rewards for workers were strong motivating factors for each group.

5.14 Some interviewees noted that the benefits of reduced fuel costs from learning fuel efficient driving techniques were initially most appealing to employees when driving their own vehicles, but once the techniques became habitual, individuals then adopted the behaviours with company vehicles (Coca Cola, BT). Others used the information about cost savings to make changes in their private lives: a worker at Coca Cola bought a hybrid car for his own use when he learned of the reduced fuel costs and a member of staff at Wiles Greenworld purchased a vehicle with lower carbon emissions. Some organisations also provided incentives to stimulate initial participation and achievement; SSE offered IPods to a random selection of staff who tried out sustainable commuting methods for a week as part of its Green Commuter Challenge. This could help to build shared norms and may also imply that choice of commuting methods is regarded as a responsibility which organisations and workers share together, rather than a matter of individual choice.

5.15 For other organisations, incentives in the form of competition between teams and individuals, sometimes attached to an explicit monetary reward, could strengthen a sense of agency and personal control. This was the case with fuel efficient driving competitions at EAE, recycling races at Commercial Group and bonuses for fuel saving at Coca Cola.

5.16 Where individuals identified strongly with organisational goals of saving money at Aberdeenshire Council, Halcrow and BT, stressing cost savings of low carbon initiatives to the organisations was also helpful. Some staff who did not identify with corporate values in particular organisations, reportedly did not regard saving money for their employer as motivating. This tended to be more common where initiatives were introduced in a top-down fashion with less employee involvement. This illustrates a learning point often noted by managers and project leaders that it can be very helpful to understand the values, beliefs and attitudes of workers in as much detail as possible before designing or implementing a low carbon initiative, especially where participation is voluntary. This information can then be used to help tailor the key messages about benefits of participation to workers and may improve initial engagement with the project. It also suggests that employee involvement can be important to build shared norms and a low carbon culture in which employees are likely to be more receptive to making behavioural changes (see Sections 5.46 - 5.49).

5.17 Conversely, the most common barrier to implementation of low carbon initiatives that relates to non-financial personal cost/benefit calculations is perceptions of staff time costs. Many of the organisations made time available to participate in low carbon education or training activities within working hours including Wiles Greenworld, BT, Halcrow, and the Commercial Group. Staff concerns about personal time costs did not relate to time spent taking part in the low carbon project activities such as meetings, but instead focused on any increase in time needed to incorporate low carbon behaviours within their daily work. This could result in either increases to the pace at which they needed to work or the amount of time they would need to spend working. Time taken to follow recycling procedures was a particular concern at Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor and Coca Cola and time taken for delivering goods using fuel efficient driving was also a concern at Coca Cola. In some cases, the additional time involved was a transitional rather than ongoing cost to the individual because once a new routine is learned, individuals could perform it speedily and with less concentration needed. Where possible, it is important for companies to reassure staff that additional costs may decrease or disappear quickly, once they have learned the new behaviours. This is a particular challenge for work tasks which are frequent, repetitive and require little mental effort or concentration because they constitute habits which can require a conscious effort to break. Organisations can also make the most of opportunities to use infrastructure changes to help break habits as discussed in Section 5.63.

5.18 Employee concerns about time loss which are most difficult to challenge are ones where engaging in low carbon behaviour could reduce the amount of personal time available to them. These surfaced at Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) in particular, where the restricted car parking scheme and walking to work initiatives were perceived by some staff to impinge unfairly on their personal time by increasing the length of their commute. The challenge here is likely to be that commuting may not generate positive feelings in its own right, and because it sits on an unclear boundary between work and personal time, there is no definitive agreement on how the costs and benefits should be distributed between the employer and employee. Staff may be using a form of mental accounting or allocating how they spend their day into different categories. If workers dislike commuting and the low carbon initiative is perceived to be increasing the amount of time engaged in an already unattractive activity, it creates negative perceptions of the experience. Framing the experience of sustainable commuting methods as an opportunity to engage in pleasurable activities could be important, especially where these cannot take place while driving, such as walking with friends or reading on public transport. This strategy might help to reposition the activity so that employees are less likely to regard it as a personal time cost. It is likely to be especially important if the organisation will not meet any of the actual cost of non-car commuting such as offering later starts for non-car drivers or subsidising alternative travel methods.

5.19 Learning points from this analysis are that it was not always clear that organisations provided personalised estimates of cost savings to employees before they took part in low carbon initiatives. It could be helpful to produce customised information on costs and benefits to make it even more relevant and salient to each worker. Some organisations undertook extensive staff surveys and analysed staff commuting patterns, particularly before implementing major change in transport policy (Halcrow) or work locations (Aberdeenshire) and the data gathered appears to be useful in understanding what are likely to be the key priorities for employees in designing and implementing change. In addition, it is important to note that personal costs and benefits appeared to be a much greater concern at the start of low carbon initiatives. Once projects were embedded, and new behaviours took on the character of norms and routines, staff concerns about costs faded. Most staff also denied the role of incentives in providing any motivation for engagement, although this could result from desire not to seem grasping. Instead they claimed that they achieved greater motivation from the sense of achievement or competition associated with the reward. This finding supports the evidence of the literature review that organisations do not need to make heavy investments in incentives to persuade staff to engage in low carbon behaviours: it may be worth experimenting with token incentives that are self-funding or temporary.

Social factors

5.20 Social factors, as described in section 5.5, concern how individuals operate in groups, including motivations, cultural conventions and norms of behaviour shared with others.

5.21 Among social factors:

  • Influencers and networks were the most common critical success factors identified. The number of multiple influencers needed is usually proportionate to the size of the organisation and therefore more important in larger companies.
  • Establishing positive norms of behaviour and perceptions of low carbon behaviours as part of job roles was also helpful.
  • Developing a sense of the meanings associated with being a low carbon workplace linked to personal and organisational identity was rather less common across the case study sites but had developed in some which had created a strong brand based on environmental management performance.

Use multiple influencers from key roles to engage staff and sustain behaviour change

5.22 The number and range of people acting as positive influencers to adopt low carbon behaviours to which employees are exposed was often linked to the level and scale of employee participation in low carbon projects. Senior managers usually played a highly significant role in making an initial commitment to taking action to reduce carbon consumption in all the case studies. Not all organisations required a huge number of people to engage staff. Notably in smaller organisations or smaller workplaces, the owner or a senior manager could be a sole major and positive force for change, which corroborates the findings of the literature review in Chapter Three. Examples of this are the Managing Director at EAE and the Chief Sustainability Officer at Wiles Greenworld.

5.23 However, in larger organisations, having a broad-based resource of additional influencers in a wide variety of job types is an important factor to explain greater success in engaging staff, especially where influencers have expertise that is relevant to the type of initiative being implemented. Examples of staff who were key influencers were those with facilities and/or office management responsibilities at Halcrow, Aberdeenshire and SSE, managers with environmental roles at Wiles Greenworld, Coca Cola and Commercial, heads of department at the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor, regional managers at Halcrow, internal travel agency staff at SSE, chefs with responsibilities for food purchasing and storage at Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor and BT, and HR staff at Aberdeenshire. In some cases, staff were selected because of the role they occupied and the influence they had over particular staff groups, rather than because they had particular interest or expertise in low carbon initiatives. This suggests that at management level, being favourably disposed to low carbon management is not an essential prerequisite to playing a key role in a scheme, providing the individual is motivated to engage and learn about the principles.

At the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor hotel, the hotel manager selected the executive chef to captain the Sustainability Team, partly due to the power of his role within the kitchen and partly because he has an engaging personality which would help to encourage other staff to participate. The chef has led all the kitchen based initiatives, such as local sourcing of food and the recycling of food waste, and takes charge of communications between the Sustainability Team and other staff. To encourage behaviour change in recycling and energy conservation in the kitchen the executive chef's approach was to keep awareness high. It's a matter of: 'constantly talking about it, constantly going around and switching off hobs, putting lids on things… constantly reminding people'.

5.24 It is unsurprising to find facilities managers and environmental managers playing a key role because of their expertise. In contrast, it is somewhat surprising that the role of HR staff in most of the initiatives appears to be absent in larger firms. Given the focus of many of the projects on changing aspects of work routines, locations or travel and the need to persuade staff to embrace organisational values, alter behaviours or to implement policy changes which affect staff, HR staff may be useful sources of influence and advice. Organisations wishing to implement low carbon initiatives may benefit from involving their HR departments, and where cost savings for the organisation or a case for the value of HR staff can be made, providing support for low carbon initiatives is likely to be an attractive proposition for the HR function.

5.25 Table 5.4 below shows the types of communications methods used across the case sites. The most effective methods are shown in bold and all uses of training are shown in italics.

Table 5.4: Use of communication methods and training






Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor




Wiles Greenworld


Dedicated website

One to one advice - project teams

Road show/presentation- Project team

Early adopters used as ambassadors


Eco-driver training

Eco-driver training

Cycle to work launch day

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer

New staff induction

New staff induction

Eco-driver training

Eco-driver tips

Reminders from managers

New staff induction

One to one advice

Green travel plan


Notice boards

Promotion stands in reception areas

Letter from senior manager at start of scheme

New staff induction


Staff meeting green slot




Staff (energy champions)

Dedicated website for home workers

Training for senior managers

E-mail (limited)

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer

Early adopters used as formal ambassadors (work to home scheme)

New staff induction

Presentations, training & workshops

New staff induction

Monthly staff meetings

Quarterly staff newsletter

Reminders from managers

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer

Signs/Notice board

New staff induction

Reminders from managers

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer

Signs/Notice board

New staff induction

Reminders from managers

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer


Notice board

Info sheet



Notice boards


Notice boards

New staff induction


Staff meeting green slot


Presentations, training & workshops

Face to face communication through line managers

Recycling game (Green angels project)

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer

New staff induction

New staff induction

Monthly staff meetings

Quarterly staff newsletter

Reminders from managers

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer

Signs/Notice board

New staff induction

Reminders from managers

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer

Signs/Notice board

New staff induction

Reminders from managers

Word of mouth/peer-to-peer


Notice board

Info sheet



Notice boards


Notice boards

New staff induction


Staff meeting

green slot


Small group sessions with managers to devise new menus

Use of teams and other awareness raising methods

Project team for WorkSmart

Carbon Clubs (employees)

Energy Saving Champions (employees)

Film viewing (Inconvenient Truth)

Green Ambassadors and Green Angels Teams (employees)

Environmental awareness e-learning

Green team composed of Heads of Dept

Energy Saving Teams (mostly management staff)

Film viewing as part of induction

Staff meeting green slot

Displaying awards

5.26 The main pattern emerging is that communication methods tend to be similar across different initiatives within the same organisation and, furthermore, tend to match the broader management style within the organisation. There are some common methods across types of initiatives however. For example when attempting to influence behaviours such as switching off electrical appliances and recycling, communication methods usually involve face-to-face reminders from either managers or colleagues.

5.27 Three features stand out in effective use of influencers and communication methods.

  • The first of these is the importance of making face-to-face communication available especially where low carbon schemes are complicated and/or involve major change to the nature and location of employees' work and travel. This offers employees the opportunity to voice any anxieties, have their concerns heard and to ask questions. This also enables influencers to reassure them and feed back any points of concern to influence scheme design if this has not already taken place.
  • The second is the role of line managers. Line managers are critical to embedding low carbon behaviours because they commonly act as the closest senior role model to employees, have some degree of power over staff because they are usually responsible for assessing employee performance and may inspire greater confidence and trust than senior managers who may be less accessible and have a less close relationship with staff in larger organisations.
  • The third is the use of supplementary information about schemes. Information should be available in as many different forms as are relevant to the initiative and, crucially, stimulate two way communication and feedback. Information sources could include web-based information, telephone helplines, roadshows, newsletters and noticeboards, personalised information such as individualised travel plans or explanation of impact on individual staff. Examples of two way communication could include presentations, workshops and drop-in sessions.

Wiles Greenworld uses multiple types of communication to engage employees and build their understanding of sustainability issues. It allocates a slot on environmental issues for every team meeting and the Chief Sustainability Officer is a key promoter of behaviour change. The firm also has a simple system of weekly emails or 'Green mails' to raise awareness of current environmental projects and sustainability issues which are in the wider media. Staff responded very positively to these:

'They're eye-catching. It looks very different and you want to see something different. You get normal emails every day, but when you get a newsletter that's bold and colourful you want to read it. If you don't want to read it there and then, take it home with you. Sometimes I just stick it on a USB stick and take it home and read it there'.

5.28 Investing in attractive, clear and professional communications which are easy to use can help attract staff attention and ensure sustained engagement. One form of communication which appears to have less impact is a mass mailshot letter from a senior manager because this can be perceived to be too remote to feel personal and can suggest a top down approach of enforced implementation, that can be counterproductive.

Use teams and champions to help broaden staff participation in larger firms

5.29 Approaches to the use of employee-led teams and/or individual employee champions for low carbon projects varied across the case studies. Staff-led teams or champions were used extensively at BT and the Commercial Group, while Halcrow had run annual time-bound team projects. Interface FLOR had also recently set up a Green Energy team.

The Commercial Group makes extensive use of 'Green Angels' teams to implement low carbon projects. The teams are set up every six months to undertake a project of their choice and having constant change in Green Angels team maintains enthusiasm and a flow of fresh ideas. Projects have full backing from senior managers and board members but are entirely controlled by the employees on the team. One team has focused on commitment to reduce waste to landfill to zero by expanding recycling in the company to include an additional two waste streams and encouraging staff participation in recycling. This included improving signage around recycling areas and running a day of workshops on recycling.

5.30 The learning points are that established teams appear to have been highly effective in capturing staff imagination and attention, gaining and implementing staff suggestions and generating social pressure to develop norms of low carbon behaviour. Team composition in these organisations tended to be refreshed on a regular basis every few months rather than consisting of a permanent group. This maximised the chances of gaining a regular flow of new ideas, helped to maintain enthusiasm and momentum and gave opportunities to extend involvement in low carbon initiatives to the widest possible number of staff.

5.31 Teams in other case studies were currently smaller or less successful. Management-based teams for low carbon initiatives were in place at Aberdeenshire and Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor with a slightly stronger but intended focus on successful project management than on staff engagement. Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor was seeking to expand its green team to include front line staff as members and Interface FLOR wanted to encourage greater participation among shop floor and junior administrative staff as opposed to managers, in order to generate more suggestions from workers closest to operations.

5.32 While the impact of staff-led teams was evident in some organisations, other firms had found this approach more difficult. SSE had experimented with sustainability champions but had discontinued them in all but one department, due to difficulties in releasing time to participate in activities and Halcrow had decided not to run local team-based projects in 2011 due to costs. The numbers of participants in the Green Team at InterfaceFLOR had declined over the first few months of its existence. Some staff lacked confidence and developed low perceptions of their agency when they found they had limited understanding of the technical projects being undertaken by other team members.

5.33 Some organisations (e.g. Coca Cola) deliberately did not use champions, reasoning that this could lead to other staff thinking that paying attention to environmental management issues was not part of their job as well. Smaller organisations were more likely than large organisations to implement initiatives successfully without champions or teams (e.g. EAE and Wiles Greenworld), because there was sufficient direct contact between individual staff and the most senior influencer to motivate behaviour change. In addition, teams or groups can represent an additional layer of bureaucracy which is unattractive to small firms. At Wiles Greenworld though, the individual responsible for environmental issues recognised that his role as a figurehead could reduce the sense of agency and create apathy among staff because he played such a pivotal role in organising low carbon activities. He was seeking to find ways of gaining more suggestions for improvements from individual staff.

5.34 A number of organisations including those with and without teams or individual champions relied on informal champions to promote the benefits of behaviour change (Aberdeenshire, SSE, Halcrow, BT). These staff were usually early adopters or experimenters in low carbon projects, particularly where the change involved was particularly challenging and involved infrastructure changes such as transport methods or adoption of flexible working locations. This suggests that social factors are equally important as material factors in making these projects effective. Such employees, particularly those not naturally 'green and keen', were invaluable in providing 'war stories' of how the changes had benefited them and met what one manager described as the ideal function of acting as ambassadors for low carbon projects. Overall, low carbon initiatives had most impact in organisations which gained support from a wide range of front line staff and advertised the benefits of the projects. This also reinforces the importance of early staff engagement in low carbon initiatives, since the earlier staff can contribute to shaping the schemes, the more likely they are to act as positive advocates to the rest of the workforce.

Harness internal and external networks to provide advice and expertise on technical change or complicated projects

5.35 Gaining access to expertise, especially if low carbon management is a new area of organisational activity, can be critical, particularly in the early stages of deciding what to do and how to do it. The case studies benefited from advice from three different types of network: informal internal or external networks; external suppliers of services; and formal advisory bodies with expertise on specific issues.

5.36 Internal sources of expertise played an important role at two firms. Halcrow drew on internal expertise from its technical staff in designing its own carbon commuting calculator to support its sustainable transport policy and Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor sought advice from corporate level environmental management experts to build management engagement.

5.37 Informal external networks exerted influence through client meetings and conferences. Aberdeenshire Council sought help on implementing flexible working from BT, perceived client pressures and demands for low carbon management were drivers of inspiration for all the initiatives of the Commercial Group and Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor and interns provided new ideas for Wiles Greenworld.

5.38 Firms in the supply chain were important to case study organisations in enabling them to make changes by providing support services required.

One example of organisational collaboration was where SSE collaborated with another large local company to make a proposal to the local bus company for an additional public bus route for their staff. Both organisations postcode-plotted their employees' homes and worked out a suitable route, contributing £20,000 each, which along with £20,000 from the bus company funded the provision of the desired service. SSE also negotiated amended bus route times to enable staff to get to work in time for their shift patterns and also negotiated access for staff on the early shift to the first bus of the day which is normally reserved bus drivers themselves getting to work.

5.39 Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor and Coca Cola gained useful advice on recycling from their service providers. The SAFED (safe and fuel efficient driver) training scheme and subsidy was used at Coca Cola and BT to make transport methods more efficient.

5.40 Three organisations had used external advisory organisations for specific support. The Carbon Trust advised Coca Cola in assessing its energy consumption, Aberdeenshire Council sought help on implementing flexible working from Nomad Scotland and Interface FLOR used Forum for the Future to provide some sustainability training.

5.41 Smaller organisations, including EAE, sometimes experienced frustration and scepticism in trying to identify good suppliers and sources of advice. There is admittedly a huge number of voluntary, third sector and private sector organisations operating which advise on different activities in the low carbon management field and navigating the range of sources of information available may be difficult for small organisations which are time-pressed.

Develop social norms to embed and sustain behaviour change linked to a strong culture and organisational brand

5.42 A common theme across all the organisations which had successfully embedded low carbon behaviours among their staff was the role that social norms played. They marked out behaviours as desirable and helped spread them across organisations. The major outcome resulting was sustained changes in employee behaviours as repeated reminders eventually engrained new behaviours as habitual. Staff and managers commonly reported that employees 'policed each other' and pointed out any lapses in sustainable behaviours. Managers had an additional role here in organisational structures through reminding staff of the need for compliance with relevant policy frameworks. Staff then reported that they noticed that behaviours became habitual, for example the weekend power shutdown routine at Coca Cola. Some staff also noticed that they were taking those behaviours home, for example, by more intensive recycling or regularly turning off power sources that were not needed (BT, Commercial Group).

Developing social norms through peer pressure helps change staff habits, especially when linked to a strong culture and organisational brand. EAE has developed a strong culture to support its recycling policy. There is no formal or strict monitoring of employees, because the Managing Director did not want to create resentment if staff felt they were under constant surveillance. Managers are able to monitor outcomes like recycling and the use of light and heating by walking around the premises. They keep an eye on recycling bins and if they identify a problem of non-compliance this tends to be handled with a 'quiet word' to individuals or notes to all staff.

Staff and managers felt that working at EAE had changed their behaviours concerning carbon use compared to how they would if employed by another company. Warehouse staff believed that they would recycle less and use more of heating and lighting if they worked elsewhere and staff also reported changed behaviour outside the workplace:

'There's a knock-on effect when you go home. You don't just put your banana skin in the bin; you'll actually stop and think where's my recycling tub?'

5.43 The most frequent example given of peer monitoring of low carbon behaviour was recycling, sometimes combined with reduction in energy use from turning off unwanted power sources (EAE, Halcrow, BT, Coca Cola, Commercial Group, Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor). This is understandable because it is one of the most visible forms of low carbon behaviours and has some of the strongest social norms attached. It is more difficult practically to engage staff in monitoring each other's commuting behaviours, although in SSE and Halcrow data on individual staff behaviours is accessible to managers through the restricted parking scheme and bus subsidy initiative. In some companies, other low carbon activities were starting to take on the aspirational characteristics of 'in-group' desired behaviour such as driving an electric vehicle (Wiles Greenworld and Commercial Group).

5.44 Some organisations had evolved a strong culture which increased the likelihood of behavioural conformity and tried to position their low carbon activities as part of the dominant culture. BT has a strong corporate culture and the data it provided from staff surveys suggested that a majority of staff believed in the importance of sustainable management practices. The Coca Cola site was known within the organisation for being an innovative and ambitious high performer so its zero waste to landfill goal was framed as part of the site's culture.

5.45 Interestingly, two cases demonstrate how the adoption of low carbon management practices can contribute to the evolution of a strong culture and brand marked by a commitment to environmental sustainability. These are Wiles Greenworld and the Commercial Group. Wiles Greenworld formed from its two parent companies, only one of which was committed to low carbon management, but the merged company successfully spread the corporate commitment to sustainability across the whole organisation and integrated it as part of its marketing and consumer brand. The Commercial Group already had an open culture characterised by a commitment to staff involvement, but engaged in little low carbon activity before 2006. As a result of its efforts, the company has used its environmental sustainability activities as a key part of its brand and marketing. Organisations which developed such a reputation reported finding that their brand subsequently strengthened; they learned from recruitment exercises that many job applicants with a commitment to environmental sustainability were applying for their vacancies (Commercial Group, Wiles Greenworld, EAE). As a proportion of those applicants are then hired, they increase the numbers of staff with a strong pre-existing commitment to environmentally sustainable work practices, and consequently reinforce low carbon behaviours and culture. This illustrates how businesses reproduce themselves and the power of staff turnover in changing values, beliefs and attitudes.

Build a culture of staff involvement to increase employee perceptions of influence and agency and motivate individual engagement

5.46 Several organisations pointed to the importance of involving staff in low carbon initiatives, in particular through seeking and implementing employee suggestions. Staff involvement had multiple purposes. Firstly, consulting staff in advance of change helped to secure staff support for initiatives by offering all colleagues a stake in the project and reducing the likelihood of opposition. Secondly, staff involvement had a substantive function in generating ideas for making proposed initiatives successful and gathering suggestions for new ones. Thirdly, responding to suggestions by explaining reasons for (not) implementing them and their impact on environmental performance helped to prove that individual staff contributions were valued and had an impact, raising employee perceptions of agency (Commercial Group, Wiles Greenworld, BT, Halcrow, Aberdeenshire Council, EAE, Interface FLOR).

At InterfaceFLOR, staff can make waste reduction suggestions verbally to their shift leader or on green environmental cards dotted around the shop floor which production workers can fill out and leave on their shift leader's desk for discussion at the next shift team meeting. The individual who makes a suggestion is often appointed leader of the initiative, which instils a sense of achievement, ownership and encourages them to make the suggestion successful through achieving cost savings. The factory also keeps an 'Opportunity Database' in which suggestions are logged and acted upon. One suggestion made by staff identified a method for reducing carpet wastage by minimising end of roll offcuts, which has made significant cost savings. Waste reduction achievements are rewarded through the staff bonus scheme.

5.47 There are several further examples of how organisations used staff suggestions. Aberdeenshire used the results of its surveys to identify additional training needs and Halcrow's car parking restriction policy came from an employee suggestion. This subsequently proved particularly useful in justifying the policy to other staff. The Commercial Group implemented default double sided printing, a bike to work scheme, junk fax filtering and avoiding use of disposable paper drinking vessels as a result of staff suggestions.

5.48 The learning point from these organisations is to use multiple methods to make it as easy as possible for staff to make suggestions. Techniques available include online suggestion schemes, line managers seeking suggestions in team meetings, employee surveys, suggestion cards scattered round the workplace and individual teams and champions generating ideas. BT stressed that they found it important for all their environmental action teams to run as autonomously as possible to maximise staff involvement and sense of control, with minimal input from managers. This suggests that for large organisations, permitting micro-cultures to develop among different groups of staff engaged in low carbon initiatives is not detrimental. Surveying staff seems both particularly important and effective when attempting large scale and complicated change such as transport restrictions or alterations to work locations; all staff are likely to have an individual opinion about the personal impact of such change and are therefore more likely to be motivated to respond, in contrast to surveys which ask for unprompted suggestions for organisational improvements.

5.49 Organisations also found it important to provide feedback both on the impact of staff suggestions and of low carbon activities on performance indicators, echoing a success factor identified in the literature review of Chapter 3. Staff reported that this feedback made them feel that their actions made a difference. In terms of individual factors, it supported their perceptions of salience, agency and provided data needed by employees to make positive cost/benefit calculations about participation. Staff recognised the impact both on their employer's performance measures, but in organisations which had undertaken broader environmental education techniques with their workforces, staff pointed out the positive impact on the environment more generally. The techniques used to share performance feedback varied from electronic displays at the entrance to buildings (BT), charts and performance indicator reports circulated to managers of buildings or workspaces (SSE), display of energy meter readings (EAE), newsletters and regular email updates (Halcrow, Commercial Group and Wiles Greenworld), and noticeboards (Interface FLOR). Organisations noted learning points in trying to make information presented as attractive and meaningful as possible to staff depending on its purpose. This could involve attractive graphics and display of data or appropriate choice of units of measurement. For example, Coca Cola stressed the need to use domestic measures of energy consumption when explaining costs and consequences of energy use to staff, illustrating how much power a weekend's worth of energy use would provide for an average house. At SSE, a manager explained how they were using data on energy use to encourage employees to think about how to reduce it:

'we produce energy reports and give it to the people who can actually influence energy consumption at the buildings. One of the shop managers got all of the staff together to look at the pattern of energy use and why it would be higher at certain times. It seems to have been a fairly effective means of bringing energy consumption more to people's attention at least, which is the starting point on the road to behaviour change' (Manager, SSE)

Material factors

5.50 Material factors, as described in section 5.5, primarily consist of objects and visible or invisible structures which can be beyond the control of individuals. They include aspects of both hard infrastructure (e.g. equipment, amenities) and soft infrastructure (e.g. institutions, organisational policies, and common time schedules).

5.51 Among material factors:

  • Use of frameworks, technology and equipment was very common and appeared to be universally positive factors encouraging change. However, frameworks may need to be supported by social factors.
  • Flexibility in schedules was particularly important for transport initiatives and integrating low carbon activity into work routines
  • Major infrastructure changes provided opportunities for transformative moments of change, usually through relocation, although posed barriers when external constraints relating to the built environment inhibited change

Establish frameworks of organisational policies to shape behaviours which are difficult to change

5.52 The case study organisations had made extensive use of organisational policies to frame and secure employee engagement with low carbon initiatives. The most common use of policies concerned travel and work location.

Halcrow set up an innovative scheme at its Glasgow office to reduce carbon emissions from commuting. The company has arrangements with local bus companies to provide its staff with subsidised fares. These are self-funded by income generated from charging staff £5 per week to use the company car park. The company spent considerable time designing their criteria for allocating daily car parking restrictions to maximise staff perceptions of fairness and the criteria include factors like distance travelled to work and whether workers car share. This helped the scheme gain acceptance, in that even if staff did not like the result of the allocation decisions, they understood the reasons behind them. Staff are also provided with information about public transport routes and resources to encourage sustainable travel such as bike racks, lockers and bike maintenance services.

5.53 Further examples include car parking restrictions (SSE), home or flexible work location policies (Wiles Greenworld, Aberdeenshire Council), fuel efficient driving policies (Coca Cola, EAE, BT) and business travel policies (SSE, Halcrow, Aberdeenshire). Other organisations formed policies on recycling (EAE, Wiles Greenworld, Halcrow, Commercial Group, Coca Cola). Some of these policies can be positioned as negative restrictions which inhibited staff from engaging in particular behaviours e.g. car parking (Halcrow and SSE), no air travel policy (SSE). Others can be framed as permissive e.g. flexible working times and locations (Aberdeenshire). A third set of policies prescribes the substitution of one behaviour for another. For example, fuel efficient driving and recycling involve a restriction on one type of behaviour but specify a desired positive behaviour instead.

5.54 The evidence discussed in Section 5.18 shows that overall, framing policies in positive terms which stress the benefits to employees and minimise costs of engagement is helpful in engaging initial interest. Nevertheless, the case study examples show that applying restrictive policies can be effective where they are needed to tackle behaviours which employees are least likely to change voluntarily, particularly travel behaviours. It is notable that travel behaviours are influenced by all three types of factors from the ISM framework, ranging from individual perceptions of affect, costs and benefits, habits, to norms, infrastructure and scheduling. The influences have a strong mutually reinforcing effect which accounts for the challenge of changing behaviours in this domain.

5.55 To address these behaviours, tough policies require careful planning to anticipate and address staff concerns and objections. The first learning point is that attention to detail is important in work location or transport policy design which has differential effects on staff depending on their personal circumstances.

5.56 Using a 'stick' rather than 'carrot' approach to behaviour change requires that organisations should consider what of kind of surveillance and enforcement techniques to use. Organisations varied in the methods they used to enforce policies and how strictly the policies were applied. SSE found that it needed to monitor their car parking entrance strictly. Halcrow introduced a £5 weekly car parking charge to encourage staff to use sustainable transport instead. Policing of compliance with recycling policies usually involved managers observing staff behaviours and speaking to individual staff members where needed, augmented by peer pressure as discussed in Section 5.42. Managers mostly adopted a tactful approach of having a 'quiet word' rather than a 'name and shame' approach and some organisations felt the latter would be counter-productive (Coca Cola). In organisations where non-compliance was a disciplinary offence (e.g. EAE), managers had never had to resort to the policy.

5.57 Secondly, case study organisations made significant efforts to make alternative travel options and recycling as appealing as possible. For travel this included provision of information, advice and guidance, subsidies and negotiation of convenient or additional services by public transport providers (SSE and Halcrow). Providing infrastructure and equipment also play an important role in all the case study organisations which encouraged sustainable travel. Examples include bike racks (Commercial Group, Halcrow), bike shelters and hair dryers (SSE), bike maintenance services (Halcrow), lockers for cyclists (Halcrow) and showers (Commercial Group). A number of case studies provided recycling bins either in communal areas or for individual staff (Commercial, Wiles Greenworld, Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor, Coca Cola, EAE, Halcrow) but managers also observed how location of the bins affected their use and installed additional bins to encourage compliance or arranged more frequent emptying if they filled up quickly. Some case study organisations also removed personal bins to force individual choices (Halcrow, EAE, Wiles Greenworld).

5.58 Overall, it is likely that approaches which combine education with policy enforcement are most likely to be effective. Restrictive policies can be effective within the limits of the subject matter in that they can achieve behaviour change through requiring compliance to meet the terms of the employment contract. However, there is an important message about balancing 'carrot and stick' approaches in the overall order of change when implementing low carbon initiatives. Where organisations have begun the change process with 'sticks', the evidence suggests that staff may be less likely to engage in voluntary activities subsequently. This could be due to staff forming perceptions that low carbon initiatives sit within a solely negative frame which restricts personal choices. Organisations may therefore need to work quite hard to reframe 'tarnished' low carbon management approaches so that employees are not negatively predisposed towards the subject.

Explain new technologies to staff to illustrate organisational commitment to environmental management

5.59 Several case study organisations had invested in a variety of technologies to support low carbon initiatives. Some of these had an instrumental function in reducing carbon emissions or saving energy and some played a supporting role in helping staff to engage in low carbon behaviours. These technologies are shown in Table 5.5 below.

Table 5.5: Types of technology used in each case study organisation

Technology with direct effect on carbon emissions


Motion sensitive lighting

Commercial Group, Coca Cola Enterprises, Halcrow, Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor

Alternative fuel sources - biodiesel pump

Commercial Group

Alternative fuel sources - electric car charging point

Wiles Greenworld, SSE

Alternative fuel sources - wind turbine


Lower emission vehicles - electric vans


Lower emission vehicles - new fork lift truck

Coca Cola

New air conditioning system

Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor

Cloud computer service replaces hardware servers for IT systems

Wiles Greenworld

Technology with enabling effect on carbon emissions

Energy use monitoring

Coca Cola, EAE, BT, SSE, Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor, Interface FLOR

Virtual working technologies e.g. Instant Messaging, common electronic filing systems, laptops, web conferencing systems and web cameras to support remote working, telepresence videoconferencing system to reduce business travel

Aberdeenshire Council, SSE

New cardboard baler - reduces storage space required so enables more recycling

Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor

Customised sat nav system to help maintenance staff find electricity poles more quickly


GPS and fuel efficiency monitoring software


Power bars at desk level rather than floor level power sockets


Online training systems for low carbon projects

BT, Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor

5.60 The table above illustrates that technologies with direct and enabling effects on carbon emissions relate mostly to transport and energy use. Online training systems have potential to improve behaviour in any domain, but the evidence reported in Section 5.27 illustrates the importance that face-to-face interaction takes place.

5.61 The first learning point from the case studies is that the cheapest and possibly most useful piece of technology is energy use monitoring systems. These function to gain baseline information on energy consumption and can be used to help identify the highest sources of power use and/or those which have the most potential for reduction. Data from this equipment is also useful for monitoring performance and can be drawn on to provide feedback to staff about the impact of their behaviour changes, which is important in sustaining momentum. Some organisations chose extensive technological changes as the primary method of reducing their carbon footprint, either because they perceived these to be easiest or because the relative impact of the changes is greater than from changing staff behaviours.

BT has recognised the importance of communicating feedback on energy consumption. In addition to a weekly newsletter sent out via email by the corporate communications team and information placed on the BT news website, a dashboard of measures is displayed within BT buildings which show carbon reduction achievements. Campaign posters are also used in buildings due to the large engineering workforce who may work from exchanges rather than main office sites.

5.62 One learning point is that because some of these technologies require no interaction with staff, there is a risk that organisations do not make the most of communicating their function and contribution to reducing carbon emissions. There is an opportunity for organisations which choose to embark on technological change to involve staff by explaining the purpose and function of the new technology, because this can help raise initial awareness of low carbon management approaches and prepare staff for any subsequent initiatives with more emphasis on behaviour change. Organisations which invested heavily in technology emphasised that technology can act as a physical and sometimes visually engaging reminder to staff of the company's commitment to low carbon management. Talking to staff about it helped to show the degree of an employer's commitment to good environmental management practices. If organisations do not discuss technical change with staff, the potential to enable social and cultural change from it is ignored. It runs the risk that material and individual aspects of low carbon management operate in isolation and systemic change to a whole organisation does not emerge.

EAE found that installing a wind turbine on the premises has, in addition to providing energy, served as a clear symbol of the company's commitment to sustainability, described as a 'tipping point' in the company's sustainability initiatives by one manager. It has also been a focus for engaging staff in thinking about the company's carbon emissions. Employees are made aware of the amount of electricity generated by 'Windy Boy' (as it has been named by staff) which has helped both to encourage a sense of ownership of the turbine and to generate enthusiasm for further green activity in the company. Managers reported that when the turbine was erected, 'the staff were genuinely proud. You could see it.'

Make the most of infrastructure changes to transform carbon consumption and emissions

5.63 Several organisations had faced significant changes to their infrastructure which prompted them to review energy consumption and impact of the changes on carbon consumption. These acted as windows of opportunity for institutional change and had the potential to engage a range of factors from across the ISM framework. The changes involved creation of new infrastructure, meanings, social groups, norms and costs/benefits.

Halcrow used an office move to identify major changes it could make to minimise energy use and improve recycling. It chose energy efficient power supplies, positioned power sockets at desk height to make it easier to turn off IT systems and designed the layout of recycling facilities. The office move provided an opportunity to break the usual habits of staff and sell the benefits of low carbon initiatives to them as part of a bigger programme of organisational change.

5.64 Difficulties in making changes to infrastructure were some of the most intractable obstacles that the case study organisations faced. The first set of challenges concerned the premises in which the case organisations were located and the second set concerned aspects of the external environment that were controlled by other organisations. The design of older buildings in Edinburgh limited the amount of change that Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor could make in improving energy efficient office space. Because the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor hotel is a listed building, it had to gain planning permission and use a specified design for its new windows. Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor also faced problems with organising recycling activity by housekeepers when cleaning bedrooms due to narrow corridors. This created safety risks if multiple receptacles for recycling were required on every floor. The alternative of locating different recycling collection points on each floor was considered but found too time-consuming for housekeepers to run up and down stairs.

5.65 Limitations for other organisations concerned transport infrastructure. EAE was keen to encourage cycling to work but staff interviewed reported widespread incidence of road accidents involving cyclists on the major road to their premises deterred them. Halcrow wanted to subsidise rail travel commuting as well as bus travel for its staff but was unable to reach a suitable agreement with the train company. The learning point here may lie in being creative to develop links with other local organisations to lobby transport companies and local councils responsible for road layouts for change. SSE had successfully negotiated changes to bus services for one of its sites by teaming up with another local organisation to make the economic case for change to the bus company.

Adapt and accommodate low carbon initiatives within time use schedules, although some schedules are difficult to influence

5.66 Examples were found within the case studies of schedules acting both as a support and as a barrier to implementing low carbon initiatives. Several organisations had established flexibility in different types of schedules to support low carbon projects. These included an internal schedule change via a flexible working time policy (Aberdeenshire) and an external schedule via a change to timetables negotiated with the service provider (SSE). Halcrow's office relocation had the effect of altering schedules for many of its staff.

5.67 Case studies allocated variable amounts of time to low carbon activities. The learning point here is that even simple changes to schedules can be useful.

Two organisations were able to embed low carbon activities within daily work tasks with minimal time impact. Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor had included turning off power before cleaning guest rooms as the first priority for housekeepers and Coca Cola redesigned its weekend shutdown routine to include power minimisation and promoted this to staff as a key part of the process before finishing work on a Friday evening.

5.68 Other case studies altered schedules to allocate time for workers to participate in low carbon projects during the normal working day. Green Angels at Commercial Group and Green Energy Teams at Interface FLOR had some paid working time allocated for meetings and participating in external events such as conferences. At Wiles Greenworld, time within staff meetings was allocated for low carbon projects. Other organisations had found allocating time for participation in projects more difficult due to economic pressures. At SSE lack of staff time to act as Sustainability Champions was the main reason for discontinuing the scheme. Halcrow had abandoned its environmental project week in 2011. The key learning point for organisations is that making some paid time available for champions of environmental projects is critical to sustain their activities and being clear about the costs and benefits is important to justify the time allocated. This helps to change the balance of costs and benefits as seen from the individual's perspective and reframes the activity as a shared endeavour, where the individual contributes their personal effort and the organisation provides the opportunity for staff to collaborate.

5.69 Two organisations recognised the need to accommodate the effects of seasonal shifts in weather when refining their campaigns on sustainability. BT had timed its campaign on energy saving with seasonal effects of decreasing temperatures in autumn when energy use is most likely to increase. This has the potential to tap into individual factors of salience and cost/benefit perceptions of employees. SSE recognised the challenges of trying to persuade staff to use sustainable transport which requires exposure to bad weather in the winter and promoted lift sharing more strongly in winter months. This helps to tackle the negative impact on the physical experience of a wintry commute to work.

5.70 For some organisations, time efficiencies in scheduling were key factors in making low carbon initiatives successful, usually linked to cost-benefit perceptions for both the firm and staff. For example, efficient routing of drivers at SSE, Coca Cola and BT created time savings for the firms and their staff. Use of telepresence facilities instead of meetings at SSE also helped create greater organisational time efficiencies.

5.71 Other schedules acted as obstacles to change. Staff living a considerable distance from their workplace who had to take children to school found that they could not make use of public transport options for commuting (Commercial Group). Staff at SSE noted that greater flexibility in the working from home policy would help ease the effects of the car parking restriction policy. At Interface FLOR, the schedule of shift work and organisation of work on the production line meant that production workers were not able to attend Green Team meetings which took place during a shift.


5.72 The diagram below illustrates the main points of our analysis and shows how some of the key success factors relate to each other in a loose sequence. This may be helpful for organisations to consider when they are seeking to identify where to start in implementing low carbon initiatives. Managers should recognise though, that the level of detail given to each of the elements needs to vary in proportion to the scale of the change. A simple recycling scheme will require considerably less planning and policy development than a sustainable transport initiative.

Figure 5.2. Process model for sustaining adoption of low carbon behaviour

Figure 5.2. Process model for sustaining adoption of low carbon behaviour

5.73 The above model illustrates that the most important principles for implementing low carbon management approaches are as follows:

a) Build a culture of staff involvement to develop shared individual and organisational pro-environmental values. This can take place alongside the identification of priority areas for action and development of organisational policy frameworks. It does not however, preclude an action-based approach where implementing simple initiatives or 'quick wins' and involving employees in the projects starts to reform attitudes and values. Together these processes can help to shape individual knowledge and beliefs about low carbon behaviours and provide a sound starting point for ongoing change. Using multiple forms of communication and engaging staff is likely to help planning processes, generate ideas and commitment to sustained behavioural change..

b) Three further processes need to take place on an ongoing basis to make low carbon initiatives successful. Firstly, assessing and tracking performance can help identify areas for initial activity where greatest impact on environmental performance and cost savings can be made. Secondly, it is extremely important to provide feedback to staff on performance as this helps generate momentum to sustain low carbon behaviours, enables learning among individuals and the organisation as a whole, and helps identify new areas for activity. Thirdly, organisations should take advice from peers who have experience of implementing such activities, as well as internal and external experts, at any stage of developing low carbon initiatives.


Email: Jonathan Waite

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