The need for proactive, effective, and sustainable ways of running a workplace has now become the core of almost every organization’s potential to survive and progress in contemporary times.
Sustainability at the workplace entails consistently adopting practices aimed at reducing a company’s ecological footprint and conserve natural resources, as well as ensuring their actions are financially viable. However, this has to be done while taking care of the most important asset: the employees. It’s essentially finding the right balance between people, profit, and the planet.
Ways to Ensure Workplace Sustainability
Workplace sustainability can be achieved through a wide range of actions such as:
- Energy and water conservation
- Going paperless
- Green purchasing
- Sustainable dining
- Having a green office space
- Initiating employee awareness campaigns
- Conducting carbon footprint and energy audits
- Promoting workplace wellness
- Supporting local economies
- Giving back to the community through eco-friendly fundraising
Today, government regulatory bodies such as the Occupational Safety & Health Administration stipulate that integrating worker safety and health into sustainability provides an opportunity to achieve a truly sustainable organization. Much more than complying with OSHA regulations, workplace sustainability is the right thing to do. At the same time, it can actually give employers numerous benefits in the long run. Here are some things that employers can look forward to:
Enhanced Employee Recruitment And Longevity
The 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study finds that nearly 9 out of 10 Millennials have a strong preference for organizations that are socially responsible and committed to workplace sustainability. Since they are increasingly holding key roles in companies, it’s safe to assume that a company’s future lies in its appeal towards the current and future generations.
Likewise, existing employees tend to stay more in a sustainable workplace. According to a 2015 study conducted by The Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College, such a work environment reduces a company’s employee turnover rate by over 50%. And what does a lower turnover rate equate to? That’s right: reduced replacement costs, which can actually go up to twice an employee’s annual salary!
Higher Productivity Rate And Lower Costs
Sustainability in the workplace also increases employees’ productivity, since people tend to be more satisfied, as well as become healthier physically and mentally, especially those who promote workplace wellness and satisfy relevant safety metrics. The associated costs of health risks among employees are reduced as a result.
Some may consider workplace sustainability as an optional thing, but in tropical countries such as India, adequate ventilation and offices in green buildings are a necessity for the wellbeing of employees. Likewise, conserving resources such as electricity, water, or fuel, preserving equipment, and repurposing materials also decrease a company’s operating costs.
Better Brand Reputation
The Sustainability in America 2015: Trends & Opportunities report found that when availing of products and services, 58% of consumers take a company’s environmental impact into consideration. This figure is indicative of the rising standards of consumers when it comes to the origin of what they consume, due to the surge in ecological awareness campaigns globally. This is why it would be wise for companies to start practicing sustainable habits sooner rather than later, lest they risk losing out on the opportunity to do good and be viewed as good.
Enhanced Investment Potential
Very much related to consumers are investors—the people holding the funds that businesses need to sustain and thrive in the market. As social and ecological malpractices have increasingly been brought to light in recent years, investors, in response, have become more watchful of where they invest their money on. Not only will opting for a sustainable workplace attract specialized funds such as ESG investments, but it will also entice like-minded people who are also keen to do good, thus elevating the quality of those a company associates itself with.
Boosted Business Activity
Almost every business requires natural resources to operate—whether it’s electricity, water, fuel, or food. Ensuring that the company plays its role in preserving these limited resources at a large scale can help the continuity of the business in the long run, as everything that ever happens will always be interconnected, one way or another.
Increased Employee Engagement
A study by Gallup suggests that, globally, only 15% of employees are emotionally engaged in their respective jobs, which is quite a low figure. Workplace sustainability is a great option to encourage employee engagement. Of course, the actual impact will depend on a particular company’s actions, but in general, allowing employees to actively participate in awareness programs and eco-friendly initiatives can definitely boost their morale, as it promotes unity and inclusivity within the workplace.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Lest we forget, workplace sustainability does a lot of good for the environment, considering that a huge chunk of the global eco-footprint comes from service companies. Waste management initiatives, carbon footprint reduction campaigns, streamlining processes to become eco-friendlier, conserving resources, and the like may seem basic at first glance, but the collective impact of companies taking these steps towards sustainability in the workplace can definitely go a long way and bring change at an unprecedented scale.
How to Implement Sustainability at the Workplace
Any business can implement small changes to improve its environmental impact, but for a workplace to make serious changes, it may require the help of a sustainability professional. Sustainability experts help businesses reduce their environmental impact, bring about governance change, and advocate for social justice. This can include measures like promoting healthier conditions at work, using renewable energy, reducing the volume of packaging materials, decreasing total shipping miles and tonnage, lowering energy use, reducing emissions, etc.
Many of these positive changes are massive undertakings that require the expertise, and experience of professionals to manage and run. Businesses often consult with external consultants or hire in-house specialists that have the right educational background like a degree in sustainability or similar relevant work experience to take on these projects. While this requires a small financial commitment to bring on the right personnel for the job, the payoff far outweighs the investment in a brighter and more sustainable future for businesses and their employees.
Sustainability at the workplace is something that people have downplayed for decades, but now more than ever, that has to change. Striving to find the balance between people, profit, and the planet is something that cannot be emphasized enough—the benefits enumerated above are a testament to this.