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August 13, 2014

Environmental Update: Sustainable Workplace Practices

Stakeholders from environmentalists, to policy makers, to employees and even consumers these days put increased pressure for more transparency from businesses on their sustainability practices. No longer is profit the only data required for firms to present, but sustainability reports are of great concern to view as it shows whether the business can handle the responsibility for being more environmentally friendly. Here are some great sustainable business practices that can be implemented in the workplace to help businesses reach their environmental goals.

Use Energy Efficient Electronics

Many companies fall in the trap of reusing aging electronics like computers, monitors, televisions, and even refrigerators in their workplace in an effort to cut down on costs. While replacing equipment can be expensive and time consuming, these outdated electronics may be less energy efficient than newer models. For example, many new electronics today carry an Energy Star rating to show its energy efficiency, with manufacturers today emphasizing reducing energy usage on newer electronics[1].  These electronics use less power, and have advanced features such as auto-sleep modes, and auto-dimming which help reduce energy consumption.  For example, newer monitors use LED backlighting which requires less power than CRT monitors. Therefore companies can save energy costs, as well as reduce energy intake while promoting a sustainable environment with the use of these energy efficient electronics.

Proper Waste Disposal

Waste disposal is crucial for businesses to follow, partly due to the large amount of waste produced by businesses. In fact, some of the biggest culprits of improper waste disposal are manufacturing firms in developing countries who frequently dump hazardous chemicals in nearby rivers, which can damage the local ecosystem and wildlife. Proper waste disposal is an ethical endeavor which can help a company look favorably in the eyes of environmentalists, employees, and consumers. Some waste disposal tips in the workplace are to implement recycling bins for paper, plastics, and glass[2] instead of just using garbage bins.  These recycling bins should be kept in a convenient location, and should be easily readable. Proper recycling is crucial as about 80-90% of all workplace waste is actually recyclable[3]. Electronics should also be disposed in a safe manner, not thrown in the garbage. For example, it is advised that used electronics should be donated to others or recycled at specific government recycling locations as it helps preserve the environment from the creation of landfills. Batteries in devices such as laptops and phones should also be properly disposed at key locations as they contain chemicals which can pollute the environment. Businesses can contact their local municipality to find areas for safe electronic disposal.[4]

Employee commitment

For a sustainable workplace to succeed, employee commitment is crucial. There are many aspects of a business’s environmental footprint that are determined by employees. For example, excessive printing is a problem in many corporations, such as in the U.S Government which totals $440 million of wasteful printing a year.[5] Placing more stringent guidelines, and having managers act as environmentally friendly role models by adhering to company policies regarding sustainability, can all help in the reduction of waste from employees. Also, having printing limits, guidelines on how to recycle waste properly, as well as the monitor of proper employee waste disposal will go a long way in ensuring employees act in an environmentally sustainable manner. It also doesn’t hurt to incorporate friendly reminders on the company’s values with regards to the environment around the workplace to educate employees[6]. Finally, rewarding employees for reaching specific recycling targets and for properly following sustainability guidelines can help increase employee engagement. All of these actions to increase employee commitment to sustainability, combined with an emphasis of using more energy efficient electronics and proper waste disposal, help a company to meet and even exceed its environmental responsibilities.

Article by: Arjun Srivas

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