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Sustainable business practices result in the reduced use of resources, making organisations more effective at what they do. Such changes result in the creation of inspiring workplaces which respect the use of everyone’s time. Business strategies become more conscientious, which change to balance the economic, environmental and social implications of decisions. Thinking develops beyond the short term, making longer-lasting organisations, which are more secure for employees and investors.
We all have the ability to affect positive change in the places in which we work. Here you will discover information about how you can influence change in your workplace, alongside numerous suggestions of suppliers who could help your work become more sustainable.
The driving force behind any organisation is finance. Implementing sustainability measures carries costs, with there often only being very long payback periods. Often there are government subsidies which help organisations bridge the gap, which are overlooked.
Change in public attitudes is forcing businesses to rethink, as this is hitting them on the financial ‘bottom line’. Increasingly consumers and investors are being drawn to brands that embed sustainability in their practices. This has resulted in big brands making bold commitments and increasingly spending on PR to demonstrate what they’re doing to be more sustainable.
As a result, the 21st century has seen organisations which have seriously invested in sustainability to thrive, whilst others have been seriously challenged. Increasingly it is being understood that those who are willing to pioneer new practices will have a competitive advantage.
Each of us creates a tenth of our carbon emissions from practices in the workplace, but the environmental impact of workplaces goes a lot further than that, as they influence individual choice. The products and services which we receive every day carry the environmental impacts caused from their supply chain and the ways in which supplying businesses are run. These organisations also hold immense financial capital through pensions and investments, that influence a much more global means of operating.
Workplaces need to be considered as the conduit through which change may occur globally. If we are able to improve supply chains, practices and where investments are made, it is possible to make a serious dent in around half of our global environmental impact.
Many organisations have mandatory reporting requirements for sustainability. This is true for universities, councils and businesses within the FTSE. Often this means they have to report on carbon emissions and need to have a sustainability or corporate social responsibility plan.
Because of this, an audit of environmental and social impact is usually the first step for an organisation. A baseline series of measures (e.g. carbon emissions, water use, gender pay reporting) is established with ambitions to improve upon these over time. Many then choose to adopt an environmental management system which creates a standardised means of reporting as well as the means to improve. Most of this can be achieved by having a sustainability manager in a post and for executives to agree on policies and ambitions, with there being little engagement with staff.
Some organisations have gone a lot further in making very public declarations and employing sustainability executives or even taking on new governance models such as that of a B Corporation.
Small to medium size organisations
For most small to medium-size organisations, it is not feasible to employ a sustainability manager or adopt an environmental management system. However, it is possible to achieve a great deal through impassioned staff and for this to shift the culture of the organisation.
This could involve amending home working practices, shifting tender processes, implementing recycling, staff sustainability activities, changing energy suppliers, energy efficiency in the workplace, or becoming wildlife-friendly onsite. All of these things can be achieved without doing a full CSR audit or implementing costly environmental management systems.
When some gradual changes have been accepted, it then becomes in the interest of the organisation to begin reporting how sustainability has genuinely been involved within their core strategy and culture. At this stage they can begin to monitor carbon emissions and other impacts.
How to affect change
An important starting point for any workplace is for staff to create a sustainability group and to begin considering the impacts of the organisation and what it could do to make changes. Having buy-in from staff for simple initiatives allows for easy decisions for executives, and when these are successful, this results in demand for more changes to occur. A group can then become more empowered and start to develop a potential policy for an organisation or a bold declaration, which will help guide an organisation through change.
Another way to initiate change is to simply suggest different suppliers for various activities. It could be using electric vehicle couriers, a sustainable printing firm or using green energy. It could be tweaking a working from home policy in consideration of environmental and financial impacts, or the suggestion that fewer flights could be taken for business purposes. Often understanding what others are doing can inspire your workplace to do the same, so being able to name drop what other organisations are doing can often make decision-makers think.
How Better Century helps
We hope the recommendations we supply here, as well as the information shared through our community site will help you make a change in your workplace. People can often feel very isolated when trying to make change, so please do ask questions to our community. You can read about what others have done or, by simply starting a new topic - ask for help from those who have had relevant experiences. There will be people who can help you!
You can also set up a workplace group on our community website through which you can have group discussions. To enquire about this, simply email - firstname.lastname@example.org. You will find that this is much more dynamic than creating an email exchange, as all your thinking from your group will be in one place. Your group will also be inspired by stories of what others are doing and will pick lots of ideas of what can be achieved.
Please do also check out these other pages on our site for inspiration:
- Better Transport
- Better Homes and Buildings
- Divesting Pensions
- Charities (for volunteering and partnering)