Once upon a time not that long ago, going green was considered little more than a niche lifestyle choice. Nowadays, we all feel the increasing weight of responsibility of doing our bit to help look after the planet—both at home and at work.
The savvy business owner will also have realized that introducing sustainable practices at the office has a number of important benefits. It creates a healthier environment for employees, reduces unnecessary waste in terms of energy and resources, and recognizes the role that every business, large or small, can play in leading the way for responsible living. In fact, being a committed ‘green’ company may just give your business the edge when it comes to attracting customers and staff.
There are many ways to introduce green initiatives to the workplace that will make a difference. How about something as simple yet effective as introducing plastic free Fridays or collecting crisp packets for recycling? However, if you want to ensure that your efforts are more than just a flash in the pan, it’s important to embed sustainability right at the heart of your company values.
1. Mission statement
Start with your company’s mission statement and include a commitment to practicing environmental responsibility and stewardship. Perhaps you could target a particular group, initiative or charity in need of your support, or strive towards a specific positive impact you wish to make.
The main thing is that your mission statement must be a clear reflection of your company values, including your commitment to sustainable environmental practices, that is there for all to see.
2. Employee engagement
Once the overall goals have been defined, your next task is to get your staff on board. Set up a ‘green team’ whose members will take the lead in implementing and embedding your company’s sustainability values throughout the business.
It is their role to engage employees to contribute to the development and implementation of your green initiatives, and to broaden the reach of sustainability practices through training initiatives, in job descriptions and performance reviews.
You may be pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback coming from existing staff and the increase in interest from job candidates. Millennials have been found to be particularly receptive to their employers’ sustainability efforts, something that your recruitment policy would do well to take note of.
3. Save energy in the office
One of the most obvious places to start making a difference is by looking at office utilities. Save both energy and money by replacing fluorescent lights with energy efficient lights, such as upgrading to LEDs. Use smart motion sensor light switches, and enable sleep mode and power saver features on computer equipment to minimize your energy consumption.
Renewable heating solutions for commercial premises can bring attractive financial returns via the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, while supporting environmentally responsible technologies such as solar PV, biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps and more.
Why not commission an energy survey for your premises to help you identify where savings can be made using energy conservation measures and renewable technology? Energy consults at Geo Green Power claims that “on average we save our customers between 10-20% just by renegotiating their energy supplier agreements.” That’s not a bad place to start.
4. Reduce office waste
Office waste tends to be seen first and foremost in terms of paper and other consumables, so let’s take a look here first. Are you discouraging the use of the printer in favor of a paperless office via electronic messaging, filing and archiving? When you do have to print, something as simple as setting the default to double-sided printing instantly cuts your paper consumption by half. Is your office recycling printed paper, printer cartridges and used IT equipment?
Looking beyond the office desk, what efforts can you make to be more sustainable in the kitchen and staff toilets? Replace disposable kitchenware and use traditional china, glassware and metal cutlery instead. Switch to recycled paper products and environmentally friendly detergents.
Set up clear signage for each waste, recycling and compost bin along with friendly periodic reminders to encourage employees to keep up the good work, and reward as necessary.
5. Lower your carbon footprint
Use this handy free calculator to help you work out the current carbon footprint of your business, so you have a benchmark against which to measure your efforts to reduce emissions. If your office is easily accessible by public transport, or your employees mostly live close by, encourage them to leave the car at home and walk or cycle instead.
Set up a secure bike rack for staff and customers and openly encourage the use of bikes for visitors to the office. Why not provide a company bicycle that can be used by employees during their lunch hour, and have a few extra bike locks available in case anyone forgets to bring theirs?
For companies situated in remote locations, a car sharing initiative may be a viable option.
6. Review your supply chain
Make it a priority to review your business suppliers to see whether they really align with your company’s sustainability values. Do you have an environmentally preferable purchasing policy or a policy to screen suppliers for the positive environmental impact they make?
Support your local economy by shifting as many of your business purchases to benefit commercial activity near you. From office supplies to commercial catering, it’s important to support your local vendors and suppliers.
7. Give back to the community
Implementing green policies at the office is all very well, but to really make the connection between our actions and their impact on the environment, you need to go out there and experience it first hand.
Many companies have volunteer programs where staff are released to help with nature projects, local clean-up operations or charity events. Could your company champion a charity? Do you have a sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy?
In addition to being a great way to give back to the community, CSR initiatives have been shown to increase employee engagement and team bonding, making your company a happier and more meaningful place to work.Top of FormBottom of Form