It was National BBQ Week last week. I do hope you celebrated. What do you mean it was raining? Where’s your British stiff upper lip?! And then it was Child’s Day on 1st June. And so on. There are so many national and global celebrations happening all over the world all the time that it’s hard to keep up with them all. However, 5th June was World Environment Day, and this year’s theme was ‘Think. Eat. Save’ (for some reason this phrase forcefully reminds me of the title of the redoubtable Lynne Truss’ book on grammar, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”).
Unless you’re in the catering or hospitality industry, the theme of reducing your ‘food print’ isn’t necessarily relevant for all businesses and employers (although it makes sense from a personal financial perspective). However, the underlying principle of sustainable consumption can be applied to all businesses.
I don’t know about global warming (I feel as though I’ve been cold for the last eight months),but global temperature changes are a reality and business has to shoulder some of the responsibility for reducing them. The United Nations Environment Programme explains that “sustainable consumption is all about doing more with less”. This includes activities such as reducing resource use, degradation and pollution. Reports suggest that our consumption of natural resources has doubled in the past 50 years, making it clear that resources are becoming more and more stretched. With the additional rise in landfill taxes, fuel and energy costs, this is obviously going to impact businesses’ bottom lines. It therefore makes sense to improve resource efficiency where possible, for your business and for the planet.
The starting point is the identification of all your business impacts. This involves walking around your office or premises, making a list of utilities, raw material usage, business travel, paper/stationary usage and the amount of waste generated. You then need to quantify each impact so that they can be compared in the future and you can see your improvement. For example, you might look at how much fuel is consumed on a monthly basis for business travel, or how much paper is recycled or sent to waste each week.
Then explore ways of reducing your impacts. It can be fairly easy to identify how your environmental impact can be improved, but getting employees on board with the idea is another ball game altogether. You might make a point of asking employees to switch off the lights when they’ve left the room, bad habits linger and whilst it might not be intentional, it might take some time to see results.
Employees need to see your passion and motivation. If they can see your reasoning most will try hard to comply with your requirements. If you plan to adopt a policy of greener working, it’s a good idea to bring your employees together and brief them on your proposals. Explain why it’s important to you, and how you need their help. Consult them for their ideas. If you get their buy-in it’s much more likely to happen and happen smoothly.
What can you do to work in a greener way?
- Ask everyone to switch off lights, monitors and appliances when leaving the office at the end of the day.
- Only order the materials that you need and look for ways of reducing the amount of packaging where possible.
- Reuse unwanted printed paper. It’s got two sides!
- Reduce your business travel where possible by using video conferencing as an alternative. Encourage local travel by cycle if possible.
- Introduce recycling bins into the organisation.
Whilst you might see yourself as a small fish in a big pond, businesses account for a large proportion of energy waste and if everybody does their bit then changes will follow, guaranteed! Every journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step. Best foot forward!
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