Bridging the sustainability gap

Survey finds 71 percent of Canadian professionals think companies lack initiatives

Bridging the sustainability gap

A recent survey by Robert Walters Canada reveals a striking disconnect between Canadian employers and employees regarding workplace sustainability. Despite 59% of companies claiming to prioritize sustainability, 71% of professionals believe their organizations lack progressive climate goals. The survey, conducted in May 2024, polled 1,200 professionals across Canada.

Megan Gallagher, senior HR & legal recruiter at Robert Walters Canada, sheds light on these findings and offers a roadmap for closing the gap between corporate sustainability ambitions and employee expectations.

"All members of the business community have an obligation to help reverse the dial on climate change," says Gallagher. This sentiment resonates deeply with the Canadian workforce, where less than one in five professionals perceive their workplace as very sustainable. Alarmingly, only 15% believe their employer is doing enough to tackle climate change.

Disconnect in perceptions

There is a notable discrepancy between what employers and employees believe is being done. "I think there is a little bit of a gap in how employers feel about their approach to sustainability and how employees perceive it," Gallagher notes. This gap can be attributed to several factors, including a possible lack of awareness among employees about their organization’s sustainability efforts.

Gallagher points out that some employers might not be effectively communicating their sustainability strategies. "It could also be that maybe their company actually isn't prioritizing sustainability," she suggests, highlighting that business goals such as profitability often take precedence.

For health and safety professionals who also manage sustainability initiatives, the survey's findings underscore the need for greater transparency and engagement. "If sustainability is a top priority for their business, making sure that the measures they have in place aren't gone unnoticed is crucial," Gallagher advises. She stresses the importance of promoting these measures and involving employees in sustainability efforts to foster a sense of ownership and collaboration.

Gallagher suggests sustainability should be a shared responsibility between employers and employees. "I think it's increasingly important to employees, especially the Gen Z's and younger millennials, to work for an organization that aligns with their personal values," she observes. This generational shift underscores the importance of integrating ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles into the core values of an organization.

Practical steps for greener work

To bridge the sustainability gap, Gallagher offers several practical steps for businesses:

  1. Waste audits: Hiring an external provider to conduct a workplace waste audit can identify areas for improvement and develop a concrete action plan for waste reduction.
  2. Assigning responsibility: Creating ESG-related roles within the organization can help set climate targets and develop initiatives to achieve them.
  3. Partnering with ESG consultancies: Collaborating with experts can ensure the company remains accountable and up-to-date with industry expectations and policy changes.
  4. Offering sustainable alternatives: Providing eco-friendly options such as reusable cups, recycled notepads, and other materials can significantly reduce business waste.
  5. Collective sustainability incentives: Engaging the entire organization in setting and achieving sustainability goals can enhance commitment and ensure meaningful progress.

Moving forward

Despite the challenges, the survey indicates a strong desire among Canadian professionals to see their workplaces become more sustainable. "Almost 30% of professionals state that their organization has clear climate goals, yet nearly 3 in 5 think their employer is not doing enough," Gallagher highlights. This discrepancy suggests that while some progress is being made, there is still a long way to go.

For health and safety professionals, these findings offer a clear mandate: ensure that sustainability measures are well-communicated and involve employees in the process. By fostering a culture of sustainability and ensuring efforts are visible and inclusive, Canadian workplaces can make significant strides towards a greener future, aligning with the values of their employees and contributing to the global fight against climate change.