One in five local authority employees say it’s not their responsibility to be environmentally friendly in the workplace

A fifth of local authority employees say they feel no responsibility to act in an environmentally friendly way in the workplace, according to new research conducted by commercial drainage experts Metro Rod.

The research found that the majority of local government employees felt that responsibility for their organisation’s environmental impact fell solely to the senior leadership team, with the lack of accountability being further highlighted by the different attitudes that respondents demonstrated towards environmental issues at home compared to the workplace.

While 75% of local authority employees reported engaging in environmentally friendly practices such as recycling in the workplace this was significantly lower than the 88% who engaged in the same practices at home. This 13% drop is the equivalent of 130,000 of the UK’s one million* local authority employees not acting in an environmentally responsible way at work despite doing so at home.

Peter Molloy, managing director at Metro Rod, said: “When you consider the number of hours we spend in the workplace, and the findings we have uncovered, there is significant potential that our collective activity at work has been impacting the environment more than we ever previously realised. And this is becoming a major part of a much wider problem.

“As an example, local authority employees reported not caring about their impact on drains at work (28%), or about their energy consumption in the workplace (24%), because they’re not paying the bill. This lack of employee responsibility and culpability, if it is not quickly addressed, will continue to have serious consequences for the environment and ultimately for the UK’s infrastructure. If workers don’t consider the impact they have on drains it results in non-biodegradable items entering our drain and sewer network, causing serious damage. This in turn generates expensive and unnecessary repair work.”

Seemingly exacerbating the problem is a lack of training for local authority employees on the environmental impact that they can have via their actions in the workplace. Only 2% of respondents reported having received any environmental impact training – the lowest across all industry sectors surveyed – while 63% reported not being involved in shaping their organisation’s environmental policies, the highest result of any industry sector.

He added: “We’re making a serious call for organisations to reinforce the collective responsibility we all have to protect the environment from a business point of view, to ensure our UK workforces are playing their part in futureproofing our local and national eco-systems for many years to come.”

To help create a shift in these patterns, Metro Rod has produced a guide summarising its research findings, which includes top tips on improving workplace environmental responsibility. It contains a variety of materials that can be shared with a whole organisation to ensure everyone is playing their part in protecting the environment, inside and outside of the workplace. It can be downloaded here

The top items that UK workers admit to flushing down drains include:

1. Animals and insects including spiders, slugs, dead bugs, fish and even a dead mouse
2. Volatile liquids including acid, acetone, white spirit, petrol and paint
3. Meal leftovers including baked beans, porridge, curries, peas and bread
4. Cooking liquids including chicken fat, bacon fat and chip fat
5. Cigarettes and alcohol
6. Contents of a vacuum cleaner
7. Expired drugs
8. Lumpy, gone-off milk
9. Personal items such as cotton wool buds and clumps of hair
10. Clothes