Sustainability in the workplace

Marta Zadravec

As we look towards the future, megatrends such as the transition to the circular economy and the zero-waste movement promise to shape the sustainable workplaces of tomorrow. The disruptions of the early 2020s have already begun to catalyze profound changes in our daily lives. Not only do people want to see action on sustainability, but employees are also demanding that their companies change so that they are aligned with their values.

If you’re starting sustainability in the workplace program from ground zero, you’ll need to justify your time and resources. Sustainability in the workplace can include the environment, economic or health and community sustainability. However, companies often categorize sustainability into three pillars: Environment, Social, and Economic.

There are many reasons why you should invest in sustainability. First of all, energy-efficient workspaces are typically cheaper to operate, so there’s a potential for savings on utilities and maintenance. It will also help the environment and, your employees will benefit from healthier and safer working conditions. Lastly, having a sustainable workplace prove a company’s commitment to sustainability, which can be a powerful branding and marketing tool.

According to Unily 2020 Census, designed to uncover how employees feel about sustainability in the workplace, the following data arrived. The results underscored the need for change, with 83% of respondents believing that their company isn’t doing enough to tackle sustainability issues.

How can your company bring sustainability to the workplace?

You don’t have to search too hard to find a company flexing its green credentials. There are startups like co-working company Upflex, which plants a tree for every booking it receives.

A company’s carbon footprint includes its employees’ emissions from commuting. During a pandemic, many companies were forced to work from due to safety measures. However, that can be something your company can do in the future. Employees should be allowed to work from home on green days and set up interoffice meetings using videoconferencing.

Your business is part of various supply chains that should be audited for environmental impact. Engage with cafeteria food-service vendors that offer compostable packaging and plenty of meat-free options.

The need for increased hygiene means, unfortunately, the need for more disposables and more individual packaging, and in the workplace, this has manifested particularly at mealtimes. Food delivery or takeaway options help to keep employees safe as that they do not have to risk leaving the office to eat, but the amount of single-use food packaging has skyrocketed as a result. For a start, companies with larger offices can consider catering services rather than allowing employees to expense on-demand food delivery.

The aim of a post-COVID world has to be to bring order to the chaos and take away the headache from businesses that are faced with the challenge of a rapid and unplanned shift to remote working.

Moreover, emphasis should be on the refurbishment and reuse of IT equipment to reduce the e-waste by adopting sustainable technology lifecycle management.

“We must emerge from this health and economic crisis with a newfound pace and ambition for addressing the climate emergency,” said Patrick Flynn, Vice President at Salesforce.

That said, COVID-19 presents an additional incentive for companies to consider the sustainability of their workplace and look for improvements that will benefit the company and their employees.