The world has taken onboard the commitment to become more environmentally friendly and engage in sustainable practices in a big way. For many, activities such as sorting the recycling, turning off appliances at the wall and substituting regular light bulbs for energy efficient alternatives have become a part of daily life. Yet across many businesses and organisations, there appears to be a disconnect between what is happening at home and what is happening in the workplace. The most militant recyclers and energy-conscious homeowners appear to forget themselves at work, or somehow consider the workplace to be out of their jurisdiction.
In some ways this is almost understandable. In your house you are directly responsible for what happens within in it, whereas while at work, especially applicable for global organisations, that autonomy to some extent has disappeared. It’s far easier to think that someone else will take responsibility for something or alternatively, become disheartened by seeing yourself as the only one making the effort when applied to a workforce numbering in the hundreds, or even thousands.
So what needs to change?
With a greater number of businesses hoping to realise benefits of becoming more environmentally friendly, the most important aspect to achieving these goals is the engagement of staff. Elaborate efficiency programmes and recycling schemes can be designed and subsequently launched, but without the support and continued efforts of workers, the results will either be short-lived at best, non-existent at worst.
Fostering a workforce which feels supported enough to translate ‘green’ practices from home to their jobs, or just inspired enough to take that crucial first step on the sustainable path won’t necessarily happen overnight, but there are some simple steps manufacturers can take to help facilitate change:
A potential first step businesses can take that is not only inexpensive and easy to implement, but can also pave the way for wider initiatives, is to provide separate bins for food and drink packaging. With the majority of local authorities supplying homes with separate receptacles for general waste, plastic, cans and glass, many workplaces are still supplying just the one. Based on one office with just 10 staff, the amount of missed-opportunities can be staggering when simply disposing of items such as yoghurt pots, cans, bottles and cardboard packaging with general waste, rather than recycling them.
There has been much talk over the last two decades of creating a ‘paperless office of the future’, and though the concept is still far from becoming a reality, the technology available now, more than ever, is helping to facilitate a large reduction, if not the desired complete elimination. Through devices and applications, cloud and mobility, manufacturers have at their disposal a range of techniques to reduce paper not just in the office, but across the entire operation, from design and procurement, through to system-monitoring and client-orders.
Excluding employee’s from the development and implementation of environmental initiatives is potentially shutting out the very people who will not only be most affected by change, but the ones who sometimes can provide the most relevant or beneficial suggestions. For example, one manufacturer asked staff to think of ways of utilising the waste paper generated from the business side of the operation, leading to the paper, once shredded, replacing a significant proportion of the packaging materials used on the distribution side. This example hits every target a business should be aiming for, that of becoming more sustainable, while making staff feel valued and saving costs on unnecessary outlay.
Ultimately simplicity is the key, whether providing separate recycling bins or implementing a car-pool scheme, the easier the change is to make, the more chance it has of being adopted. Starting with and maintaining small changes, such as the three suggestions provided, can help create a ‘green culture’ throughout a business, improving staff moral, client-perception, competitive-edge and outgoings, as well as easing the transition for bigger changes in the future.
The internet is an important resource in becoming more sustainable, providing everything from adding your premises to a council’s recycling collection route, to a wealth of suggestions and ideas to inspire you to kick-start the change within your own workplace.