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Why is workplace sustainability important?

The science on climate change is unequivocally worrying and the need to combat climate change by making individuals’ and businesses’ behaviours more environmentally sustainable is widely acknowledged. You can help this happen by making your workplace more sustainable. 

Lots of environmentally damaging practices are ingrained in individuals’ everyday habits. Implementing workplace procedures that help everybody in your workplace (including employees, customers and others) to make their habits more environmentally friendly can make a significant collective impact. 

For information on how to make your business itself greener, read How to make your business environmentally sustainable.

Waste reduction

Reducing waste is an effective way of making your workplace’s practices greener, the benefits of which are widely understood. Producing (and disposing of) the products used in your workplace uses energy and other resources and can release harmful chemicals and other waste back into the environment. Measures you could implement to reduce waste include: 

  • making it easy and expected for employees to use reusable containers for take-out food and drinks. For example, you could provide branded reusable coffee cups so that employees promote your business whilst reducing waste

  • creating or using digital systems for paperwork to reduce the amount of paper used for printing documents (eg invoices, bills and contracts). You could use Rocket Lawyer’s RocketSign® service to make and store your contracts digitally 

  • using environmentally friendly packaging materials if you ship products to customers and only those which are necessary. For instance, consider whether multiple layers of wrapping for aesthetic purposes are really necessary

Think about food 

Current global food production methods are a catastrophic contributor to climate change. A 2021 estimate suggests that about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions are created by food production. Changing how your business feeds its workforce - and if it’s a food business, its customers - can, therefore, have a massive impact on how environmentally sustainable it is. 

The mass livestock farming required to support the meat and dairy industries, the overfishing of seas, and the deforestation required for farming crops like oil palms have been identified as particularly damaging. You could, therefore, consider changing your in-house menu or the restaurants you choose to eat at as a team to: 

It’s also been estimated that 30% of the food the world produces is wasted. To help combat this, consider eating at eateries that demonstrate a commitment to using byproducts and food which would otherwise be wasted into their menus.

Emissions reductions

Electric vehicles are on the rise as both private individuals and businesses (eg delivery companies) commit to lower-emission transport options. However, most of the cars used in the UK are still fossil fuel powered. Your business can make significant environmental contributions by working to reduce the amount of transport emissions it contributes to creating. For example: 

  • if you ship products or post marketing materials, consider using a courier or postal service which offers carbon offsetting. This is when a small charge is added to postage costs, which is used to fund projects that reduce carbon emissions, in recognition of the carbon generated by the delivery service (eg by the delivery van’s emissions)

  • encourage employees to commute in a low-emission manner. For example, you could help employees to buy bicycles through Cyclescheme. You could offer flexible working hours so that employees can cycle to work when the roads are less busy

  • if you provide company cars (or other vehicles) consider providing hybrid or electric vehicles

Make your premises more sustainable

You can also make your physical workplace itself more environmentally friendly. Simple measures such as changing to green energy tariffs and energy efficient appliances can help. You could also consider adding insulation or solar panels to your premises to improve energy efficiency and energy composition. 

You can also make your premises more pleasant whilst making them environmentally friendly, for instance by keeping bees (which are incredibly important to biodiversity and the environment) on your roof.

Encourage some remote work

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic accelerated the remote working trend, and although many businesses have since returned to offices at least in part, encouraging remote or hybrid working models can contribute to your business’ sustainability

Allowing workers to work remotely some of the time can:

  • reduce the emissions caused by commuting

  • reduce the need to build, heat or cool, and light larger office spaces

  • reduce the likelihood of employees buying food and drink in disposable packaging whilst working in the office 

Working in physical proximity to colleagues does still have many benefits. You could consider creating a: 

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