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Engaging Employees in Sustainable Workplace Initiatives

By Marija Petrushevska
Published: April 26, 2023
Key Takeaways

Implementing sustainable practices will make your workplace cost effective, better for the environment, and more attractive to prospective employees.

Caption: Office worker with bicycle and helmet Source: CentrallTAlliance / iStock

Faced with a labor shortage, companies are becoming more open to exploring different ways to attract and retain talent. While working schedules, good managers, and adequate compensation are the top considerations for job seekers, sustainability is becoming increasingly important, especially for younger workers.

In fact, IBM’s Global Consumer Study found that 67% of job seekers are more willing to apply for positions at sustainable organizations, while 68% would be more willing to accept jobs from these organizations.

But what does it take for a company to be sustainable?


The UN Brundtland Commission defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It involves making decisions and executing actions with a consideration for their environmental, social, and economic impacts.

(Find out Why EHS Is Vital to Your ESG Program)

Sustainability requires organizations to be aware of their impact on the environment and to take effective steps to reduce the harmful effects of their actions.

Implementing sustainable actions may seem intimidating. However, there are ways to make them work and encourage employee participation without incurring high costs. In this article, we'll cover sustainable actions you can implement in your workplace, as well as advice for engaging employees and getting them involved in green initiatives.

Benefits of Building a Sustainable Workplace

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important as businesses seek to reduce their environmental impact, increase employee satisfaction, and improve their bottom line. Sustainable workplace practices also protect the planet while improving the health and well-being of employees.

But if you are wondering whether it is worth the trouble, here are some benefits of implementing sustainable initiatives at work.

1. Protecting the Environment

Sustainable initiatives minimize your organization's carbon footprint while saving you money on energy costs. Eco-friendly practices also help you reduce waste, conserve natural resources, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Boosting Your Company's Image

Customers are now more aware of the impact businesses have and increasingly favor environmentally conscious brands. It's not just customers, however - job seekers are also more interested in working for sustainable companies.

Sustainable workplaces also attract socially responsible employees, further building positive public relations for the company.


3. Reducing Costs

Sustainable initiatives are also a great way to reduce expenses.

For example, installing solar panels or wind turbines will generate energy at zero cost. Moreover, if you generate more energy than you use, you can profit by selling the excess electricity to your local electrical utility.

Similarly, initiatives that reduce waste will result in a corresponding reduction in transportation and disposal fees.

(Find out How to Safely Dispose of Hazardous Waste)

Sustainable Actions You Can Implement in Your Workplace 

There are many green practices that you can implement in the workplace. Which ones you implement will depend on your budget and what you want to achieve, but here are some examples to help you get started.

1. Paperless Office

Going digital and transitioning to a paperless office reduces waste, saves energy and resources, and increases efficiency. Eliminating the need for physical documents will also decrease your printing, storage, and filing costs.

Additionally, digitizing paperwork makes it easier to access critical information quickly.

2. Eco-Friendly Commuting

Encouraging employees to use alternative modes of transportation helps reduce the emissions and the need for sprawling parking lots.

You can incentivize this by providing flexible schedules to make it easier for workers to take public transit, bike to work, or carpool. Giving bus passes or vouchers for public transportation will also encourage workers to use alternative ways of getting to the office.

Allowing employees to work remotely is also effective, as it eliminates the need for them to commute entirely.

3. Reducing Energy Consumption

Energy consumption is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gasses. Therefore, implementing strategies that decrease its use is essential for any organization looking to become sustainable.

This could include switching off all equipment after hours, using LED lighting instead of fluorescent bulbs, investing in renewable energy sources, or installing energy-efficient appliances and smart devices.

4. Water Conservation

Water conservation is another crucial element when striving toward sustainability at work.

Water conversation measures you can implement include low-flow toilets or water-efficient devices, training staff on responsible water usage, and implementing a grey water collection system.

5. Eliminating Waste in the Break Room

Sustainability efforts should extend into break rooms, too. Set up waste reduction stations with bins labeled “compostable,” “recyclable,” and “landfill only” to encourage employees to sort trash accordingly. Instead of stocking the break room with plastic forks and paper plates, purchase reusable dishes and utensils for your employees to use.

6. Establishing a Culture of Recycling

Establishing a culture of recycling is a great step toward encouraging employees to think about sustainability.

Setting up clearly marked bins for paper, plastic, glass, cans, and other materials will make it easier for staff to recycle appropriately. It is also essential to educate employees on what items can be recycled and how they should do it.

(Learn more in Plastic Recycling Symbols Explained)

7. Team-Building Activities Focused on Sustainability

Team-building activities are a great way to engage your staff in issues related to sustainability.

For example, you could split employees into teams and challenge them to develop ideas for reducing workplace waste. You could also organize an event where employees volunteer to help clean up local parks or beaches.

These initiatives will not only help raise awareness among colleagues, but will also make them feel like part of something bigger than themselves while having fun together at the same time.

How to Engage Employees in Sustainable Initiatives

Engaging employees in sustainable initiatives is essential for reaping the benefits of your sustainability efforts. Here are some ways to encourage workers to participate in the green initiatives you will implement.

1. Provide Training on Sustainability

Before taking any action, it is vital to ensure your employees understand why you're pushing for a more sustainable workplace.

Organize training and workshops to educate employees on the importance of sustainability. Specify how the initiatives you're implementing will affect the company. Whether they will reduce costs or improve the organization’s image, workers should know the value of their effort

2. Define the Company's Long-term Purpose

Tell employees about your long-term sustainability goal. Rather than simply telling them what they'll be expected to do, show them the ultimate goal of these sustainable actions. Knowing what you're trying to achieve will make them more interested in participating.

3. Present the Financial Case for Sustainability

Be transparent about how much the company stands to gain from implementing green programs and policies. Employees know that the monetary value of these initiatives can translate to more stable, meaningful employment.

4. Create a Green Team

Creating a green team might be one of the most underutilized strategies for embedding sustainability in the workplace, yet it is very effective.

A green team is a group of employees who are enthusiastic about advancing sustainability in the company. The team typically focuses on two areas:

  • Examining opportunities for sustainability in the organization
  • Educating employees and getting them involved in green actions

5. Include Employees When Creating Sustainable Practices

Involving employees in deciding which green initiatives you will implement boosts their engagement.

Make sure you also encourage feedback on established activities. This will allow you to gain greater insight into which initiatives are most effective.

6. Hold Contests

A bit of healthy competition among your employees can help you achieve your goals and make the process fun.

For instance, set a goal of reducing waste by 30% and offer a group trip, gift cards, or other attractive prizes if they meet this target. This not only increases engagement, but also builds teamwork and encourages collaboration.


Sustainability is essential to any business that wants to remain successful in the long run.

Implementing sustainable practices in the workplace can help reduce your environmental impact while also increasing employee morale, customer loyalty, and operational efficiency. By taking steps toward becoming more sustainable, your organization will be able to enjoy these benefits.


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