One of the most impactful ways to take action on climate change is to encourage your workplace to be more sustainable. Here’s a handy toolkit of ideas and resources to get started.
Being sustainable at home is a great step. From composting food waste to switching to eco-friendly toothpaste, to shopping for ethical clothing, and everything in between, there are myriad ways to be sustainable in our own lives.
However, if we want to create greater change and help reduce climate change on a larger scale, then we have to step outside of our own individual bubbles. One incredibly impactful way to do this is to encourage your workplace to be more sustainable. With many people currently returning to the office, it couldn’t be a better time to collectively organise and ask your organisation for change. Doing so can create far greater positive environmental change than might ever be possible in your own life.
Sounds like a mammoth task? Don’t worry, here are some ideas to break it down, and help make your workplace a greener place to be.
How to Encourage Your Workplace to Be More Sustainable
All types of employers, regardless of what sector they operate in, can reduce their carbon emissions and help encourage and support their employees to lead greener lives. Some workplaces may be more willing than others. And some workplaces may find it trickier than others. However, it’s imperative that all workplaces get on board with reducing carbon emissions.
To help your own workplace start on its journey to becoming more sustainable, here are some ideas to get the conversation going.
Set Up A Sustainability Action Group
If you work in a large organisation, then in order to encourage the management of your workplace to make sustainable changes, consider setting up a sustainability action group. Invite other colleagues to join, so that you can collectively work together with management to suggest environmental changes that can be made.
Workplace sustainability action groups work best when you have a cross-section of people from different departments. Therefore aim to have a representative from as many departments as possible.
It might be that you are able to meet as part of your working day. Other organisations might stipulate that you have to use your lunch hour. Whatever your workplace’s stance, aim to meet regularly to discuss priority areas.
Groups tend to work best when they have a structure in place. One that focuses on creative brainstorming, identifying company leverage points, and instigating collective action. Sounds overwhelming? Project Drawdown has a great resource on climate solutions at work for employees, that shows how to make every job a climate job. This resource talks you through the whole process of setting up a sustainability action group.
This post from the UK Business Climate Hub is also a useful resource in setting up a sustainable action group at work.
Find Out What Your Sustainability Team Is Doing
Depending on the size of your organisation, you might have a sustainability team or a sustainability officer. In many workplaces, these might be the only people/person with a direct remit for sustainability. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you set up a sustainability action team, talk with the sustainability team or officer to see how you can support their work. It might be as simple as talking with colleagues to help bring them on board with sustainability changes at work. Or it might be more involved – from helping to add voice to proposed sustainability changes that need clearance from higher up.
Encourage Your Workplace to Look At More Sustainable & Ethical Pension Schemes
One of the most impactful areas to make a difference in the workplace is to switch to a more ethical pension scheme. This is because, like with day-to-day banking, many pension schemes are used by financial institutions to fund undesirable activities. From funding fossil fuel extraction to fracking and more – our pensions unwittingly fund climate change.
According to Make Your Money Matter, in the UK £2.6 trillion is collectively invested in pension schemes. By diverting this money from funding fossil fuels, this money could power a green economic recovery – through investments in renewable energy and more.
However, the stumbling block is that many pensions are run through workplace schemes, organised by your employer. This makes it difficult for people to switch providers. What you can do is tell your employer to consider switching to an ethical pension scheme. Make Your Money Matter has a handy email template that you can copy and paste, or edit, and then send to your employer.
For more impact, encourage your colleagues to do the same. The more of your colleagues that ask your organisation to switch to an ethical pension provider, the harder it is for management to ignore.
Suggest Ideas That Make A Difference In the Workplace
As well as the bigger ideas of setting up a sustainability group and encouraging your employer to switch to an ethical pension, there are other ways to encourage your workplace to be more sustainable. Shift Tools is a useful online resource full of guides on greening organisations that might help with the following points.
At an old job, we set up a simple food composting scheme. The local council didn’t collect our food waste from us. And being a small team working at an environmental charity, it was cost-prohibitive to set up a private food waste collection for relatively small amounts of food waste.
Instead, between the six of us, we set up our own system. Every night somebody who was able to, took the composting home to put in their kerbside compost bin. It was nothing clever, nothing fancy – just sharing the load.
A setup would only work like this in very small workplaces. In larger workplaces or for those that work in catering, you would need to work with the sustainability team or management to put something in place. However, given that food waste is a massive contributor to climate change, it’s a really important area for workplaces to get onboard with to drastically reduce their carbon footprint.
The suppliers and products your organisation chooses can make an impact on climate change. Switching from regular printer paper to recycled printer paper, for example, can reduce the need for trees being felled. Switching from paper or plastic coffee and water cups to reusable cups can make a massive difference on a organisation-wide level.
Of course, these are just two small examples. A close examination of the products your organisation buys in is a useful exercise. From this practical sustainable (and often cost-saving) swaps can be made that can really help make your workplace more sustainable.
Travel and Transport
In the UK, employees can claim 20p per mile, tax-free, for any work trips made by bicycle. This wouldn’t cover commuting to and from work. However, cycling to and from a work meeting would mean some money in your pocket to cover the running costs of your bicycle. If your workplace doesn’t offer a workplace mileage rate for bicycles, ask them to consider it.
Other things your workplace can do to promote sustainable travel and transport are to offer season passes for public transport. Secure cycle parking is a must. And a tax-efficient way for staff to purchase bicycles is useful to have in place. Having priority parking spaces for staff who car share is another easy win. Even extending work from home policies helps promote sustainable travel, by eliminating non-essential trips.
Sustrans has some great starting points on greening your workplace’s travel if you’re not sure where to start.
Heating & Lighting
Heating and lighting are likely to account for a large percentage of your workplace’s carbon footprint. Ways to make this more sustainable are to ask your employer to consider switching to LED lighting across the whole workplace. Motion-sensitive lighting could also be installed in areas that aren’t continually utilised to cut energy usage and bills.
Considering renewable sources of energy, such as solar panels, are larger investments worth considering. This may not be suitable or practical for all organisations, but could lower their carbon footprint dramatically.
No matter what your job is, or which industry you work in, you and your colleagues can play a pivotal role in making your workplace more sustainable. From setting up or joining a green team, to supporting sustainability colleagues, to pressing for more ethical pensions or sustainable work practices, there are infinite ways to engage with your employer.
As Project Drawdown says, every job should be a climate job, regardless of your job title or remit. Let’s do this!