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How to create a culture of sustainability in the workplace

How to create a culture of sustainability in the workplace

Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword but has become an essential part of doing business. Over the years, more and more companies are making decisions and assessing performance based not only on profitability but also on their impact on the community and environment.

Businesses are realising the numerous benefits of becoming sustainable, including reduced costs, increased productivity, improved staff retention, better wellbeing in the workplace and enhanced brand reputation in the industry.

However, implementing sustainability in business has its challenges. According to a recent report by Bain & Company, where they surveyed more than 300 companies, 93% want to be sustainable and believe sustainability is important to the future success of the business. However, only 2% achieve their sustainability goals. And one of the biggest reasons sustainability fails has to do with culture change issues.

What is sustainability?

Sustainability in business 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.

What does this mean for your business? Well, the above definition is just a broad and general overview of sustainability, and doesn’t take into consideration your individual business circumstances, goals and challenges, people and process, plus your leadership and operational structures.

That is why you need everyone involved in the process. People in the company need to understand what sustainability means for the 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.

Steps to create a culture of sustainability

Building a culture of sustainability involves everyone, from the executive leaders and management to all support staff, frontline employees and administration personnel.

Here are some steps you could take to start transforming your company into a more sustainable business.

1. Define your sustainability goals as a company

What do you want to achieve as a business? How can you balance profit with the concerns of the community and the environment?

You can 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 workplace environment can impact your sustainability program.

We suggest conducting an audit that can help you 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 your machines around the office, like printers, computers, monitors, multifunction and mobile devices.

The audit would enable you to identify machines that need to be upgraded and updated with the latest software and energy-saving features.

How energy efficient are your machines and devices? Check the Energy Star sticker for each. The energy rating label indicates the device meets international standards for energy efficiency.

4. Move to a paperless office

Go digital and implement a paperless strategy in your office. The move will not only reduce your consumption of paper and printer consumables, it will also help make your processes more efficient and create an eco-friendlier workplace.

Moving to a paperless office may take some time, commitment and resources to implement. But the move would prove to be a huge step forward in your sustainability efforts.

5. Use sustainable office supplies

When purchasing paper, printer toner, and other office supplies, it’s worth checking the actual products and suppliers.

  • How are they made?
  • How are they packaged?
  • Do the suppliers or providers implement sustainable practices?

Choose products that are recyclable or made from recycled materials. Having sustainable office supplies will be a constant reminder to your staff, customers and anyone visiting your workplace that you run an environmentally friendly business.

6. Turn the office green

Create a more ‘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, or when moving to new premises.

7. Encourage recycling

I’m sure you already have recycling bins in the office. But how accessible are they? Are people encouraged to recycle paper documents?

Make sure that the recycling bins can be easily seen and accessed. Maybe place them near printers and multifunction devices. Also, make sure you communicate to all staff the importance of recycling, and encourage them to regularly recycle.

8. Establish sustainability guidelines and policies

Your sustainability efforts would be useless 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 make sure that these are properly communicated to all employees.

The guidelines should not only include your rules and procedures, but also everyone’s roles and responsibilities in your sustainability program.

9. Implement sustainable practices in the office

Your sustainability guidelines should detail the eco-friendly practices that need to 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

10. Track and report on your progress

Finally, you need to be able to track and report on your progress to management and the rest of the business. It might be worthwhile to regularly audit your workplace environment to check what’s working and what’s not. This will help you to continuously improve your sustainability program.

Remember, your goal of becoming a sustainable business requires the support and participation from everyone in the business. Also, it is a process and a journey that would need ongoing assessment and improvement.

To learn more about sustainable practices that would reduce costs and drive efficiencies in your business, download our Green Office Guide.

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