Although that raucous party to welcome in the new decade may be a distant memory by now, hopefully your new year’s resolutions are a little easier to remember. Along with the usual decisions that people make at this time of year – such as drinking more water and joining a gym – we are seeing a rise in the number of people resolving to improve their carbon footprint by living a more sustainable lifestyle. In today’s world, we spend so much of our daily life at our place of work that it tends to factor into how successful any such efforts will be. While the corporate life may not always be synonymous with sustainability, smart employers are now recognising the need to facilitate a shift towards a greener lifestyle.
The benefits of this are many – as well as playing an active part in saving the climate, employers who support this culture change are also providing encouragement and support to their employees, which in turn breeds a more positive working environment. However, many businesses are still lacking in this area. So, how can you as an employer make the transition towards becoming carbon neutral?
Review Your Business Travel Policies
If your business operates internationally, you and your employees are likely no strangers to overseas travel. However, air travel remains one of the biggest threats to our environment. The obvious guideline here would be to fly less and ensure that all trips abroad are critical to the function of the business. Of course, as with most things, easier said than done, and it may take some time to define and implement a whole new policy surrounding this.
Don’t let that put you off though. While you work on the parameters of your new travel guidelines you can always look at some immediately actionable steps, such as only allowing employees to fly economy. A 2017 article from the New York Times highlighted a study by the World Bank which found that flying business class creates three times more carbon emissions than flying economy. The same arti2cle also suggests buying carbon offsets offered by airlines at the time of ticket purchase, though perhaps not all airlines provide this service yet.
It’s not just overseas travel policies that can be reviewed. Depending on the size of your business, you may wish to look at ways of encouraging your employees to car-share, or even offer a workplace shuttle service for local employees. If any employees use a company car, you could consider making the switch from gas to electric. Of course, offering employees the chance to be flexible with how they work also means that you are cutting their morning commute and any associated carbon emissions.
Promote meat-free lunches
Recently, a UK employment tribunal hearing that found that ‘ethical veganism’ is a philosophical belief and therefore protected under anti-discrimination laws. Although opinion is divided over this, it just goes to show how much more widely accepted alternative lifestyles are becoming. While enforcing ethical veganism in the workplace could place un-asked for restrictions on employees, there is certainly much evidence that the agriculture industry is responsible for a sizeable share of greenhouse gas emissions. So, is there a way that you can promote less animal products in your office without being seen to be controlling what people eat?
If you have a canteen in your workplace that serves food, you could incorporate meat-free days as part of the weekly menus, with employees still welcome to bring in their own lunches if they choose not to partake in this. On other days of the week, you can also ensure that most of the menu is suitable for vegetarians and that there are some vegan options, so that all your employees are catered for. A lot of cafeterias and canteens fall down in this area, so if you can find a balance that works for your employees you will already be ahead of the fray.
If you don’t have an onsite kitchen, you could start a green club whereby employees earn points for bringing in vegetarian lunches. Any instances where the company pays for meals out or takeaways could be used to encourage employees to forego meat or try a plant-based meal instead.
Although such changes may seem daunting at first, evidence would suggest that a diet free of meat and/or dairy provides a myriad of health benefits. Therefore, by instigating such changes you may well be improving the long-term health and wellbeing of your employees.
It’s the little things
Improving your corporate sustainability will have the most impact when you take a holistic approach. It’s all well and good having meat-free days and cutting down on needless travel, but if your business doesn’t have separate waste bags for recycling then the positive steps that you do implement can seem superficial.
Instead, make sure that you are creating an environment where your employees don’t feel forced to compromise on their principles. Have guidelines in place for recycling rubbish. Switch up your corporate gifts from plastic biros and keyrings to reusable metal drinking straws and eco-cups. Encourage employees to work towards a paper free office when possible and, even better, ensure that single-use plastics are kept to an absolute minimum.
Above all else, remember that from small acorns, mighty oaks do grow. Creating a more sustainable working environment for your staff may not happen overnight, but will ultimately lead to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.
If you need any advice or guidance in introducing a change of culture to your workplace, you can reach us directly on 056-7701060