As NASA warns that global sea levels could exceed estimates by 2050 and there are fears that nations won't be able to stay under the 1.5C target, many people around the globe are struggling with eco-anxiety – a term coined by psychologists which refers to the worries people are suffering around the climate emergency both in and out of the workplace.  

A 2021 survey, carried out by the University of York and Global Future think tank, found that around 78% of people reported some level of fear about climate change, with 41% saying that they were extremely fearful. The fear was experienced by all genders, ages, ethnicities and socio-demographic groups, illustrating just how widespread the condition is. It’s no surprise then that people are beginning to hold their employers accountable for their impact on the planet, especially as many feel governments aren’t going far enough to tackle global warming. In a recent study co-authored by the University of Bath, 65% of respondents felt that governments were failing young people when it comes to climate change.    

We know that mental ill-health costs UK businesses £45 billion a year so employers are in a strong position to respond to eco-anxiety by engaging their workers with sustainable initiatives that will support both physical and mental health. Not only can this provide value to the individual, but it will add value to businesses and promote the employer brand.

How does eco-anxiety manifest? 

The feeling of helplessness that employees can experience at work can contribute to a decline in health and result in increased stress. This anxiety can manifest as anger or despair, and can even be provoked by a simple lack of awareness displayed by co-workers when waste is incorrectly recycled or colleague purchases single-use plastic. So, is there anything that employers can do to mitigate their people’s worries?

5 steps to reduce eco-anxiety 

1. Get practical and make a difference 

The time for platitudes is over and action is required. Using a benefits and reward platform is one way to help increase the sustainability efforts in an organisation as it is a proactive response that employees can see has a positive impact on the environment. This can be via specific benefits, rewards for behaviours that promote your ESG commitments, or communications to inform your people about the initiatives you have in place.

2. Go green - literally 

A great initiative to introduce is tree planting via reforestation subscriptions. Not only is this a direct way to make a difference but organisations can also get involved by funding as many levels as they wish, to support their own and their employees' climate goals. These initiatives can support local livelihoods as well as restore forests in areas of importance - improving local biodiversity and protecting or re-establishing habitats for local wildlife. As part of Benefex’s commitment to sustainability, our partner Furthr will plant a tree in a global reforestation area, with each marketplace benefit selection our customers’ employees make.  

3. Sustainable charity initiatives and volunteering 

Choosing an environmental charity to support or giving employees time off to volunteer is another proactive move that employers can make. The volunteering initiatives that employers get involved with are improving the environment and supporting employee mental health and wellbeing at the same time. Studies have shown that volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine – it’s even been linked to a lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.   

4. Start a conversation 

Giving employees the opportunity to discuss climate challenges and explore ideas can be particularly empowering. Creating an eco-council and appointing sustainability advocates is another way to give employees a voice. If you want to know where to start with your sustainability initiatives, asking them what they’d like to see from the organisation is a good place to start.  

5. Use your benefits platform for sustainability communications  

Having one place for your sustainability strategy, rewards, recognition and benefits give employees an easy way to see the full value of everything you are doing around sustainability and the impact of your strategy – on them and the planet.  

Our Great Expectations Report found that this was indeed something that resonated greatly with today’s workforce, with 38% of respondents saying that they wanted improved ongoing communication about benefits provision from their employer. Celebrating any initiative that the company, teams, and individuals in the business are championing is only going to bolster engagement and reaffirm the company’s commitment to DEI, ethical practices and adherence to its sustainability agenda. 

Download our report for more ideas on implementing sustainable benefits in your organisation.