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Five reasons cleaner air is good for business

Five reasons cleaner air is good for business

Poor air quality is a global issue. It’s not only damaging human health, it’s bad for business. There are many reasons why it’s good business to help improve air quality – here are five.

Better employee health reduces absenteeism

Poor air quality is recognised as a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation, with some 64,000 UK deaths in 2015 attributed to dirty air, reducing average life expectancy by around one-and-a-half years.

Respiratory conditions such as asthma and even coughs and colds are more pronounced in poor quality air and the more polluted the air the more employees off sick.

Employee sick days cost businesses dearly, with each employee costing employers on average over £500 a year. Sick days taken due to air pollution in Central London alone were estimated to stand at 656,900 days per year in a 2017 study for the City of London Corporation.

A less polluted environment lowers business costs

Complying with air quality legislation helps future-proof businesses from potential penalties and charges. Being more efficient and entering into a Climate Change Agreement can lead to energy intensive businesses paying a reduced rate of Climate Change Levy.

The transport sector accounts for the largest percentage of UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, with the main sources being petrol and diesel cars. In Central London, road transport accounts for 48% of nitrogen dioxide emissions and 54 per cent of PM10 (a type of particulate matter). Businesses buy more than half the new vehicles sold in the UK. These are then typically sold on to consumers second-hand, so transitioning to cleaner vehicles not only makes the business cleaner but helps spread the use of cleaner vehicles in general.

Consumers are choosing to spend with greener companies

The relatively recent explosion in widespread awareness of and concern about the current Climate Emergency means that ever more consumers think about the environmental impact before they spend money. Reducing air pollution and waste can help to attract customers and clients.

Three-quarters of people between the ages of 21 and 34 say they are looking to reduce their impact on the environment and Unilever reports a third of consumers are already choosing to buy from brands doing social or environmental good, according to the Guardian. Nielsen reports that consumers around the world seek companies that care about environmental issues – a major one of which air pollution.

90% of CEOs believe that sustainability is important to their company’s success. Sustainability for business is not just about green issues but encompasses environmental, economic and social spheres.

People in less polluted areas spend more

A study analysing daily spending, air pollution and climate data from 12 provinces in Spain found that consumer spending falls on days with poor air quality. ‘Spanish consumers spend $29 to $48 million (USD) less on days when ozone pollution is 10 percent worse than usual, and that spending falls by $23 to 35 million on days when particulate matter pollution is 10 percent worse than usual. Just a ten percent reduction in ozone and particulate matter 2.5 in Spain could increase consumer spending between $19 to 30 billion annually.’

The researchers, from Data-Driven Yale, found that people tended to stay indoors on days with higher levels of air pollution, rather than go out to spend money in shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities.

It’s easier to attract talent in less polluted areas

The more polluted cities become, the less attractive they are to potential employees. Although this isn’t currently a major issue in the West it is easy to see it becoming so. For example, 53% of American firms operating in Chinese cities report difficulty attracting senior talent, with air pollution cited as the main reason.

There are other benefits too

Further cost savings from reducing air pollution can include lower insurance premiums, less risk of machinery being clogged or damaged by dust and reduced risk of compensation claims from employees and members of the public. Manufacturer 3M was one of the first to tackle manufacturing pollution – they saved an estimated $827 million and eliminated more than 800,000 tonnes of pollutants between 1975 and 1999 with its ‘Pollution Prevention Pays’ (3Ps) scheme.


If you’d like to know how you can motivate people to change their habits, ask us for a demonstration of our behaviour change management system.