By Bartosz Wszeborowski, advocate, senior lawyer, and Mateusz Krajewski, trainee attorney at law, lawyer, PCS Paruch Chruściel Schiffter Stępień Kanclerz | Littler



After the regulatory changes beneath so-called ‘work-life balance’ directives (Directives 2019/1152 and 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and the Council (EU)), employers’ eyes have shifted to relatively uncharted area. Game-changing sustainability issues have broken into the Polish labour-law landscape. The presence of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) and changes coming with the Corporate Social Responsibility Directive (CSRD) have had a significant impact on the workplace sustainability agenda. In the face of all these changes fuelled by the pending Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDD), employers have begun to see the potential in introducing sustainability in the workplace.

Changes regarding the outlook on the environment are not only due to the introduced regulations, but also to the increased awareness of employees and employers. Any action to improve sustainability deserves to be applauded.

Health & Safety at Work is fundamental

Finding the balance between work and sustainability is not easy. An employer wishing to implement it in their organisation should pay attention to a few basic issues. Firstly, a safe working environment should be strongly emphasised. An employer who cares about the wellbeing of employees must take care of issues such as safe and healthy working conditions and having right policies in place. This is the absolute minimum from which one should start preparing for the next steps. If an employer follows the ground rules and ensures that the obligations are met, it will be possible to try to do better for the employees. Such an investment will certainly prove beneficial. An employer who does not care about employees usually does not have the space to implement innovative initiatives that require time and understanding. It is worth looking at your organisation and considering whether you are ready to take the next steps in becoming a sustainable employer.

With the employee and the environment in mind

Remote working has its ups and downs. Some employers are choosing to bring employees back to the office, but most still treat home office as an employee benefit. At first glance, it does not have much to do with ecology. However, considering the fact that a remote worker does not have to commute to the office, it becomes apparent that, on a macro level, this creates a significant impact on the carbon footprint. Remote working obviously has many advantages and, as a flexible form of employment, it certainly fulfils its purpose under Polish law.

Another responsible employer initiative is to give employees a few days of paid leave per year to be used for participating in volunteering activities. ‘Employee volunteering’ is also one of the most popular benefits with an environmental impact. Employees appreciate employers who share their ‘call’ and allow them to dedicate their time to different but worthy causes. Employers often pay attention to local problems as part of their environmental efforts – hence initiatives involving nature clean-up campaigns or tree planting by employees.

Innovative benefits include initiatives consisting in limiting consumption. Among the numerous ways to counter this is having tools or equipment that are not used on a daily basis such as an impact drills or industrial vacuum cleaners. Employees have the option to borrow such equipment for a limited period. Equipment-sharing helps to reduce pollution and is an interesting benefit for employees, affecting employer branding.

Another expression of the employer’s activities having an impact on the environment is the organisation of competitions to encourage employees to take up ecological activities. An example of this is encouraging employees to cycle to the office. Often the employer commits, for example, to plant a certain number of trees for a certain number of cycled kilometres.

Initiatives should be carefully considered and prepared ahead of time by the employer. Remote-work policies or provisions allowing employees to take days off for volunteering are issues that affect the way work is provided. The correct preparation of the legal backgrounds for implementing eco-benefits is just as important as the desire to ensure sustainability.

“We’re going green. Here’s why.”

When describing green benefits, it is important to remember why they are important. The basic idea behind their introduction is to care about the planet’s welfare and to have a part in its well-being. Organisations that decide to ‘go green’ might end up receiving a greenwashing label that will not be easy to wash off. Employers need to pay attention to greenwashing, which can result in increased staff turnover. An employer cannot afford to bluff on the subject of sustainability, since it can be easily verified and can backfire quickly.

As a result of the ESG changes, businesses will be obliged to verify their partners in the value chain. In view of this, organisations that ensure the correct approach to environmental sustainability and to their own employees will be much better placed to do business with them.

An employer that cares about sustainability and allows its employees to feel they are performing a shared mission will certainly be recognised. ‘Green’ employers increase their importance on the market and can choose from a larger talent pool than employers who completely neglect this issue.

Rewarding good behaviour up and down the value chain

And so the ‘work-environment balance’ will become increasingly significant. Even though the new ESG regulations are not yet in force, employers are feeling the pressure and trying to keep up with employees’ needs. Issues such as remote work, employee volunteering and other eco-friendly benefits will allow employers to look after the common good and to reward them through their business partners’ inflow to put the employer’s name on the map.

In the first instance, an employer who decides to act in favour of sustainability (whether or not obliged to do so by a legislation) must analyse the current situation. Adequate preparation for the implementation of ‘green’ initiatives is crucial for organisational compliance. 

The next step is to prepare procedures or policies so that green actions coexist with the functioning of the organisation. Such policies should safeguard the interests of the employer, effectively implementing procedures that will be bulletproof.