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A sustainable workplace is one that balances care for the environment and its people and profitability. By making little changes, they can significantly impact the happiness of their employees and their effect on the environment.

Deloitte’s global millennial and Gen Z survey reveals employees put more pressure in their workplace to create environmentally conscious culture. 

Additionally, workplace sustainability can lead to greater employee retention. With that, a business needs to empower, encourage and engage employees in building and working with a climate-conscious mindset.

How to Align Work Culture with Employees

Before anything else, you should start fostering a sustainable work culture that aligns with your employees’ values. How? Here are some ways:

  • Include your HR teams: Right from hiring, it helps to have your workforce focused on sustainability. Hence, you should include your HR teams in this goal. You can ensure your work culture aligns with your employees’ values right from the get-go if you’re aware of their interest in sustainability and their willingness to join in training for best practices.
  • Incentivize: Giving incentives to employees makes sustainability fun. It engages your employees and makes the implementation more interactive. Using games and simulations for your employees to play can be fun, like Mastercard’s Priceless Planet Coalition, where employees reward colleagues with planted trees.
  • Implement internal initiatives: You can integrate sustainable efforts into your company’s everyday work culture. Promote activism and use employee engagement software with features that can help.

8 Best Practices to Promote the Culture of Sustainability in the Workplace

So, what exactly can organizations do? The following are how businesses can change from an average workplace to a sustainable working environment.

1. Go virtual

Virtual meetings and conferences have already shown remarkable value over the past decade. However, they shone through when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Companies, schools, and non-governmental organizations had no choice but to move their meetings online. Indeed, virtual events have shot up by 1,000% since COVID-19. And in one platform alone, there were over 52,000 events logged from the onset of the pandemic.

Your company can take a cue from these organizations that moved their events online. You can hold conferences virtually as well. Those may not have that same feeling of brushing elbows with old and new faces, but you reduce your carbon footprint by not travelling.

How about internal meetings? There are now numerous options available to hold meetings online. These can make employees much happier since they would be in an environment more comfortable for them. You can even leverage surveys in employee engagement tools to gauge their satisfaction with virtual meetings and conferences if you want to be doubly sure.

2. Say goodbye to paper

Organizations are enormous users of paper. Did you know that companies in the United States waste $8 billion on paper per year? (Source: Forbes) There are many processes in a business that usually require stacks and stacks of documents—printed, photocopied, and passed around.

One of the departments truly guilty of that is the HR department. For example, one person processing an application may have to share copies of a candidate's resume, cover letter, and portfolio. The same thing happens in evaluations. Plus, they regularly have to print payslips, too.

And let us face it, employees often do not even keep their payslips for record purposes. They would even request copies from HR repeatedly for their transactions. That is why payroll systems for business are helpful, as it automates the payroll process and makes all records and invoices digital.

3. Save paper scraps

If you cannot say goodbye to paper completely, at least save paper. It is easy to toss away paper scraps because most people feel they do not need them. However, they contribute to waste. But in fact, they can be useful! They are beneficial when creating cushions for packages, for one.

So, start encouraging employees to save scratch paper. Provide them with bins where they can store them. You can also start campaigning for printing on the backside of used papers. This way, everyone can do their part in recycling things and making the office a more sustainable environment. Think of this as one of your employee engagement activities, too.

4. Manage energy consumption

In the US, office buildings consume 20-kilowatt hours per square foot annually. Usually, large office complexes have more than 100,000 square feet. That is a humongous amount of energy contributing to a warmer world.

For workplace sustainability, you can cut back on energy consumption. How? Turn off the lights in areas that are not used. Unplug appliances when they are powered off anyway. And maybe turn the air conditioner a notch down if possible. And after office hours, it is always the best idea to have a lights-off policy.

5. Choose sustainable lighting

But first, what is sustainable lighting? That is not just energy-efficient lighting. It also encompasses “the satisfaction of the lighting system’s design intent for the lowest life-cycle environmental impact.”

This means that for your lighting to be sustainable, it is not enough to choose LEDs and compact fluorescent lights over standard light bulbs. It is a good idea to incorporate natural daylight in the design of the workplace. It is sustainable and it is a free renewable resource!

Even if there is not much you can do about the architectural design if you are renting a space, you can still find ways to maximize natural light through interior design.

6. Invest in solar power

Since we are on sustainable lighting, let us touch on solar power systems. In the past decade, the solar power industry experienced annual growth of 49%. Government policies and the fall in prices of solar power systems contributed to that.

Solar energy is now more accessible, and not just price-wise. There are more options for implementing it in offices and people’s personal lives—for example, solar windows and blinds and even solar-powered chargers and power banks. Companies can distribute those personal accessories to employees or make them a part of their employee experience programs by making them an incentive when you launch their employee recognition program.

7. Reduce usage of disposable utensils

Does your company have an in-house cafeteria? Then you are likely contributing to the almost one trillion single-use utensils disposed of in the United States annually. Rather than relying on those, you can start making available reusable utensils instead. Alternatively, choose eco-friendly disposable cutlery.

8. Shop green

Companies partner with other businesses for their supplies. Just purchasing alone requires a tremendous amount of energy that impacts the world. Organizations can soften their effects by working together with similar-minded enterprises.

How does that relate to workplace sustainability? First, you can show employees that you are staying true to your social responsibility by shopping green. That will inspire them to do better themselves and commit to the cause.

It's time to engage for sustainability

You can plan and implement programs that will promote a sustainable environment in the workplace. But for those programs to be successful, employee engagement is a must. Surveys, meetings, and other communication strategies can help get your workforce involved.

Of course, getting them to do things just because of the company’s ethos is not enough. They should be able to understand what a sustainable work setting means for them and the larger whole.

In taking steps towards a sustainable work environment, you also ensure employees’ satisfaction. It can also lead to fewer days off due to illness and pave the way for greater productivity. When each organization’s workers become sustainability champions, they can feel fulfilled and happy. And a happy workforce translates to good things for the company.

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