Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Green views get legal support

In researching and writing about Green IT I’ve always stressed the fact that there are a number of reasons why companies choose to address climate change, all of which will become increasingly important.  So it won’t just be energy-hungry companies that will seek help from IT, nearly all organisations will need to take action.

In the current economic climate, the fact that reducing energy use invariably saves money has been a driving force.  Legislation is also coming much more into focus, particularly in the UK.  But the the views of shareholders are as important, a fact that the CDP can attest to, and customers have no less influence, since they can vote with their feet.

Perhaps at the bottom of the list, but still important, are employees.  Candidates may make green policies part of deciding which companies to work for and current employees seek pastures new if they’re not happy.  But now employees’ views have gained a lot more weight in the UK.  The Guardian reported this morning on a case that gave convictions around climate change the status of a religious belief in employment law.   

The story (as reported in The Guardian here) is that Tim Nicholson, when head of sustainability at property firm Grainger, fell out with other managers because of what he felt was contempt for his views.  The example quoted was that when the CEO of the company went on a business trip to Ireland and left his Blackberry in London, he sent one of his staff back, by plane, to retrieve it.

When Nicholson was subsequently made redundant he launched a legal action claiming he was sacked for his beliefs, citing the obstruction he had encountered in his job, the contempt he felt and the phone incident.  Grainger objected to the case being heard at an employment tribunal on the grounds that green views did not equate with religious or philosophical beliefs, but today’s ruling allowed the tribunal to go ahead.

The Guardian quotes the judge as saying: "A belief in man-made climate change, and the alleged resulting moral imperatives, is capable if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations", which means that such beliefs are protected under laws preventing discrimination.

(Interestingly, the paper also pointed out that the same judge ruled that Al Gore's ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was political and partisan in a ruling about its use in schools).

Anyway, it now seems that employees in the UK have potentially a lot more legal support in putting their views across, and having them respected, in the work environment.  Yet more pressure on companies to go green.

© The Green IT Review

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