Creating A Sustainable Office: 4 Ways To Get Employees On Board

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office worker at desk via picjumbo.com

Sustainability has become a determining factor in customer loyalty, but changing entrenched company practices can be a hard sell with employees. How can you get them to buy in? You’ll have an easier time gaining employee cooperation if you introduce green business practices through personal integrity and leadership and offer incentives for employee involvement. The process will take time, but it will be well worth it.

Sign Of The Times

In recent years, we’ve seen a shift in the sustainability movement. While most cities have been recycling for years, composting, solar power, and other environmentally friendly practices have risen in popularity. Renewable energy, in particular, has experienced a boom with solar power alone predicted to be a $137 billion market by 2020. We can view this staggering growth as just one small indicator of how important sustainable practices have become.

Sustainable Leadership

One of the most important ways you can introduce sustainability initiatives in your workplace is by being an example of sustainable leadership. It’s hard to say that sustainability matters if you aren’t walking the walk. To show your commitment, make your office sustainability central. Since the upper echelons of any company are often viewed as the most wasteful, altering that perspective is important.

Starting in your office, set up recycling containers, use dimmer switches and natural light, and consider posting personal sustainability goals. Know your carbon footprint? Post your current level and commit to reducing it. Can you hold that meeting via Skype instead of flying to see that client? It may not be the way business was historically executed, but when done as part of a larger corporate vision, both employees and clients may reconsider those old, less sustainable habits.

Create Office Best Practices

Offices are full of many small habits – from eliminating throwaway plates and paper napkins at office events in favor of reusable ones to providing employees with a few reusable shopping bags to help them cut back on plastic bag use, you can help create opportunities for environmentally friendly practices both in and out of the office. These small changes can create the foundation for bigger alterations in office habits.

Another way to reinforce a best practices perspective is by reviewing your supply and sourcing lists. Are there products you could eliminate or source more sustainably? Draw up that list and provide it to office management to help guide their purchasing decisions. By enabling sustainable choices, you help to convert even resistant employees.

Incentivize It

If you’re not sure how well sustainable practices will go over with your employees, don’t be afraid to incentivize environmentally friendly actions. One way to do this is by breaking your employees down by department or building area and holding a sustainability competition with a prize at the end.

See what department can reduce their energy use or unnecessary printing the most during a set period of time. This has been a popular way to encourage sustainability on college campuses, but it can work just as well in the office.

At Stonyfield Farms – a company that produces organic yogurt – after training employees in sustainable practices, leadership took incentives to a new level. Employees were challenged to reduce energy use at their facilities and yearly bonuses were based on the success of this endeavor. If anything can motivate employees, bonuses stand out a strong contender.

Vision And Values

Ultimately, you’ll gain more traction with sustainable office practices when you provide not only a corporate vision to your employees, but a sense of your personal values. You need to answer the question, ‘Why are we doing this?’ Discuss what sustainability means to you, why you want this to be an office-wide commitment, and open up conversation with your employees about their values. A lot of companies never have these conversations, but they’re vital to pushing forward a sustainability program.

Even if you first approach sustainable corporate practices from the position that ecofriendly companies have more loyal customers, you’ll likely discover other reasons along the way that keep your program going. Sustainability is a powerful force for good in the world and your company can share in caring for our planet.