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Dr Jan Maskell

It's not easy being green

08 September 2017 | by Dr Jan Maskell

What does it mean to be ‘green’ in 2017 at work? Whose responsibility is it to be green in the workplace? And why are psychologists interested in this?

Being ‘green’ in the workplace is something you might think about regularly. Or something that is done by someone else. Often it is seen as the domain of sustainability professionals and facilities management.

Like so many things – it is someone else’s job to do that. Especially when you are so busy doing your own job.

There are some aspects of work that have transitioned from being the responsibility of a specific role or department – and have become integrated into everyone’s role. It wasn’t that long ago that issues of safety were the remit of the Safety Officer or the Safety Department. Now everyone at work realises that not only are they responsible for their own safety - but also that of their colleagues and customers.

Being green at work is often still seen as driven by another department - rather than being part of our everyday decision making.

Most people at work make decisions based on criteria such as cost, convenience and time, and issues that affect the climate are felt to be remote from our daily activities. It is hard to see the relationship between what we do at work and climate change, yet every action has an impact. Even down to the type of work we do, and how and when we do it.

So why are psychologists interested in this?

If there is to be sustained change in the environmental impact of organisations, and what we do at work, then surely it is the responsibility of everyone. As psychologists, we try to understand why people do what they do (or what they choose not to do), and why they behave in particular ways.

And for Occupational Psychologists, this is focused on behaviour at work.

Psychologists, and specifically Occupational Psychologists are interested in what motivates people, what they are capable of doing, and what opportunities are there for change and improvement.

Being green means pro-environmental behaviour – and for many people that will mean behaviour change. Doing things differently. And we need ideas about how to do this successfully.

Finding out what has worked in other organisations -  ideas about pro-environmental behaviour change achievements - can be insightful and inspirational. We know that stories are a really effective way for us to learn from each other.

So how can we discover their success stories? 

We can form networks and share practices. We can examine ideas from other professionals. We can hear from academics and their research. We can experience different ways of doing things.

We can meet up with other psychologists and professionals from different disciplines who are interested in the application of psychology. We can experience practical workshops to give us ideas to take away with us.

All of this can happen when we attend seminars and conferences where we hear from others about what they have done - and what the evidence is for success.


Our Going Green Working Group's annual conference is an event is for anyone with an interest in successful sustainability initiatives in a variety of organisations - with a focus on pro-environmental behaviour and the psychology of behaviour change.

Through a range of case studies and workshops you will be able to find out about what has worked and why.

This year's event, Being Green in 2017 - Proactive initiatives to deliver sustainability in your organisation , is set for Monday the 18th of September at the BPS Offices in London, and is open to anyone to attend.

For more information, please click the link above, or to register your attendance, please click here.


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