In recent years, the importance of sustainability has gained increasing attention, as people became more aware of the impact of their actions on the environment. In a world that is experiencing an exceptional rise in global temperatures and is increasingly confronted with the devastating consequences of a changing climate, corporates have started to recognise that sustainability in business has evolved from a luxury to a necessity. In this article, we explore different ways to create a more sustainable workplace and reduce the environmental footprint of your company.
The Environmental Challenges of Businesses
Businesses have a moral obligation to become more environmentally responsible and accountable, given that they are responsible for high numbers of the world’s energy consumption and carbon emissions (25.8 million tonnes are emitted by small businesses alone).
Since the 2015 Paris Agreement and the United Nations’ Net Zero Coalition, there has been increased pressure on organisations to take immediate and meaningful action. It is only fitting that businesses take the proactive initiative to adopt eco-friendly practices across the board, for the benefit of themselves and the climate.
Failing to do so will ultimately result in potential reputational turmoil and distrust from environmentally-conscious consumers, partners and investors. Internal and external stakeholders are demanding improved transparency when it comes to a business’s environmental programmes and policies. Customers are growing increasingly conscious of where their hard-earned money goes, with many preferring to work with companies that take sustainability seriously, according to a recent McKinsey survey.
Conversely, businesses are under increased scrutiny, with many being accused of greenwashing and facing severe backlash to the point that their reputation is irreparably damaged. It goes without saying that committing to sustainability has to be the result of genuine effort and attention.
In order to establish more eco-friendly workplaces across the board, businesses need to approach this challenge from several angles. They need to look at the company’s culture, objectives, policies and structure, as well as their buildings, energy suppliers, products, materials, equipment, and other physical elements of their sustainability goals. Adopting an improved eco-friendly approach does not just benefit the environment but can also save long-term costs and improve a business’ reputation.
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5 Ways to Foster a More Eco-Friendly Workplace
Here are some important steps that business owners can take to create a more sustainable and environmentally-minded workplace.
1. Reduce Energy Consumption
The first step towards a more sustainable workplace is to reduce your energy usage. This has a financial benefit too; the less energy you use, the lower your energy bill.
The company should start by replacing its incandescent bulbs with LED, low-energy versions which use less electricity and last significantly longer. Taking advantage of LED bulbs will also result in a huge cost difference, particularly if you use them strategically with plenty of natural light.
In larger organisations, it is common for energy wastage to be higher. Employees may leave desktop computers on overnight or put them on standby rather than shutting them down, and the latter is better to adopt as a practice going forward. Other ways to save energy in the workplace are to make slight adjustments to the air conditioning power and the thermostat, which, while small in the scheme of things, can contribute to huge long-term cost savings and energy efficiency.
2. Focus on Cleaner Forms of Energy
In light of lowering energy consumption, businesses can make substantial savings and reduce their carbon footprint by switching energy suppliers and adopt alternative, sustainable types of energy to power their offices.
Switching to energy suppliers that distribute clean energy is also a good way to ensure that you are being more ethical. Even if energy prices are soaring right now, this is a much greener choice to adopt in the long run, and once prices stabilise, you will be grateful for making the jump to an eco-friendly provider.
You can also make smart choices to source renewable energy using commercial solutions like heat pumps, solar panels and batteries. This means that green energy is sourced from elements like sunlight or air, which are inexhaustible. By showing that you adopt such practices, you will be demonstrating a commitment to reducing your environmental damage.
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3. Promote Recycling and Waste Reduction
Recycling and waste reduction are essential components of a sustainable workplace. Each tonne of recycled paper saves 3 cubic metres of landfill, 7,000 gallons of water and 380 gallons of oil. In addition, currently, 55% of all the United Kingdom’s plastic waste ends up in landfills or the ocean. Commercially, businesses need to do better.
You should aim to encourage employees to recycle paper, plastic and other materials in designated recycling bins, which should be easily accessible. You could also consider implementing programmes for composting to reduce food waste, as well as reusing materials and resources when they are still able to be used.
In the long run, you could reduce your paper usage. With today’s widespread connectivity and technological innovation, using paper should be a novelty, at best. Reducing paper usage by embracing digital transformation, and opting to use recycled paper when necessary, can be a significant greenhouse gas emission reducer (2.28-2.9 gigatons, to be exact).
4. Promote Sustainable Transportation
Transport is a huge contributor to mass carbon emissions and pollutants. Even though the average daily commute to work does not appear that damaging on paper, when you consider the collective actions of millions of workers worldwide, it looks significantly worse. Reducing the amount of travelling that your employees do for work, particularly by car, is important for your business’s overall sustainability.
Encourage employees to take public transport or lift shares, or incentivise them to take up schemes like the Cycle to Work scheme. Not only does this promote better health choices, but it can also provide financial benefits to businesses. This is also handy to bear in mind alongside governments’ efforts to boost electric vehicle accessibility and infrastructure in their quest to achieve net zero status by 2050.
You can significantly reduce the impact of transportation by encouraging remote or hybrid working if your business allows it. This is much more sustainable and eco-friendly and also provides work-life benefits for employees. By allowing your team to work remotely, you will be accomplishing several goals simultaneously.
5. Implement Sustainability Policies
Think about the strategic and long-term goals you want to achieve with your sustainability efforts. Depending on your organisation, creating and implementing environmental policies and procedures will help to promote a culture of sustainability in the workplace.
Your policy should outline why you want to make your workplace more eco-friendly and how you plan to do so. This could include reducing paper usage, promoting greener commutes, or using renewable materials, and even education on how employees can make more sustainable choices. Whatever your policy, it is crucial for creating improved collective efforts towards making positive change.
Additionally, your business can take part in large-scale initiatives to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. You could plant trees regularly with a corporate partner like the Woodland Trust, involve yourself in reforestation and biodiversity projects from companies like Ecologi, and even offset your employees’ carbon emissions to become a net zero or even a carbon-negative company. This may take some time to establish, but doing so can be a huge green flag to prospective employees, investors and clients.
Creating a more sustainable workplace is not only beneficial for the environment but can also save costs and improve the reputation of the business. By making small, incremental changes and then fostering a culture of sustainability, businesses can work their way up to becoming influential to others and spearheading increased efforts in protecting our planet and resources.
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