Every year in April, we celebrate Earth Day and promote the idea of going green, recycling, and living a more sustainable lifestyle. While all efforts should be celebrated, it can’t be ignored that there are currently four major companies that are responsible for about six million metric tons of plastic waste each year, according to this CBS News article. While each and every individual should try their best to lessen their carbon footprint, corporations should also contribute to the efforts if we want to see a major change. So where do human resources professionals come in?
Sustainability matters and this idea resonates with many employees and potential hires. A study conducted in 2019 by Fast Company found that around 40% of millennials who participated listed that they chose their job in part because of the company’s sustainability practices. Furthermore, 70% of participants noted that they would be more likely to remain at that company long-term if there was a set plan for sustainability. If that’s not enough, 10% of those workers also replied that they would be willing to take a $5,000-$10,000 pay cut to work for a company that is environmentally responsible. If the 6 million metric tons of plastic waste wasn’t enough to convince you it’s time to go green, maybe those numbers will.
Transitioning your company and your team towards going green is a nice thought, but it requires real action to make a real impact. We’ve outlined some simple methods that can easily be implemented at your company to lessen its environmental impact, and hopefully, improve your talent acquisition efforts along the way.
Avoid paper and plastic office supplies
Given that most of our work is currently conducted digitally, you might think this one has already been taken care of. However, do you offer employees coffee and water throughout the day when in the office? Your office building most likely supplies paper or plastic cups for that. Does your office’s bathroom have paper towels instead of hand dryers? You may even hand out printed agendas at the beginning of every meeting. There are alternatives for all of these. Sure, your team might not be printing out packets for every meeting or sending out paper memos anymore (which are both great steps) but your team may still be contributing to the waste problem in ways you might not be thinking about.
Aside from going digital, which many of us have done as a result of the pandemic and working from home, there are still ways to help lessen your team’s waste while in the office. Below are a few methods:
- Switch to eco-friendly envelopes for mailing
- Encourage employees to bring in their own coffee tumblers or offer biodegradable cups
- Switch to air dryers in the bathrooms
- Switch to recycled printing paper
- Source other necessary items from green and local vendors
While your team should try and mitigate paper and plastic use as much as reasonably possible, it’s difficult to eliminate it entirely if your team is in the office. Alternatives such as the ones mentioned above can be a helpful stepping stone towards a more sustainable workplace.
Work remotely or with a hybrid schedule
By now, your team is more than likely working remotely for reasons other than sustainability. However, as society moves towards normalcy thanks to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, many teams may find themselves back to working entirely in person. While this is necessary for some roles, it isn’t necessary for all. If your team is able to continue working remotely, we recommend discussing the option with your employees or transitioning to a hybrid work schedule.
Not having to travel into the office is environmentally friendly for a few reasons. One reason being is that it helps alleviate the amount of air pollution caused by cars since employees do not need to travel for work. It also helps to lessen all of the office waste we touched on earlier. If your team does need to travel into the office, we have some recommendations to help lessen your employees’ carbon footprint. Please note, each of these options should only be considered if your team is comfortable and are at low or no risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Facilitate or encourage a carpool program to lessen air pollution from cars
- Offer to compensate employees for the cost of public transportation
- Be accomodating for employees who wish to work remotely
Switch to a green web hosting server
You have probably never considered how much energy your web hosting server takes to power your company site and your employees’ computers. While you can turn your computer off at the end of the day to save energy, you don’t turn your server off, which means that energy is being drained 24/7. Over time, that will amount to a lot of wasted energy. Fortunately, there are plenty of green web hosting servers out there that are also reasonably priced. GreenGeeks is one of the more popular options out there, but there are much more available.
If you’re switching to one of these eco-friendly servers, showcasing that fact can help attract both clients and potential employees to your company. Everyone likes to support a team that’s doing good for the environment.
Recycle company electronics
Many of the resources used to create items we use every day, such as laptops, computers, cell phones, etc., all come from the environment. When disposed of, these materials turn into electronic waste or e-waste and become toxic for our environment and ourselves when not disposed of properly. This type of waste can also include things like ink cartridges that are disposed of much more frequently. While we aren’t throwing out and getting new computers every day, it’s important to know the proper way to dispose of this technology once we’re done with it.
Fortunately, companies such as Dell have recycling programs that allow individuals and businesses to recycle their old, broken, or used electronics. Some technology companies even will offer to buy back your old technology. When considering purchasing new computers for your staff, look into potential buyback policies with the previous manufacturers or research where you can sustainably dispose of the old electronics.
Reward sustainable behavior
Working to implement some of the above methods into your company’s policies and everyday activities is a great first step. However, as a human resources professional, you are probably already well aware that these first steps always need to be continuously followed up with action and communication. After all, how helpful are these options really if your team continues to throw out their coffee cups every day or print out way more copies of their work than they really need? Progress is not a stagnant action. It requires consistent efforts. If you truly want to make a difference in your company and with your team, rewarding sustainable behavior can help promote and reinforce the efforts being made.
These rewards can vary. For some companies, the rewards may be a shout-out during the weekly meetings. Maybe employees who stand above the rest in their sustainability efforts earn an extra day of paid time off. If the entire department is going above and beyond in your sustainability efforts, perhaps have a popular restaurant cater lunch for the team. You know your team and your company best, so you’ll know what type of incentives will bring the highest result.
Going green is becoming increasingly important, not only to employees but to the world. Every step towards sustainability, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, these methods can help you and your team lead a more sustainable lifestyle in the workplace. If you and your team have implemented other methods for going green at work, share them in the comments. Continue to check back every Friday at noon for more articles on human resources.