5 ways to integrate sustainability into your workplace
Everyone has something to say about the Earth. We’re at a point where even in a chat with your regular barista, you’ll hear about how they’re doing their part to deal with climate change.
There’s an increased focus on the environment, but people’s concerns don't match with practical information on how to respond to it.
People are bothered about climate change and what it means for their lives. The effects of climate change are scarier than catching COVID-19, second only to worries over job security.
The 2021 Lowy Institute poll on climate change attitudes shows that overall concern about climate change increased for Australians in 2021. Six in ten Australians (60%) say ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now.’
Climate change is also at the forefront of people’s minds because its effects are felt more keenly than ever. You don’t have to look any further than many Australians’ experience with the 2020 bushfires, with 89% of respondents surveyed in an Edelman study naming climate as one of their top concerns.
As a business leader, you might be hearing some of the same sentiments as your team sounds off on what your business could be doing for the environment. One way to help alleviate the anxiety teams have about climate change is to include sustainability where they spend most of their time–their workplace.
Why should you make your workplace sustainable?
You and your team spend a lot of your time at work, so if you’re all concerned about the environment, then your action should start where you are. Protecting the environment is the right thing to do in general, but it also makes business sense.
When companies work to hit the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit they fulfil their corporate social responsibility, reduce operational costs and improve employee well-being and satisfaction.
Opting for workplaces built with “green architecture” can lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. These buildings also use less energy and water than their non-green counterparts, conserving resources and reducing waste at once.
Green structures need less maintenance than conventional buildings, so businesses can conserve their resources and cut out excess costs. Environmentally-conscious brands also draw a bigger client base as sustainability is sought out by customers and investors alike.
Multiple studies show that employees are happier to work in companies that promote climate consciousness in multiple areas of their business. When staff are happier and more satisfied by their workplace standing for sustainability, they are motivated and more efficient.
Considering sustainability in your workplace helps increase productivity because many of these practices make it easier for staff members to perform.
Implementing flexible work schedules, encouraging a good work-life balance and offering employees more opportunities to collaborate at the office reduce individual resource consumption and build better relationships among your team members.
5 ways to integrate sustainability into your workplace
Putting your environmental concern into practice can begin as simply as a few changes you make to your workday.
Curb electricity consumption
Does your team really need that coffee maker running the whole eight hours you’re there? What about lights in the pantry that’s empty more often than not? Whether it’s at home or the workplace, saving energy always helps not only your bills but the environment as well.
Reviewing what appliances you need to leave on and what you can switch off is one way to lessen your consumption. If certain equipment is necessary for your business to keep running, remember to regularly maintain your appliances to check if they’re functioning properly, consuming more energy than needed or have to be replaced.
In case reminders to turn off the lights don’t work for your team, look into installing automatic lights with motion sensors in the most energy-hungry areas so lights are only on as needed.
Sort your garbage
Materials recovery and processing items for recycling are simpler when the trash is organised by type. At your workplace, develop clear waste disposal policies and implement recycling policies in all work areas–including instructions for reusing and sorting.
This can start with separate bins for paper, plastic and compostable trash in work areas. These containers need to be visibly labelled and accessible to all members of the team, so before they even think about disposing of their trash, they know to pull apart the packaging of a snack they got or rethink buying that folder with the acetate display window for their report.
Policies for reuse can include repurposing paper for brainstorming or jotting down notes when only one side was used, reusing folders and general supplies like paper clips, pens and internal memo envelopes. Your team might have suggestions for other items to reuse.
For procurement or supply purchase, choose products with minimal packaging or use recycled or recyclable materials. It helps to consistently monitor your supply corner and check which items you can swap out for alternatives that are easier to recycle.
Paper and plastic aren’t the only materials you need to sort. Find out from local authorities about safe disposal policies for items that cannot be reused or recycled, like batteries.
Reduce disposable plastics
Plastic is helpful in moderation, especially if you need it to safely transport products. This doesn’t mean that every item in your office needs to be wrapped in plastic to be secure.
In case you need to ship fragile items, opt for used shredded paper as packing material and reuse boxes, or opt to purchase boxes made of recycled cardboard. For adhesives, which cannot be recycled, explore alternatives like water-activated tape, plant-based tape or glue.
Review the disposables offered in your workplace and decide if you can make reusable sustainable swaps. Some examples you may consider replacing in your workplace are cutlery, disposable cups, tape, bubble wrap, plastic packaging or folders with windows.
The good thing about the sustainability focus for many businesses now is no matter what you see in your office that needs to be replaced, you can find an eco-friendly alternative. It comes down to what your team needs to keep things running smoothly and what you can swap out.
Be mindful of carbon offsetting
Carbon offsetting is an action or activity (such as the planting of trees) that compensates for carbon dioxide emissions. Your team might look into this as a part of the shift to sustainability, but it’s important you don’t do this instead of adapting more environmentally-conscious habits.
Efforts towards net zero emissions need to be done carefully because it’s part of a system of ways to reduce your footprint: prevention, reduction, investment and finally offsetting.
Prevent emissions by reducing the number of trips taken, reduce emissions by saving energy or taking lower carbon options for trips and invest in your own renewable energy. In case an investment is beyond your business’ budget at the moment, check if serviced offices in your area are looking to install solar panels or are connected to a local renewable energy source.
Consider flexible working arrangements
Working from home is one way to reduce the number of trips you take, but it simply may not be for everyone, nor is sticking to the traditional mandated on-site reporting.
To reduce car trips and minimise overhead costs, develop flexible working arrangements that make sense for your team. Some staff members may be more productive working from the office with others, so they can carpool to work on designated days. Other employees may benefit from working remotely for the most part with only a few physical reporting days.
How @WORKSPACES helps your business be more sustainable
If you’re committing to levelling up your sustainability, @WORKSPACES offers solutions for and responds to the needs of businesses of any size, reducing the need for traditional carbon-heavy fixed space leases.
At our sites, we’re committed to educating customers about the sustainable practices we use and how you can implement these habits for your own businesses.
@WORKSPACES has sites in convenient locations, reducing the need to commute long distances to work, while still providing the same professional services, climate-conscious operations and well-designed spaces for your business.
Integrating sustainability in your workplace is a process of mindfulness and attention to keeping habits that do good for your business, your staff and the environment. Getting the guidance you need to make it work for your team is key to responding to climate change.