Blog • 04.07.24

Sustainability in the workplace: What you can do as an employer

Sian H
Junior HR Consultant

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With the impact of climate change becoming more evident, sustainability in the workplace has become a hot topic. Workplace sustainability refers to the environmental impact of a business and the steps it is taking to be more eco-friendly.

So, what can you, an employer, do to make your workplace more sustainable?

1. Recycle

Recycling at work as well as home can help reduce our environmental footprint. Encourage your employees to recycle by making it as easy as possible for them to do so. Display clearly labelled bins for waste and recyclables to promote a culture of responsible waste management throughout your business.

2. Go paperless

Having a paperless office is a far more sustainable way of working. So, ask your employees to minimise the use of paper wherever possible by utilising online storage instead. This is not only better for the environment but safer from a security perspective.

Reducing the amount of printing is a good place to start and is an highly effective way to start the move to going paperless.. Although post-pandemic working practices are more electronic, the WWF reference that the average UK office worker prints 6000 sheets of paper a year, of which around 62% is unnecessary. If there is a need to print a document, ask your staff to print double sided or only in black and white to reduce paper wastage and printing costs wherever possible.

3. Think about plastics

There’s no denying that plastic has a huge environmental impact. Consider where you might be able to substitute plastic with other more environmentally-friendly materials, this can be a quick and highly effective win. For example, can you replace plastic packaging with recyclable paper or encourage your staff to use reusable mugs and flasks instead of disposable cups?

4. Travel

Since the Covid19 pandemic, remote working has become increasingly popular and a large proportion of the British population are using video conferencing as an alternative to in-person meetings. Consider introducing environmentally-friendly travel schemes, such as cycle to work schemes and car-sharing to encourage more sustainable ways of travel.

Having a travel policy clearly setting out your business’ commitment to sustainable travel and rules for employees helps your staff to understand travel expectations and evidences your pledge to be a more sustainable employer.

5. Promote environmental events and challenges

When fostering any type of workplace culture, you need employee buy-in. Why not try to encourage your staff’s engagement with sustainability by holding some events or activities that help promote sustainability? For example, Zero Waste Week is a great initiative for employees to participate in, creating a sense of shared responsibility across the team. Recognising employees who promote sustainable practices will help to embed and nurture a more environmentally friendly workplace culture.

Why become a sustainable workplace?

With younger generations very aware of their impact on the environment, climate concern is a big factor in young people’s job searches. A survey carried out by Deloitte shows that 40% of Gen Z and Millennials have changed their jobs due to climate concerns or plan to do so in the future – a trend often referred to as ‘climate quitting’. Similarly, research by KPMG found that one-third of young people reject job offers based on a business’ sustainability stance.

Deloitte’s research also showed that not only does climate change impact on young people’s job choices, it also impacts on their spending habits. Around 30% of young people surveyed said that they take into account a company’s sustainability claims and certifications to check that their high level marketing claims match their actions before they buy their goods or services.

This research shows that becoming a more sustainable employer will make you the front runner of the job market as people want to work for companies who are making concerted efforts to be more sustainable.

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