Bring more environmental awareness into your business

Why is it worthwhile for employees to get involved in ecological issues in their company? What does this have to do with the bonus system? And where can you make the most difference? Pierre Derivaz, lawyer at Angestellte Schweiz, has the answers.

Why should I, as an employee, also do something for the environment at work? Isn't it enough if I consume in a climate-friendly way?

Pierre Derivaz: When it comes to personal consumption, it's not always easy to keep track of what is particularly environmentally friendly. In your work environment, on the other hand, you have  know-how. You can assess which measures make sense and are effective in your area of responsibility and in the company.

And what does that achieve?

The more employees demand a committed climate and environmental policy from their company, the easier it is for management to implement it. Such a corporate culture makes ecological change a joint endeavor. And that has a motivating effect.



Pierre Derivaz Lawyer at Angestellte Schweiz

As an employee, do I have the right to have a say in environmental matters?

The Participation Act provides employees and employee representatives with the right to information on all collective matters. If you ask specifically on this basis, you can ensure that the topic of environmental protection is always present. This right can be extended through an agreement with the employer.

What opportunities do collective bargaining agreements (CLA) offer?

A CLA has an important function. The existing agreement in the mechanical, electrical and metal industries already recommends that the employee representative body be given at least the right to be consulted on the company's ecology and environmental policy. And this before any decisions are made. We are committed to ensuring that the right to participate in sustainability is anchored in all CLAs.

Where should I try to exert influence?

That depends on the specific company. In many cases, there is a need for action on the same point: bonus systems. Up to now, variable compensation has primarily been linked to the achievement of key financial figures. In view of the ecological threats, this is not in keeping with the times. What is needed are criteria aimed at climate protection and the careful use of raw materials.

Pension funds and sustainability

In the case of pension funds, employees actually have the most influence under current law, explains Pierre Derivaz. Depending on how the pension fund is structured, the employee representatives have a right of co-decision on the investment strategy. This can ensure responsible investment. For example, by excluding investments in companies that produce fossil raw materials.

What if a company is small and cannot invest resources in environmental protection?

At the beginning, a certain amount of effort is required. If you want to practice effective environmental protection, you have to analyze the initial situation. This means that the need for action and possible starting points must be known. No company is too small for this. For them in particular, it makes sense to review established processes. In this way, workflows can be improved. And areas where energy and other resources are wasted come to light.

What can employees of large international companies do when important decisions are made abroad?

This can limit the influence. Nevertheless, employees can get involved. Thus, participation rights often develop more quickly in the EU than here. For example, employees from Switzerland can be members of European works councils.

What if an employer is neither too small nor too big, but still doesn't want to hear about corporate social responsibility?

Employees cannot force their company to address the issue. In this case, it's probably worth looking around on for an employer who is more socially committed. We support this job platform. There, job offers can be filtered according to environmentally friendly companies.

Be aware of greenwashing

That companies present themselves as sustainable without fundamentally changing anything, also called greenwashing - this is a danger that exists, as Pierre Derivaz says. But something else is important too: the more companies publicly commit to environmental protection, the harder it will be to claim that ecology and economic development are incompatible. If not only the CEOs and marketing departments get behind the movement, but also the employees, this will also increase the pressure on politicians. But clearly, in the longer term, the announcements need to be critically reviewed. We have to measure the companies against their goals.


Thomas Schenk