Sustainability in the workplace has become an essential part of doing business in the 2020s and not simply an optional extra. More and more customers are assessing companies based not only on their products but also their impact on the community and environment.
Businesses are also realising the many benefits of adopting green office practices, including reduced costs, increased productivity, improved staff retention, better employee wellbeing and enhanced brand reputation.
However, adopting a sustainable business model has its challenges. According to a report by Bain & Company, 93 percent of companies they surveyed wanted to be sustainable and believed sustainability was important to the future success of the business. However, only two percent achieved their sustainability goals.
One of the biggest reasons why sustainability fails is because of culture change issues. So how do you implement lasting sustainable initiatives in the workplace?
Sustainability in the workplace
Corporate sustainability focuses on managing the triple bottom line – financial, social and environmental impacts. It goes beyond just looking at profit in making business decisions, but also considers the issues that affect people in the community and the planet as a whole.
Your individual business circumstances, goals and challenges, people and processes, plus your leadership and operational structures will influence the sustainable business practices you adopt. That’s why you need everyone to be involved in the process. People in your company need to understand what sustainability means for your business, define the goals to move forward, and determine their role in making things happen.
It, therefore, starts with creating a culture of sustainability in the workplace.
How to create a culture of sustainability
Building a culture of sustainability involves everyone, from the executive leaders and management to the support staff, frontline employees and administration personnel.
Here are some steps you can take to start transforming your company into a more sustainable business.
1. Define your sustainability workplace goals
What do you want to achieve as a business? How can you balance profitability with the concerns of the community and the environment?
Start by facilitating company-wide dialogues to define what sustainability means to the business. It might be a good idea to create a sustainability council that has representation from every department. The purpose is to define your goals and create a sustainability program that can be easily implemented across the business.
2. Do an audit of your current workplace
It’s important to understand how your current work environment can impact your sustainability program. We suggest conducting an audit to identify inefficiencies and establish a baseline for improvement. The audit can also help you reduce waste, cut unnecessary expenses and improve workflows and processes.
3. Update machines and devices
When conducting an audit, include all the devices around your office, such as printers, computers, monitors, multifunction and mobile devices. By identifying which devices need to be upgraded or updated, you can benefit from the latest software, environmentally friendly and energy-saving features.
4. Move to a paperless office
Go digital and implement a paperless strategy in your office. In our increasingly virtual and decentralised workplace, many are already making the move to reduce their reliance on paper and print media. Moving to a paperless office may take some time, commitment and resources to implement, but it will help make your processes more efficient and create a more eco-friendly workplace.
5. Use sustainable office supplies
When purchasing paper, printer toner and other office supplies, it’s worth checking the actual products and suppliers.
- How and where are they made?
- How are they packaged?
- Do the suppliers or providers implement sustainable practices?
By choosing sustainable office supplies and buying from companies that invest in recyclable or made-from-recycled materials, you can reduce your impact and remind your staff, customers and visitors that you run an environmentally friendly business.
At Kyocera, we like to lead by example when it comes to sustainable packaging. For our efforts to minimise the impact of our packaging on the environment, we even received the 2020 Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation’s (APCO) electronics industry sector award.
6. Turn the office green
Create a ‘green’ workplace – literally. Bring in some indoor plants and place them all around the office. Plants have been proven to create a positive, calm and relaxing atmosphere. This may result in your staff being happier and more productive at work.
It might also be worth looking at sustainable office designs when redesigning or refurbishing your existing workplace, when moving to new premises or when shifting to a hybrid work environment.
7. Encourage recycling
You probably already have paper recycling bins in the office. But have you implemented a corporate recycling program that deals with all the waste your office produces? From print cartridges and e-waste to coffee capsules and mail satchels, there are a number of free programs that will help you recycle all manner of products. The key is to start small, conduct a waste audit and get your staff on board.
8. Establish sustainability guidelines and policies
Your sustainability efforts won’t go anywhere without the support and participation of everyone in the company. That is why we recommend that you document all your sustainability guidelines and policies, and communicate them effectively to all employees. Your guidelines should not only include your rules and procedures, but also everyone’s roles and responsibilities in your sustainability program. To further encourage adoption and incentivise environmentally friendly behaviours, you may even want to consider giving out a quarterly sustainability champion award.
9. Implement sustainable practices in the office
Your sustainability guidelines should detail the eco-friendly practices that can be implemented around the workplace.
Here are a few things you can start with:
- Setting printers and monitors to sleep mode
- Turning machines and devices off at night
- Using energy efficient lighting
- Adjusting the thermostat for optimal cooling and heating
For more ideas, download our free ebook, How to adopt sustainable business practices, and start achieving your corporate sustainability goals today.
10. Track and report on your progress
Finally, you need to be able to track and report on your progress to management, staff and stakeholders. It’s worth regularly auditing your work environment to check what’s working and what’s not. This will help you to continuously improve your sustainability program.
Remember, becoming a sustainable business requires the support and participation of everyone in the organisation. So start with these 10 tips to create a sustainable workplace culture.
To learn more about sustainable business practices that will reduce costs and drive efficiencies in your business, download our Green Office Guide.
KYOCERA Document Solutions provides document management solutions with long-life eco-friendly print technology that sets the standard in sustainability, while delivering greater productivity, reliability and uptime.
This article was originally published on 27 February 2018. It was modified on 19 January 2021.