What is a sustainable workplace?
A sustainable workplace describes a workplace whose practices and goals align with protecting the planet. It is environmentally sensitive, resource efficient and socially responsible (Society for Human Resource Management, 2008), so ensures that company practices do not depleat the world’s natural resources.
As well as saving the planet, there are many benefits for your business, including:
Increased market value:
As we move towards a more sustainable future, companies that are not environmentally friendly will not survive against competition. Investors are now much more likely to invest in your company if they see green practices, and there is a good reason for this; recent research shows that businesses who invest in sustainability actually outperform those that do not, with a steady correlation between sustainability investments and stock performance. Though some practices may seem costly at first, there is no denying the long term benefits they will have to your market value. McKinsey research stated that “an investment of $1 at the beginning of 1993 in a value-weighted portfolio of high-sustainability companies would have grown to $22.60 by 2010, compared to only $15.40 for low-sustainability companies”
Increased customer base and customer loyalty:
Being eco-friendly will also greatly improve your brand image. Customers today are becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability, and want to purchase products or services from companies with sustainable practices. The Natural Marketing Institute found that 58% of consumers consider the company’s environmental impact before making a purchase. In fact, research shows that customers even believe that sustainable products will have a higher level of product performance. At present, Unilever state that brands with core values such as sustainability are actually growing at twice the rate of others due to this increased customer base.
Hire & retain good staff:
More than in past generations, millennials and young people are increasingly aware and concerned about their environmental impact. As young people now make up the majority of the workforce and will even account for 75% of the total workforce by 2025, it is important to align company values with the values of your staff demographic in order to attract and retain employees. In the Future of Workplace sustainability report, 65% of respondents said they would be more likely to work for a company with sustainable practices, and 83% felt that their current company was not doing enough to help protect the planet and could do more.
Save costs by reducing waste:
Sustainability and reducing waste go hand in hand, and wastage always results in extra costs for your business. Investing in sustainable practices may seem costly at first, but they are almost guaranteed to save you money in the long haul. Investing in energy-efficient machinery and solar panels will save you money on overheads, as will having automatic on-off light switches and encouraging staff to switch off appliances when not in use.
Improving risk management:
Climate change is possibly the largest economic threat at present, and the largest study on climate change found that 72% of corporations said that climate change presents significant risks to their business, including risks to revenue and costs. In fact, McKinsey research finds that environmental impacts can end up costing as much as 70% of earnings. A good risk management strategy today incorporates promoting a sustainable workplace.
So, how can you implement a sustainable workplace?
Encourage sustainable commuting or working from home:
Sustainable commuting can be encouraged by providing incentives and rewards to staff who get to work via cycling, public transport or carpooling. Implementing a work-from-home policy, even for just a couple of days a week would also have a significant environmental impact, as would encouraging meetings to be hosted online rather than in person to save everyone travelling to the office.
Invest in energy efficient products:
Become more energy efficient by investing in natural energy sources like solar panels, and energy efficient lightbulbs and computers. Install automatic on-off systems for lights, air conditions and other appliances, and use smart meters to measure your company’s energy consumption.
Ensure that company packaging, such as canteen food packaging comes in biodegradable or recyclable packaging, and implement recycling policies around the workplace. You can also save on water wastage by installing low flowing appliances like dishwaters, recycling water and harvesting rainwater.
Millions of trees are cut down to cover our daily paper usage. Not only is going digital much more efficient, but it also saves on paper to help protect the planet. Using a PPM system like Execview can help start you on your sustainable journey and will greatly save paperwork.
Raise employee awareness:
Running training programs to educate staff on the importance of sustainability will increase their efforts to build an eco-friendly workspace, for example making them more likely to comply with switching off appliances, saving water where possible and recycling. All of this will contribute to creating a company culture of sustainability; one that staff will want to work in and be proud to work in, will be good for the planet and will increase the value of your company.
By Alana Bowen-Burford