Driving an electric car, buying local and organic food, preferring second-hand clothing over mass consumption. Many of us are making sustainable shifts in our daily life. Sustainability is not only about green initiatives for the environment, it also includes the social impact our way of living has on other people. If your employees make better choices in their personal lives, they likely expect to see some changes in their professional environment too.
Since it is of value for your business and for your workforce, how do you improve sustainability in the office? Which sustainable work practices could you apply in your organization? There are various ways to act for the planet and people like opting for the right energy system, helping local communities, or lowering carbon emissions through flexible work. Here is a complete guide to how, as a company, you can make a positive impact on a global issue.
Why should sustainable work practices be part of your business strategy?
The three pillars of sustainability are the new key to success
Before starting to talk about sustainability, let’s remind ourselves what it means. A sustainable model is based on three pillars, economical, social, and ecological, and the impact of our actions on each of them. The 3 Ps (Profit, People, Planet) are deeply interconnected and are the “magic triangle” for success.
For a long time, our focus was on efficiency and production rather than on people or the planet. We were always striving to produce more and for cheaper. But we are realizing this model isn’t made to last. The planet’s resources, as much as working systems based on low-paid workforces, poor working conditions, are limited. More consumers are aware of these issues and support companies that pay attention to their environmental and social impact.
Sustainable values are a top priority for the youngest generations
Do you work with a multigenerational workforce? If that’s not the case yet, it will certainly happen soon. Baby Boomers are slowly leaving the workplace, Gen Z are starting to get their first professional experience, and Millennials (Gen Y) represent the biggest active demographic group, without mentioning Generation X.
As highlighted in our article about the importance of sustainability in business, 40% of Millennials choose to work for an organization with an environmental strategy. Gen Y and Z are very concerned about DEI topics. As this generation grew up with the rise of global warming, the loss of biodiversity, and more frequent climate disasters, Gen Z is also more engaged in acting for the environment.
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Caring for the planet and its people is no longer an option
Second, consumers and business partners are also looking at this aspect. Individuals and organizations that try to be more sustainable don’t want to be part of a company that doesn’t share the same values. Last, treating people and our planet without thinking about the impact is no longer possible.
How to develop sustainability in the office?
Don’t overlook the power of communication
Communication is essential in every business. It is also a fundamental tool when it comes to becoming more sustainable. Use your voice and communication channels to talk about your sustainable strategy, actions, and ideas. It is important that your workforce knows about your efforts and what your expectations are to foster more sustainable behaviors at work.
Communicating publicly about your strategy to create more sustainability in the office is crucial as well. On one hand, it improves your brand image and increases talent and consumer acquisition. On the other hand, it can inspire others to do the same and contribute to a more sustainable world.
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Remember that every little step counts
As Martha Goedert said: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Small efforts, when combined, can make a big difference. Just imagine how much energy you could save if you and all your workers simply start switching off the lights and electronic devices before leaving the office. It is a very quick and easy gesture for one person, but it has a huge impact if everybody does it. Or think about how much better our social impact would be if each organization collaborated with at least one local association. Giving half a day every month to help others is sometimes enough to have a positive influence in the community.
Always keep this simple question in mind
If we had to define what sustainable behavior is, we could say that it implies making the right choice for yourself, others, and the planet. When you need to replace the AC system of your office building, for example, ask yourself: “what is the best option in terms of sustainability?” If your decision has a negative effect on people (even if they live on the other side of the world) or on the planet, it means there is probably a better option. By keeping this question in mind, you tend to be more aware of your actions and their environmental impact. We highly recommend you share this tip with your team because this will have a much bigger impact if done together!
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What are the best sustainable ideas for the workplace?
Transportation tips to reduce our CO2 impact
To reduce the carbon impact of the transportation we take for work, there are three main questions to consider. First, ask yourself: can you lower the CO2 emissions of your business trips? This means switching from your current means of transportation to a less polluted solution (train, bus, carpooling, etc.).
Second, how do your employees come to the office? Promote public transportation, carpooling, and bikes instead of individual cars. Ideally, you can also try to get a special discount on public transport and bike rentals for your workforce.
Last but not least, do your team members have to come on-site every day? Adopt a hybrid work model and allow for more flexibility to decrease the use of transportation and lower your energy consumption as a company.
Eco-friendly ideas for the office
Every aspect of the work environment can be adapted in a more sustainable way. Are you wondering how? You can read our article about the best sustainability in the workplace ideas to discover all of them. Of course, the goal is not to introduce them all at once but rather to put them in place one by one to make sure they can be implemented and maintained.
To give you a glimpse of these best practices, here are a few examples of actions you can run:
switch to renewable energy;
use smart technology to reduce your carbon footprint;
organize monthly green challenges for the office;
aim at getting an official certification for sustainability;
encourage your team to work from home more often;
promote vegetarian lunches.
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Sustainable behaviors to adopt
Being a sustainable office is not only investing in green technology and eco-friendly products, but it also includes having the right mindset. As discussed earlier, the best strategy is to ask ourselves what impact our actions will have on sustainability. When you check your emails and have dozens of unread newsletters, you could reduce your digital pollution by unsubscribing to these. When having lunch with your team members, is eating meat better for the planet than a vegetarian option? You get the idea. Introducing more sustainable practices in the work environment is not just about having access to greener equipment, it is also our way of thinking and doing what is needed for change.
With people being more aware of and caring more about their environmental and social impact, sustainability in the office is unavoidable if you want to keep growing and succeeding as a business. Organizations that underestimate this topic risk decreasing employee retention, missing business collaboration, and losing customers. Fortunately, from social practices to green initiatives, there are an endless number of solutions you can adopt to make the right choices and truly act for the planet and people.
Would you like to discover how you can easily introduce flexibility into your work model and make it work with a modern online tool?
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Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.