LONDON – Employers in Britain are being urged to adopt a casual clothing campaign like Japan’s “Cool Biz” for summer.
The Trades Union Congress, which represents Britain’s unions, is calling on companies to allow staff to ditch their jackets and ties as Britain swelters in a heat wave.
The Japanese government-led “Cool Biz” campaign is now in its second year. Spearheaded by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the program promotes casual wear in the workplace to reduce the power consumption of air conditioners.
Because the campaign claims to have cut carbon dioxide emissions, the TUC is promoting its benefits for Britain.
The TUC says that allowing office workers to wear casual clothes, including shorts, means they remain as cool as possible and will work more efficiently.
Launching its “cool work” campaign, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “We’d like British bosses to work cool and take the Japanese premier’s advice and allow their staff to dress down a little for summer. Not only will a cool approach to work avoid staff wilting at their desks, it could also save companies money as they should be able to turn down their air con a notch. Arctic-style air conditioning may stop the workplace from becoming like an oven, but its overuse is not good for the environment.”
The TUC says it recognizes that dressing casually may not be appropriate for all staff — particularly those dealing with the public and attending important meetings. However, the union does not want employers to ban shorts and other casual wear by trying to claim there are health and safety issues.
In London’s Trafalgar Square this week, most office workers had abandoned their jackets and ties as the capital baked in the searing heat. But few, if any, had ventured as far as wearing shorts.
One of the people sweating in a suit and tie was Rob Littlejohn, 60, who fully backed the Japanese approach.
“I normally have to wear jacket and tie for work, but I would like not to have to — it is much more comfortable without,” he said.
Generally speaking, most offices in Britain require men wear a tie and, sometimes, a jacket throughout the year. However, in recent years there has been an increasing trend for men to forgo the tie, even in winter.
A spokeswoman for the British Cabinet Office, which oversees matters for the civil service, said it is up to each government department to decide on dress codes. She said the Cabinet Office advises staff to “look professional” but there is nothing stipulating they must wear jackets and ties.
The Confederation of British Industry, which represents the country’s bosses, declined comment on the TUC’s proposals.
A poll in Japan last August shows that nearly half the businessmen surveyed had adopted the new dress code, but about a quarter still wore both jackets and ties.
The Environment Ministry in Tokyo said the campaign from June 1 to Sept. 30 last year is estimated to have helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 460,000 tons, the equivalent of about one month’s worth of emissions from 1 million households.
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