Facilitating environmental management through a participatory approach
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The impact of the human resource and cultural aspects of an organisation on the success of an environmental programme cannot be underestimated. The literature widely recognises that active participation from employees at all levels is essential at each stage of the implementation process to overcome employee resistance and ensure a proactive environmental programme is accepted and permanently integrated into each aspect of an organisations’ culture and functions. An extensive range of techniques are available to assist an organisation through the technical and cultural adjustments required to ensure pervasive participation in the environmental programme is achieved. This study determines the extent of employee participation in environmental programmes in 38 Irish-based organisations and the participatory techniques that facilitate the inclusion of employees at all levels in the programme. The responding organisations did not achieve comprehensive involvement of employees from every level in the organisation and at each stage of the programme. Only top management and middle management employees participate in the programme in most cases. In the 36.8% of respondents that succeeded in involving front-line employees, the extent of participation was limited. Organisations with a higher percentage of employees involved in the programme tended to have a middle-up-down management structure; have a policy to include employees in the environmental programme and have achieved front-line employee participation in line with this policy; facilitate employees to directly communicate to senior management and other parts of the organisation; and consider the environmental impacts of their products and processes to a greater extent than organisations with a lower percentage of employee involvement. Organisations that achieved front-line employee participation consult employees when setting environmental objectives and targets; assess employee attitudes and willingness to accept the programme, assess the organisations culture; allow middle management and front-line employees to experiment to find solutions to environmental problems; allow front-line employees to make decisions in their own work area; communicate to front-line employees at an earlier stage in the implementation of the programme; consult employees about the processes they work on; use suggestion schemes; and link participation into job descriptions and staff appraisals to a greater extent than organisations without front-line employee involvement. Techniques which were not conclusively linked to improved employee participation include training; environmental teams; providing feedback on the programme’s progress; considering environmental issues in the business strategy; the presence of an environmental manager or environmental department; top management supportive actions and middle management support. Organisations with front-line employee involvement in the environmental programme were more likely to experience a change in behaviour of managers and workers and improved environmental performance. The potential to reduce resistance through participation was noted.
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