One third of social housing employees say it’s not their responsibility to be environmentally friendly in the workplace

1 in 3 employees in the social housing sector say they feel no responsibility to be environmentally friendly in the workplace, with 20% saying that the responsibility for this fell to senior leadership and management teams, according to new research conducted by commercial drainage experts Metro Rod.

This lack of accountability resulted in a large number of those who responded to the nationwide survey admitting that they paid no consideration to a number of issues that have a significant impact on building facilities and the working environment. This included 36% saying they did not worry about drains at work as their businesses will pay to repair them; 40% that said they did not worry about energy consumption as they don’t pick up the bill and 27% that said they cared less about recycling at work as it isn’t their responsibility.

As a result of these attitudes 38% admitted that they had done one of the following in the workplace:

  • Flushed wet wipes down the toilet
  • Poured fat down the drain
  • Poured uneaten food down the drain
  • Poured oil down the sink
  • Poured grease down a drain

Social housing employees reported a range of factors that influence their likelihood of being environmentally friendly in the workplace, with 40% saying they were less likely to take this into consideration when they are busy. A further 7% said they were less likely to be environmentally friendly when tired and 13% said they didn’t bother at work because their actions would make no difference to their employers’ environmental impact.

The research also highlighted the different attitudes that respondents demonstrated towards environmental issues at home compared to the workplace.

While 60% of social housing employees reported engaging in environmentally friendly practices such as recycling in the workplace this was significantly lower than the 73% who engaged in the same practices at home.

Peter Molloy, managing director at Metro Rod, said:

“When you consider the number of hours we spend in the workplace, and the findings we have uncovered, there is significant potential that our collective activity at work has been impacting the environment more than we ever previously realised. And this is becoming a major part of a much wider problem.

“As an example, workers reported not caring about their impact on drains at work (36%), or about their energy consumption in the workplace (40%), because they’re not paying the bill. This lack of employee responsibility and culpability, if it is not quickly addressed, will continue to have serious consequences for the environment and ultimately for the UK’s infrastructure. If workers don’t care about their impact on drains it risks all sorts of non-biodegradable items ending up down there, leading to very serious damage to our drain and sewer network. This in turn generates expensive and unnecessary repair work.”

Seemingly exacerbating the problem is a lack of training for social housing employees on the environmental impact that they can have via their actions in the workplace. Two in three respondents reported having never received any environmental impact training at work while the same number reported not being involved in shaping their organisations environmental policies.

He adds:

“We’re making a serious call for organisations to reinforce the collective responsibility we all have to protect the environment from a business point of view, to ensure our UK workforces are playing their part in futureproofing our local and national eco-systems for many years to come.”

To help create a shift in these patterns, Metro Rod has produced a guide summarising its research findings, which includes top tips on improving workplace environmental responsibility. It contains a variety of materials that can be shared with a whole organisation to ensure everyone is playing their part in protecting the environment, inside and outside of the workplace. It can be downloaded here

The top items that UK workers admit to flushing down drains include:

  1. Animals and insects including spiders, slugs, dead bugs, fish and even a dead mouse
  2. Volatile liquids including acid, acetone, white spirit, petrol and paint
  3. Meal left overs including baked beans, porridge, curries, peas and bread
  4. Cooking liquids including chicken fat, bacon fat and chip fat
  5. Cigarettes and alcohol
  6. Contents of a vacuum cleaner
  7. Expired drugs
  8. Lumpy, gone-off milk
  9. Personal items such as cotton wool buds and clumps of hair
  10. Clothes

For more information about Metro Rod, visit