With the global business community transitioning back to in-person events, office meetings, and on-site visits, there is a very real and present opportunity to reimagine a greener office environment.
The scale of the climate emergency facing us is clear, as outlined in the latest IPCC report. Action is not an option but a necessity. If that wasn’t encouragement enough for businesses, improving their environmental credentials can unlock long term cost-savings and support a strong recruitment pipeline comprising the best talent. If there was any doubt about the value employees place on these issues, according to a survey of 1,000 UK respondents across 15 sectors, 93% said it was important for their motivation and wellbeing in the workplace to feel they are playing their part in addressing climate issues.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of five simple steps that can have a tangible impact on your organisation’s carbon footprint and provide the framework for a more sustainable business agenda.
1. Limit downloading and increase link sharing
An estimated 320 billion emails are sent worldwide each day, a figure that continues to grow. Email has become firmly embedded as the de-facto form of corporate communication, but its environmental implications have yet to be truly acknowledged. The BBC homed in on this issue, noting that the average business user creates 135kg worth of CO2 emissions from sending emails every year: the equivalent of driving 200 miles in a family car. Research carried out by energy company OVO illustrated how cutting down on unnecessary ‘thank you’ emails could dramatically reduce carbon emissions. For example, if every adult in the UK sent one less ‘thank you’ email a day, it would reduce CO2 emissions by 16,433 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road. For emails with large attachments, the carbon footprint is much more substantial, increasing to 50g.
So, substituting attachments with links to documents while reducing the number of recipients, where possible, is a small step that could have a noticeable effect.
2. Measurement is key
Google Cloud recently carried out extensive research across 16 countries, aggregating the prevailing sentiments of business executives on the sustainability issues confronting their companies. The findings showed that only 36% of respondents said their organisations have measurement tools in place to substantiate their sustainability efforts, and a mere 17% are leveraging those measurements to optimise protocols and processes.
You can’t hit a target you don’t have, and without proper data-led assessments, sustainability initiatives will fall flat. While Expleo’s Business Transformation Index 2022 report indicates that the sustainability agenda is fast ascending the list of business priorities, the planning piece isn’t quite as strong among enterprises.
Even though 99% of firms are planning to spend a minimum of 10% of their technology budget on making their IT infrastructure and services more environmentally sustainable over the next 12 months, substantially fewer (82%) have clear plans that will help to meet their decarbonization targets. Given the recent dire warnings from the IPCC, there is virtually no wriggle room left when it comes to implementing efficient sustainability practices across an organisation. The importance of measuring policy effectiveness has never been more pronounced, as it will help companies fine-tune their sustainability efforts and ensure no stone is left unturned in the fight against climate change.
3. Reduce the paper & plastics trail
Cutting down on the amount of printed collateral around the office will be a core facet of successful sustainability strategies. For instance, replacing the brochures and research reports that typically populate meeting rooms with QR codes linking to PDFs online for example. Similarly, when hosting in-person meetings or events, substituting physical business cards for QR codes can provide a novel, more sustainable way of adding your details into a new contact’s phone book.
However, completely eradicating printers from the office environment isn’t realistic, so designing a system whereby ‘need to print’ items are categorised and prioritised will help reduce the paper trail considerably. Then when it comes to products that are delivered to the office, every organisation has a responsibility to ensure that materials are sensibly and sustainably sourced. For example, buying products made of recycled plastic and hemp can cultivate a culture of sustainability from within, and encourage similar practices by staff.
4. Encourage sustainable commuting practices
Depending on the means of transport, getting to the office itself can incur a hefty environmental cost – a cost that can be reduced significantly with careful planning and forward-thinking initiatives. For example, arranging a car-pool system for staff members can cut CO2 emissions and even boost camaraderie. Introducing facilities for charging electric cars will also demonstrate a long-term commitment to sustainability – great for attracting environmentally conscious professionals.
Similarly, implementing a cycle-to-work scheme along with proper bike storage and shower facilities will incentivise staff to embrace a greener commute. With staff now demanding flexible and remote working arrangements, practical and fair work-from-home policies can be both an easy win with staff and a boost to sustainability efforts.
5. Introduce a Sustainability Committee
Finally, establishing a permanent sustainability committee will help streamline the management and implementation of the above suggestions. For large companies, the committee will ideally include cross-department representation, with input from all staff, irrespective of seniority. Organisations must recognise the role of all their people in the environmental arena, giving them a platform to share their views and ideas. Committee members can be the guardians of an organisation’s sustainability agenda, tasked with measuring policy effectiveness and gauging staff receptiveness.
Now more than ever, companies are compelled to pursue ambitious sustainability initiatives with purpose and make them cornerstones of their corporate culture. Buzz-words must be backed up with substance, and regular measurement of programme effectiveness is essential. If implemented with tact and vision, a clear set of initiatives can help organisations of every grade forge a more sustainable path forward – a net positive for Planet Earth.
Learn more about how Expleo is helping to build a greener, safer future.