‘Green guilt’ influences one tenth of people to change job

green guilt, perkbox insights
© Victor Moussa

61% of adults experience feelings of green guilt for the environmental impact of their job – does this mean sustainability could become a factor when choosing jobs?

New research commissioned by Perkbox Insights has found that 89% of adults experience ‘green guilt’ – a phenomenon stemming from the extensive environmental consequences of modern life, which brings moments when you know you could, and should, be doing more to help the planet. A further 47% have felt judged by others for not acting sustainably enough.

The study also found that this phenomenon strikes most commonly at work, as 61% of adults feel guilty for the environmental impact of the industry or job they work in. This isn’t just causing people to live with these feelings, it’s also making people rethink their careers. The findings revealed that over 1 in 10 (12%) have considered changing their jobs due to the effect that their work has on the environment.

What’s more, almost a quarter (23%) of employed adults state that their workplace doesn’t focus on acting sustainably and a whopping 83% act more sustainably at home than they do at work.

Looking into why adults don’t act as sustainably at work as they do at home, over 1 in 10 stated that their ‘colleagues don’t act sustainably so it doesn’t feel worthwhile’ – showing that we might be a little too easily swayed when it comes to our environmental efforts. Another 14% feel that it’s hard to make a difference as their company doesn’t ask for feedback, while 33% feel that they don’t have the means to be as environmentally friendly as they would like to at work.

On an industry level, the retail, catering and leisure industries have been found to be most likely to cause their employees to experience these feelings. 80% of those who work in these industries feel guilty about the impact that their work has on the environment. This causes the statistic of those who have considered changing their job due to its impact to jump to over 1 in 5 in these industries. This is followed by 18% who work in the Travel and Transport industry who have also considered changing jobs.

Contrastingly, a quarter do not experience any feelings of guilt as their work tries to minimise its environmental effects, while just 6% state that they work in a sustainable industry.

The factors most likely to induce feelings of green guilt are unnecessary use of plastic, alongside wasting food and product. A huge 78% feel guilty for unnecessary use of plastic, 72% for wasting food and 57% for wasting products. The factors that we don’t see as easily avoided and therefore less guilt-inducing are unsustainable shopping, with just 25% feeling guilty about this, excessive energy consumption (36%), while just a third feel guilty about high travel emissions.

Despite feelings of guilt, on the whole, the UK feels positive about trying to live sustainably (57%). But these factors do lead to some less positive feelings too – almost a quarter (22%) feel overwhelmed and stressed by trying to live in this way, whilst 8% feel helpless.


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