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Intelligent Hand Dryers, a Company based in Sheffield specialising in, well, Hand Dryers, has recently introduced a ban on its employees using single use plastic including plastic water bottles, sandwich wrappers with plastic ‘windows’, and disposable coffee cups with plastic linings, in order to reduce its environmental impact.

The owner of the Company, Andrew Cameron, has made the above a disciplinary offence and stated that if employees receive three warnings and continue to ignore this policy, they could be dismissed.  The environmental benefits, if more businesses were to impose such policies, are obvious however is it fair to effectively make this a condition of employment?  Surely the choice of an employee to buy a sandwich from a well-known supermarket at lunch time does not hinder their ability to perform their role?

Mr Cameron explained his thinking in a blog post on the Company website, fully admitting that lecturing about the environment makes him sound annoying, but most importantly says that he consulted with his employees about the changes before imposing them.  He advised:

“It turned out to be a really positive discussion, people were open to the trial even without rewards and some great additional ideas sprung up. Although rewards were not requested, I felt it important that the change was not too much of a hardship, it makes the change easier to become habit if its fully positive. So, we have taken the following steps:

  1. Weekly delivery of fruit, as much in season and locally produced as possible
  2. Glass bottled milk delivery
  3. Collection of sweet treats weekly” 

Seemingly the trial went very well and the comments provided by Mr Cameron’s employees are positive.

It is arguable that a Company can enforce whatever policies they like (provided of course that such policies do not result in discrimination or other breaches of the law), however the key question is whether employees are happy with them and essentially whether they will continue to work for you.  In this case Mr Cameron took the time to discuss and consult with the employees before the policy was introduced, ensuring that the staff understood the importance of the changes from the Company’s perspective and that they were positive about them.

So far this approach seems to have worked for Intelligent Hand Dryers – could we see more businesses following suit?!