Any organisation that is taking sustainability seriously will at some point need to widen their thinking to incorporate the psychology behind what they are asking their staff to achieve.

By Leanne Kenyon ǀ ProjectMatch Ltd

Developing people’s place in the business of climate action

I don’t need to tell you this, but businesses are full of people. Any organisation that is taking sustainability seriously will at some point need to widen their thinking to incorporate the psychology behind what they are asking their staff to achieve. And if they are savvy, they will also want to understand the effects that sustainability practices HAVE on their staff.

One of the main challenges for getting companies on board with sustainable practices is the cost. The idea of spending thousands (or hundreds of thousands) not on growth, but on replacing current ways of working with a more costly, but more environmental option just seems like a bad move. At the same time, companies will pay thousands (or hundreds of thousands) developing people performance programmes, employee engagement initiatives, recruitment and re-recruitment. It’s time to start realising how much these two overlap.


How can sustainability affect your staff?

Cognitive (and moral) dissonance – There has been plenty of social encouragement for individuals to green up their act at home, and many have taken time to learn all they can about their environmental impact and care deeply about change. But if those 40 hours a week they spend in work require them to act directly against those values, this can lead to significant cognitive and moral dissonance issues. Well-being, engagement, and productivity can all be affected while that individual tries to unravel these opposing sides.

Assessment and appraisals – Perhaps your company has already instilled several fantastic green initiatives and given some employees responsibility for seeing them through. No matter how well intentioned and important the initiative, this is still extra work taking them away from their core job responsibilities. When it comes to appraisal time, are those employees confident that any drop in output for their core work to facilitate sustainable actions instead is seen as a plus (or will they be penalised for not being a superhero)?


What opportunities can it create for your staff?

Impact and engagement – Knowing your own work or the work of your company is directly contributing to improving the health of the very planet we live on, can be overwhelmingly inspiring. Learning to foster that sense of real work impact can make it much easier for staff to get over the everyday hurdles of work and keep them engaged through tough times, when they know just how important the purpose is.

Creative solutions – Sustainability is an issue that spans all disciplines and all departments. It’s a live and ongoing problem that requires, but also facilitates, wider interactions with other teams. This lends itself to empowering staff to create new solutions and cross pollinate ideas.


(If you are interested in some more inspiration for questions like these, there are many examples in our digital booklet).

ProjectMatch itself is an entirely digital company and is dedicated to keeping its carbon footprint as small as possible. Where we conduct additional marketing activities and attend events that generate significant carbon, we pledge to mitigate this each year through donations to the Forest of Marston Vale and other environmental projects. But our own drive to take climate action doesn’t end there.

Part of our goal is to help the incoming workforce build confidence in discussing this topic with their colleagues, employers and clients.

Before they leave university, we have an opportunity to teach students about the effects of climate change on businesses and to practice initiating conversations about sustainability.

We’ve spoken with so many business leaders that have noted that the younger generation of the workforce are driven to do purposeful work. They want to make a difference, to explicitly see the value of their work on the world around them. Which is handy, because that is exactly the attitude and work ethic that is needed to change the course we are on for sustainability. What we need to do, as the older generation, is give them all the tools we can to do a fantastic job at it.

In August 2022, ProjectMatch launched its People & Planet programme, a year-long initiative to encourage both businesses and students to tackle environmental and sustainability issues, by focusing on the effects on, and opportunities for, people in work. We're doing this by offering a 50% discount on research briefs for projects on a sustainability topic and all projects conducted on the theme in the year will also enter a competition, where the top three student projects will win a collection of prizes. 

As part of this programme, for every matched project we will also donate a tree to the Forest of Marston Vale! 

Written by Leanne Kenyon

Founder and Director, ProjectMatch Ltd


To find out more visit or get in touch with Leanne for a chat [email protected]!