How to Improve Your Environmental Impact at Work
Taking a bottom-up approach to sustainability will improve the success of your green initiatives.
Employers across the world are now interacting with the most environmentally-conscious consumers and employees in history.
With one global IBM study showing that workers are almost 70% more likely to accept positions from environmentally stable companies, your firm’s environmental impact isn’t something you can afford to ignore - either in your workplace or in your external communication.
When looking to make their operations more sustainable, many business leaders launch straight into sweeping, high-level initiatives that allow them to greenwash their marketing and show off their accomplishments to customers. However, if you want to create lasting change that will have a real impact on your company’s environmental profile, your sustainability initiatives need to begin with your people.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at why paying attention to sustainability is so important and the strategies you can employ at to improve the environmental impact of your business.
A Bottom-Up Approach to Sustainability
Changes to the way your organization operates will only be effective and long-lasting if they are rooted in your company culture.
To spearhead a cultural shift, you need an initiative that touches every echelon of your business, not just the top tier of management where they would be most visible. Some business leaders accomplish this simply by dictating new policies to their employees, but reaching them on a personal level is far more effective and allows you to develop a positive relationship that will encourage your workers to contribute to sustainability on their own initiative.
Focusing on sustainability that's driven by staff engagement encourages two-way conversations that will ensure anything your company does to “go green” will be intrinsically linked to your company culture. Since employees are much more likely to develop and uphold the polices which they’ve had a hand in forming, this culture-first approach will help create a strong foundation for more impactful change.
Strategies to Improve Your Environmental Impact at Work
The importance of cultural initiatives can't be overstated when you're trying to build a more sustainable business. Though the specific approach you take will depend on the internal conditions and needs of your business, here are some core areas to focus on when you're trying to change the environmental impact of your workforce.
Make Your Hiring Process Greener
Developing a more sustainable workplace should start with your workers' first point of contact with your organization. Putting your commitment to sustainability front and center in the hiring process will help your people be better informed about your aims and more engaged in achieving them.
What’s more, by broaching the topic early, you’ll be able to gauge each candidate's past relationships with green workplace initiatives and whether their values align with those of your company. These open conversations will allow hiring managers to set a precedent for taking environmental sustainability seriously, ensuring that employees know what's expected of them from their very first day on the job.
Moving further along the process, it’s also a good idea to think about your welcome pack, employee handbook, and other onboarding documentation. These can be used to frame your environmental focus and outline how your sustainability initiatives work fit into actual practices, such as your health and safety policies and code of conduct.
Review Your Policies
It’s very common for business leaders to preach environmentally-friendly policies to their workforce. However, if you can’t show that you practice what you preach, these kinds of internal communications are going to fall on deaf ears.
Reviewing your current policies at an executive level and making sure you’re doing all that you can do will give you a solid foundation for your environmental planning.
When you sit down to review the impact of your policies, there’s a good chance you’ll come across new, environmentally-optimized practices that you’d never thought about before. Companies like Priority WEEE, for example, offer electronics recycling services that can help you minimize the negative impact of your company's waste management. Meanwhile, agencies like ThinkStep offer product packaging audits so you can keep every element of your supply chain as green as possible.
Form a Green Team
Creating a “green team” within your workforce to generate ideas and manage new plans for sustainability will encourage environmentally-conscious collaboration and activity throughout your organization. When employees see the people they work with on a daily basis taking an active role in your company’s green initiatives, they're far more likely to be motivated to participate in those initiatives.
A green team breaks down the barriers between the average employee and the sweeping sustainability changes you're implementing. Having said that, it’s important to approach green teams with care to ensure such an initiative doesn’t fall at its first hurdles.
To create a green team that really delivers, follow these key steps:
- Keep It Simple: One of the biggest reasons green teams fail is that management has grand ambitions and bites off more than they can chew. Your green team should be large enough that it has representation from several departments at your company, but small enough that it can remain efficient and reliably produce results.
- Invite Your Most Passionate Employees: The people who participate in your green team should already bring a certain degree of passion they can bring to the table. Avoid those who might derail the conversation and turn the new workgroup into something it’s not. Most departments will probably already know who their most environmentally-conscious people are, so set some time aside to ask around.
- Keep It Fun: Though you should certainly try to encourage ownership of any initiatives that your green team comes up with, it’s important to remember that being part of a green team is something that workers will have to fit around their regular responsibilities. If being a sustainability advocate becomes too demanding and high-pressure, people will leave in droves, and the project will quickly fall apart.
Be Consistent and Transparent
Strive to maintain a high level of consistency and transparency in your green activities. Given the morale-boosting effects your sustainability policies can have, it is important to show up after having made a commitment.
This is easier said than done, especially as environmental initiatives can occasionally eat into a company’s bottom line. However, with a combination of creativity and proven conscious capitalism strategies, you will be able to strike a balance between hitting your sustainability targets and meeting your business goals.
A high standard of transparency throughout your green initiatives will also improve your environmental impact. This means regularly checking in with your people and keeping the channels of communication open so relevant parties can discuss what’s going well, what could use some work, and what the organization can do to stay on track to hitting its goals.
This show of commitment will help everyone in the organization feel a sense of ownership over your environmental efforts, which will build strong cultural foundations for future success.
Building Your Environmental Workplace
Making an organization as sustainable as it can be is no easy task, but taking a bottom-up approach will help you tackle some of the biggest challenges. By carving out a green culture and ensuring ongoing communication, you will be able to reach even some of your most ambitious sustainability goals.