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CareersCopy-of-ED-w-Banner-lg-with-2014The impact of the services, public and industry sectors on energy consumption and waste generation is considerably higher than residential users, and given that an average person spends a significant portion of their waking hours on the job, workplaces are key places for sustainable development learning.

Pro-environmental behaviour (PEB) is defined as “behaviour that consciously seeks to minimise the negative impact of one’s actions on the natural and built world” and can be implemented through workplace sustainability programmes.

Corporate sustainability requires, along with societal, organisational and technological change, sustained PEB from employees. Although part of the solution to minimising the carbon footprint and waste (e.g. by introducing effective heating and ventilation systems or production practices) a major part is attributed to individual behaviour. The idea is to change employee behaviour, which will trigger attitude change. This is done by focusing on actual behavioural consequences, not just intentions or attitudes.

This is supported by Daryl Bem’s Self-Perception Theory which states that people identify their beliefs and attitudes based on the behaviours they perform. According to this theory, if people are strongly encouraged to behave in a given manner by PEBs in the workplace, it will lead them to integrate these behaviours in their personal lives, which are then diffused into the community through family and friends.

For instance, day-to-day PEBs, including introducing no plastic cup policies, placing clearly labelled and segregated recycling bins instead of individual waste bins and encouraging car pooling among employees, can be encouraged and reinforced in order to get workplaces to potentially act as important leverage points for addressing environmental issues in the greater community.

Traditionally, the process of encouraging green behaviour in the workplace can be compared to organisational change programmes where ‘experts’ design a solution and push it at end users. However, a more effective approach is “pull-based user-owned change.”In this, end users are more involved and take ownership of the change process and pull it through to completion. User participation and involvement throughout the change process is vital for successful change.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan
The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting,Training, e-Learning. fauzia@iandbconsulting.com

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 20, 2014.