Building a sustainable workplace
Creating a sustainable workplace has many benefits for employers, employees, and the environment. Yet many companies still don’t make this a top priority. A recent study found that only 10% of UK companies have a strategy in place for cutting carbon emissions. This is bad news for both the environment and company efficiency. A sustainable workplace tends to have a positive impact on the health and happiness of the workforce.
Benefits of creating a sustainable workplace
The advantages can include:
- Healthier employees
- Better productivity
- Increased market value
- Improved talent recruitment and retention
- Greater consumer confidence
- Increased profit
We now live in a world where many employees and customers care about sustainability. Good practices in this area can result in happier, more productive workers, consumers with more trust in the company, and a better reputation, which leads to a higher market value overall. With Millennials making up a significant part of the workforce, companies are recruiting from a generation that cares deeply about company ethics and social responsibility. Attracting and keeping the best talent is now as much about what you stand for as the employment package you offer.
Many of the practices you can use to make your workplace more sustainable will actually cut your overheads too.
What steps can make your workplace more sustainable?
There are many steps, big and small, that businesses can take in order to become more environmentally friendly. Here are some of the easiest:
Engaging your employees has wide-reaching benefits. Make it fun, make it simple and start small to create long-lasting habits. Small changes are key to transforming a workplace. You could even create a ‘green team’ to raise awareness and keep momentum going.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
We’re all familiar with the three Rs of sustainable living, but do we always use them in our workplace? Remember that it’s not just things like paper that can be reused or recycled. Electronics, office equipment, ink cartridges, batteries, signage and packaging can all be recycled too. Displaying proper signage for each recycling area will encourage people to sort waste correctly. Replacing disposable products in your kitchen areas with reusable items will pay for itself in a short amount of time. By all means, make reusing and recycling easy for your employees. You can provide reusable supplies and recycling containers, but ensure the entire business is recycling the big stuff too.
How often do documents really need to be printed in the era of email, workplace software applications and affordable cloud storage? Cutting down on printing saves paper, ink, electricity and physical storage space. It can also make your workplace more productive as centralised electronic systems tend to be far more efficient and easier to access. When you do need to print, using both sides of the paper as a default will instantly cut your paper costs by 50%.
Energy efficient lighting, passive heating and cooling systems, and a well-planned office space can reduce your carbon footprint and save money at the same time. You can also improve energy efficiency by investing in newer, more energy efficient equipment (from office equipment to the company refrigerator) and using laptops and tablets instead of desktops. Enabling sleep mode and power saving modes on computers and other equipment will reduce power consumption when these items are not in use. Others simple ways to conserve energy include monitoring water usage and using recycled paper towels or an eco-friendly hand dryer.
Cut down on transport
With online conferencing facilities, Skype and Facetime, it’s easy to build a culture where many external meetings can be virtual meetings. This reduces stress and saves time as well as resources, keeping employees off the roads in heavy daytime traffic. Encouraging a bike/run/walk to work initiative can also support sustainability, and create a healthier workforce. Incentivising communal transport can also encourage camaraderie between employees which also improves punctuality and reduces absence as well as benefiting the environment.
Rent and lease
Not everything needs to be bought outright. Renting and leasing big equipment can be a more sustainable practice, especially for rarely used, seasonal or specialist items. More companies renting and leasing, means less production and consumption and more efficient use of resources.
Healthy workspace initiatives
One way to be kind to the environment and your employees is to ensure your workplace uses natural and environmentally friendly materials as often as possible. From paints and floor coverings, to furnishings, supplies and even cleaning materials, this simple step will improve air quality, reduce allergies and illnesses, and provide a boost to employee well-being.
There is always room for improvement when it comes to production processes. You can start by identifying materials that could be substituted for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Do you know if your equipment is all up to date?
Sustainability goes beyond what happens within your company. If you really want to commit to this, and not look like a hypocrite when customers delve a little deeper, take a look at your whole supply chain. Work with suppliers to encourage sustainable practices, select new suppliers based on their environmental track record, and use sustainable, recycled or recyclable raw materials when possible.
As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t monitor”. It’s important to set specific goals and tracking metrics for your sustainability initiatives to help you see the benefits of your efforts.
Creating a sustainable workplace is about making a commitment and sticking to it. It should be considered an important investment in the future of your company, as well as the planet. As the benefits start to become obvious, it should also become easier to get any resistant managers or stakeholders to back sustainability too.