Is sustainability integration in the workplace at a tipping point yet?
By John Dillon, VP Marketing Superfy
Organisations are being held accountable by current employees and the general public to take a more proactive role in being sustainable. This is an excellent, positive step, as organisations ultimately have more resources and budget to make meaningful change. Additionally, organisations can also cause a lot more damage than the average citizen by not being sustainable!
What are some ways that organisations are being sustainable?
Cycle-to-work schemes are popular in certain cities in Europe, encouraging employees to be more active (and sustainable) by cycling to the office, supported by their organisation.
This involves the organisation paying towards the cost of a bike (between 18-25%) and providing parking and storage for the bikes. In cities, such as London, Dublin, Cardiff, and Glasgow, cycle-to-work schemes are a lot more accessible – thus companies should incentivise and motivate their employees to do so! In the UK, for example, only 6% of the population cycle to work (around 4 million people!)
Covid-19 accelerated the accessibility to remote and hybrid working, and demonstrated to many organisations the need for hybrid working both from a work-life balance perspective, but also from the perspective that they could save drastically on office running costs, and also become more sustainable by default.
Naturally, some organisations won’t be able to have all employees working from home – for example, doctors, nurses, and hospitality workers. But, staff who don’t need to physically interact with the public should be offered remote or hybrid opportunities to reduce emissions created when travelling to work, and also reduce the cost of running an office with gas, electricity, and general bills.
Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions reporting
For a more integrated approach, taking a look at scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions reporting enables you to look at sustainability across all “layers” of your organisation. From product design through to your suppliers, you can assess the total emissions of all company solutions.
For example, if you’re a company selling furniture that relies on poorly produced and unsustainable material from a 3rd party supplier, then what good are your own company initiatives, when the products are inherently unsustainable?
General recycling (such as paper, cardboard, plastic and metal) is accessible to the majority of residents in developed countries, and organisations should (if they aren’t already) be recycling the “basics”.
Not only does this reduce the amount of waste being produced, but it also fosters good habits within an organisation’s culture. Other recycling that can be promoted can be composting if your office has a kitchen, and battery recycling from electronics.
Smart energy implementations
If you work in an office where electricity is one of your largest consumptions, implementing smart energy practices (and devices) is a great way to become more sustainable. Whether it’s sensors for lights in meeting rooms (using IoT) or investing in renewable energy such as solar panels, it’s the smaller changes that make the world of difference. Implementing sustainability as an initiative within your organisation will also encourage healthier habits from your employees, too.
Work towards an accreditation or become a member of a sustainability board
Some companies have been accused of ‘greenwashing’ in how they approach the area and try to gain marketing value from their limited efforts.
More ambitious companies are reassuring their entire supply chain to assess 3rd party suppliers based on their own sustainability efforts and emissions.
Particularly popular for investors, gaining an accreditation enables you to showcase your accountability towards sustainability, and also gives you measurable parameters so you know that you’re on the right track. Organisations such as the CDP are popular, as well as B-Corp in the USA. You can see how you measure up against other organisations, too.
But, it’s important to work towards moving beyond basic approaches to sustainability
Other companies are looking at how their products can become more sustainable. e.g. Fairphone and Patagonia. Companies like this are moving from a linear economic approach (take – make – waste) to a circular economic model – (reuse – repair – recycle) in their production processes.
In summary, this drive for sustainability has to be spearheaded by operational improvement, and a combination of top-level down and bottom-up approaches. Trying to tackle everything at once isn’t the answer – instead, focusing on smaller, incremental steps will enable you to have a better outcome in the long-term.
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