The Sustainability Shift: How to Be Green in the Modern Workplace
By Stephen Dowling | 24th October 2023
In today’s fast-paced world, sustainability is a commonly raised subject. What are individuals doing to be greener in their personal lives, and in business, what are companies doing to work towards a Net Zero future?
As companies, including ours, strive to reduce their environmental impact, employees have come to play a crucial role in adopting greener practices.
Navigating this sustainability shift in the modern workplace can be challenging. So it’s worth remembering that small changes in daily habits, not just large-scale initiatives, can be taken by employees at all levels and in all settings. Chubb has 12,000+ staff, and they’re distributed across the globe, some in the field, some in offices or based on-location. What each person or team can do will differ to some degree, but the basics will always align.
Before taking physical action, and for sustainability to be a success, it is important for teams to adopt a sustainable mindset. We need to realise that thinking ‘green’ can not only benefit the planet but have positive impact on workplace culture. From attracting environmentally conscious clients and employees, to saving costs, adopting sustainable working practices has many advantages.
The benefits of sustainability in the workplace
Sustainability at Chubb is more than just a buzzword.
Did you know that workplaces are one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, waste production, and energy consumption?
A statistic from the Environmental Defence Fund states the average office worker uses approximately 10,000 sheets of paper per year. There are various claims that between 45% and 70% of that paper ends up in the bin. The same organisation says lighting and climate control account for 40% of energy use in commercial buildings. Office equipment and appliances accounting for another 23%. Viewed as a whole, it’s clear if organisations take simple steps to reduce their carbon footprint, they can have a positive impact on the wider environment.
Simple changes, big rewards
The first move toward making a change is to build the previously mentioned ‘sustainable mindset’. I believe that employing green initiatives which encourage staff engagement can significantly contribute to a sustainable workplace culture.
Things to consider might include sustainability awareness training, green team programmes, or even environment challenges. Furthermore, companies can encourage employees to think sustainably by providing recognition for positive practices and pro-active ideas to reduce their carbon impact.
Once the culture piece is under way, it’s time to encourage green actions.
Reducing office energy consumption is one of the most effective ways to make a workplace more sustainable. There are numerous ways to conserve energy, including using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, installing lights that turn themselves off on a timer. Indeed, where possible you can forgo electric bulbs and use natural light. At the global Chubb HQ, meeting room lights are activated by movement and turn off when the system detects that the space is empty. The same can be said for many of our other facilities around the globe.
Food waste is a significant contributor to environmental damage. Encouraging employees to pack their lunches in reusable containers and providing communal fridges helps to reduce food waste. Additionally, implementing a composting system for leftovers can divert organic waste from landfills, instead putting it to good use in farming (or other activities).
In this digital age, it is crucial to minimise paper usage, especially in offices. Encouraging employees to embrace digital alternatives, such as email, workplace chat rooms, document sharing, and electronic signatures can significantly reduce paper waste. But go easy on the email! Not everyone needs to be in copy, and the more time we spend reading email, the more energy we end up using.
Just as we do at Chubb HQ, recyclable materials can easily be separated from general rubbish around offices and kitchens. This makes it easier for staff to contribute and play their part. In addition, guidance providing clear instructions on what can and cannot be recycled helps to ensure the success of recycling initiatives.
Encouraging sustainable transportation
Encouraging sustainable transportation options is easy but vital. We promote the use of public transportation, carpooling, cycling or even walking to work. It is simple to provide incentives for sustainable commuting, such as bike racks, shower facilities, and parking spots for electric vehicles. Providing showers, in particular, makes it far more likely that staff will turn to cycling as a means of transportation. But remember that 4 minute shower! We don’t want to swap one problem for another. Excessive water consumption is also bad practice for a sustainable future.
Supporting eco-friendly purchasing and suppliers
With so much choice on the market, there’s little reason for staff not to prioritise purchasing products and solutions with eco-credentials. Think recycled paper, biodegradable cleaning products or energy-efficient appliances. Companies can choose to work with suppliers that invest in sustainability and have a commitment to reducing their environmental impact.
Implementing sustainable procurement policies can have a significant impact. By prioritising suppliers and vendors that align with our sustainable practices and ethical sourcing, they contribute to a greener supply chain. Conducting thorough supplier evaluations, requesting sustainability reports, and considering carbon footprint and waste management helps teams make informed purchasing decisions.
Flexible schedules not only promote work-life balance but also contribute to sustainability efforts. By allowing employees to occasionally work from home or be flexible with their commute, we can reduce the environmental impact of their travel. Embracing technology for virtual meetings and collaboration can further reduce the need for unnecessary carbon spending.
Embracing a sustainable future in the workplace
Sustainability is a hot topic. Organisations around the globe are working on ways to lower their carbon footprint and lessen their environmental impact, and we are no different. This is why it is important for us to put simple changes in place now.
They say that small steps help us create valuable habits, which help us achieve big goals. Building a culture of sustainability in the workforce and employing sustainable habits in the office does exactly that. Turn off lights, recycle where possible, print less paper…this may not be ground-breaking advice, but if we all pay attention and make those changes, the difference will be noticeable. Now is the time to do so.