By Christa Adams
Back to the office doesn’t mean back to business-as-usual. Even as employees return to their workplaces after pandemic-induced lockdowns, they are doing so expecting more eco-friendly practices from their employers.
According to research conducted by hygiene and health company, Essity, 51% of employees report feeling more eco-conscious now than they did prior to working remotely. And a majority — 58% — believe their own office is “shamefully eco-unfriendly.” And it’s true offices have long been sources of pollution, waste, and energy consumption.
Moreover, as eco-conscious consumers switch from outdated brands to ones that better align with their values, businesses need to adjust accordingly. Whether you’re a small business that sells exclusively online or you operate a storefront, there are steps you can take to better align with the values of today’s conscious consumers.
So, what can businesses — and their employees — do to reduce their office’s carbon footprint? Read on for sustainability-minded practices that both employers and their workers can adopt.
Conduct an environmental audit
This might sound intimidating, but it's a great way to kickstart your eco-friendly journey as a business. As an employer or manager, take a closer look at your office’s operations to identify areas where you can reduce waste and increase efficiency. You can start by assessing your energy consumption and purchasing practices. This process can be a fun, rewarding way to involve your team while also saving you money. So, brew some coffee, gather your team, and uncover opportunities for sustainable growth!
Implement energy-efficient practices
Switching to energy-efficient practices is a fantastic way to reduce your carbon footprint while also saving money on your energy bills. There are plenty of small changes you can make that will add up to big savings over time. For example, switching to LED light bulbs is an easy and cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption. Encouraging your team to turn off lights and equipment when not in use is another simple way to conserve energy. And, investing in energy-efficient equipment, such as computers, printers, and appliances, can also help. The new equipment will be a larger expense, but it will pay off with lower power bills.
Reduce paper usage
Ditch all the filing cabinets and go paperless. You’ll be wasting less paper and reducing your carbon footprint. Plus, you’ll be able to save space in your office and easily share files with others on your team.
Encourage eco-friendly transportation
This is something that employees can do without waiting for management to take action. Cars obviously contribute to carbon emissions, so by promoting carpooling, biking, or taking public transportation, workers can make a positive impact.
Use eco-friendly products
Using eco-friendly products sets an excellent example and is a great way to reduce the amount of single-use packaging your company uses. For cleaning products, consider switching to non-toxic and biodegradable options. These products are often just as effective without harming the environment or the health of employees. Additionally, using biodegradable food containers and packaging materials made from recycled materials can reduce your office’s carbon footprint.
Use sustainable packaging
If you have a product that you ship out, or even if you’re a restaurant or coffee shop, you can attract new customers by switching to eco-friendly packaging. Sustainability is increasingly influencing buying habits, so making the switch to eco-friendly packaging is smart for business — and the environment. Swap out plastic for paper packaging, use compostable lids and containers, and invest in eco-friendly packing peanuts.
Limit water usage
There are many ways both employers and their workers can cut down on water waste. Managers can install low-flow faucets, urinals, and toilets, for example. While employees can take small steps such as notifying maintenance of leaking faucets or pipes and making sure taps are turned off when they’re not being used.
Cut down on food waste
Food left to rot in landfills is a significant source of the greenhouse gas methane. So, employees can do their part for the environment by not over-ordering food, which is then tossed out, and ensuring leftovers are stored properly in the office fridge. They can also cut down on the use of single-use plastic by bringing their food in reusable containers.
Support local sustainability initiatives
As an employer, show your commitment to the environment by getting involved in local sustainability efforts. Consider partnering with local organizations that are dedicated to sustainability, such as recycling programs, clean-up events, or even community gardens. Not only will you be supporting a great cause, but you’ll also be giving back to your community and building meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals. In addition, you'll be able to leverage these partnerships to promote your business and show your customers that you care about the environment.
Let consumers know
Now that you’ve implemented all these changes, let consumers know. They can’t get excited about how eco-friendly of a brand you are if they don’t know what you’re doing.
A press release is an effective way to reach a wide audience. Then, use your social media presence to share updates with your followers. You can share images and videos of the changes you've made and provide updates on your progress toward achieving your sustainability goals.
Importantly, your company’s website is an essential place to share eco-friendly news. Consider creating a page or section on your website dedicated to your sustainability initiatives. Finally, use your email list to communicate your company’s updated business plan to your customers. Highlight the specific actions you are taking to be more sustainable and provide a call to action for your customers to get involved. Your consumers will respect your brand even more!