Going Green at Work
- May 8, 2017
- Category: Environmental Awareness
Going Green at Work
FRANCIS KEATING Environmental, Health and Safety Consultant at EazySAFE Most people at this point are aware of climate change, the melting polar ice caps and the threat from rising sea water. Some deny that climate change is caused by human activity, President Donald Trump for example, has blamed the Chinese for creating the concept of climate change in an effort to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. The consensus from the scientific community however has overwhelmingly declared that human activity is accelerating the rate of climate change. Governments, businesses and private citizens are coming together in an effort to leave behind a better world for future generations. Businesses can do their bit to help in this global effort while also benefiting the local environment in which they operate. What’s more, going green can reward businesses handsomely in terms of savings, increased productivity and greater revenues. “The consensus from the scientific community however has overwhelmingly declared that human activity is accelerating the rate of climate change.” What does going green actually mean? Going green means actively considering the impact of your company’s actions, processes, products and services on the environment. This may sound easy to achieve but it requires businesses to implement policies and procedures across all operations which are socially and environmentally responsible. It requires a company to adopt a green agenda and place it into its core values from top down and bottom up. By wholeheartedly embracing a green agenda, businesses can not only give mother nature a helping hand, they can also increase that most elusive of things, their bottom line.
Business Benefits of Going Green
Businesses that promote the fact that they are friendly to the environment will attract the favour of like-minded consumers. Studies of consumer attitudes have shown that consumers will pay a premium for products offered by companies which are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. By going green, a positive image of your company can be built up, not only within the local community but in the wider consumer market too. Companies that donate money and resources to green initiatives have been shown to increase their sales figures which can be directly attributed to being green.
One of the main pillars of becoming green is the need to reduce consumption of energy and resources, such as water. This will not only help the environment but could lead to substantial savings in terms of bills and rates. There are many ways of conserving usage ranging from hi-tech engineering solutions to low-tech solutions such as turning off lights and computers when they are not in use or regularly checking for water leaks.
“Employees of environmentally responsible companies are more productive than average recorded productivity rates”
Healthy and Productive Workforce
Research has shown that employees of environmentally responsible companies are more productive than average recorded productivity rates. Being green allows for greater participation and interaction amongst employees which in turn leads to greater levels of motivation, togetherness and sense of achievement. Employees of green companies also tend to receive higher levels of training and coaching which benefits not only their moral but your business performance too. EazySAFE offer an online Environmental Awareness course which is designed to promote more sustainable environmental practices within the workplace.
Being green can also lead to a healthier workforce which in turn will lead to less sick days and absenteeism. Companies could promote healthier eating options or allow for opportunities for exercise which will enhance the health of employees as will the use of environmentally friendly products and processes.
Certifications such as ISO 14001, Organic and Fair Trade are awarded to companies that have made a commitment to continual improvement of environmental performance. These certifications are recognised around the world and are third party certified which helps guarantee credibility. By having a certification, it demonstrates to customers, rivals and the general public that your company has made a serious commitment to improving and maintaining its environmental performance. Being certified also demonstrates that your company has good organisational structure in place.
Grants and Tax Incentives
Irish businesses who choose to improve their energy and environmental performance can avail of various supports offered by bodies such as the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and Enterprise Ireland. These supports can take the form of financial grants to help with associated costs or just some plain advice. Other incentives are in place for green companies such the R&D tax credit from the revenue commissioners which can be availed of by companies undertaking research and development.
Networking and Green Clusters
Companies can network with other companies that have made the same commitment to improving environmental performance. This can allow for sharing of knowledge and pooling of resources. Green companies can interconnect to form what has become known as “green clusters” in order to further boost performance.
By reducing or indeed eliminating waste and reducing consumption of energy and water, your company will become more streamlined. By embracing the green philosophy, you will probably become aware of other areas of your business which could need a trim, thus further improving your bottom line.
17 Ways to Go Green
1. Plan, Do, Check, Act
The Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle is a management method used to improve business processes and products. It can be used to improve environmental performance too. Plan your strategy to become greener by setting policies and objectives, identify personnel to drive improvements, establish timelines for objectives to be completed. Do, essentially do what you planned to do. Check, monitor your performance, which can be as easy as recording electricity meter readings. Act, act on your performance record to improve performance. You may have in-house expertise to implement an environmental management system (EMS), great, if not you may need to hire an environmental consultant. There are supports and help available from organisations such as Enterprise Ireland so give them a call.
2. Get Certified
By having an environmental certification, you will improve your environmental and operational performance, it will also make a statement which will announce to your suppliers, customers and rivals that you are serious about your commitment to the environment. Standards and certifications such ISO 14001, LEED, FSC, Fair Trade and Organic are internationally recognised but may be too constraining in terms of time and resources for many SMEs. There are however reputable standards and certifications such as Enterprise Ireland’s Green start Programme which are specifically aimed at SMEs. By gaining certification, your company can network with other businesses who have achieved certification. You can also implement a green purchasing policy whereby your company will try and do business with firms who have achieved environmental certification.
3. Tell the World
Be proud of your environmental commitment and use it in marketing, advertising and public relations. Remember that consumers have a social conscience and will be attracted to businesses that have made a commitment to environmental improvement. Many of the top brands in the global business community have realised this fact and have bought into the green agenda. Be careful though, never make false claims regarding the environmental performance of your products or processes as consumer trust is hard won but rather easier to lose, as a well-known German car manufacturer has recently found out to its cost.
Your employees are your greatest resource and the positive publicity gained from your employees helping out in a local environmental initiative can be immeasurable. In my own locality, companies both large and small have been involved in environmental projects such as tree planting, litter picking and city farm projects. These initiatives receive considerable attention from both local and national media as well as sizeable social media interest. Get involved in your local community and raise your profile to new heights.
5. Reach Out
Get in touch with organisations such as Enterprise Ireland, SEAI and the EPA. You may be entitled to financial support to achieve improvements in your environmental performance. Organisations like these have been aiding businesses for years and have a wealth of expertise and knowledge waiting to be shared. Reach out also to other businesses who are on the same path, you may be able to pool resources and share knowledge and experiences.
6. All aboard
Provide your staff with opportunities for environmental training which will give them the confidence to engage and participate fully. At EazySAFE, we provide an online Environmental Awareness course which highlights how employee’s activities, the materials or products they use and create, can harm the environment. Online training delivery also saves on paper and course materials, which further helps to improve your environmental performance.
The chances of your company being successful at making the green transition rely heavily on one key element, your employees. Without their involvement and commitment, you are wasting time, effort and probably money. Get their input from the start. Implement ideas that come from your staff, reward people for improved performance, delegate duties such as monitoring energy use or water consumption. Remember that becoming green has to include the involvement of everyone regardless of their position within the company and becoming green should be a cross departmental collaboration. Think of the benefits involved such as better motivation and productivity, enhanced interaction and a healthier workplace.
There are lots of easy ways to save energy use which do not cost a cent…
7. Turn off the lights
Turn off the lights and other electrical appliances when not in use. Encourage and remind all staff to turn off lights, computers and other appliances when not in use.
8. Bright lights
Ensure that lighting levels are appropriate for specific tasks and areas. In my own job, the light levels of the canteen area were enough to give you a tan. By removing half the lights, we can still see our food but we have made significant energy savings
9. Spring cleaning
Clean windows and skylights regularly to receive more of that free natural light. Move the locker or desk that is blocking natural light.
10. It’s too hot!!!
An ambient air temperature of 19 degrees Celsius is recommended for offices. Any higher is literally burning money. Heating in areas such corridors, storage space and areas where higher physical activity take place can be set lower.
11. Heating the furniture
Set heating timers intelligently so that you are providing heat to employees and not just the furniture. Bank holidays, weekends and clock changes should be taken into account when setting timers.
12. That leaky tap
All businesses are only too aware of the cost of rates including water fees. What you may not be aware of is the leak in your water system which is costing you hard earned cash. Carry out a simple check to determine if you have a leak. Record your water meter at the end of a working day and check it at the beginning of the next working day. If there’s a difference which you cannot account for, you have a leak! Have it investigated because it is not only costing the environment but it is literally money down the drain.
13. New Technologies
We are at a stage now where technology can help to significantly reduce energy usage thus making huge savings. These can range in terms of cost and complexity from hi tech systems such as heat recovery to low tech systems such as timers and light sensors. If your company is designing or building new premises, incorporate as much energy saving technology into the design as possible. It is far more cost effective to do this at the design stage as opposed to retro fitting at a later stage. If you plan to make changes to existing buildings, seek the advice of an environmental consultant or engineer. Most of these technologies will require an initial outlay of money but they offer payback over a period of time from savings made. Remember also that there are grants and other financial supports in place to help offset the costs.
14. Eliminate waste
Become digital, go paperless, send emails instead of postal letters. Avail of online training such as EazySAFE’s online safety and environmental courses which will further help to eliminate waste. You will make savings on postal costs and eliminate that waste paper basket. You will also help to save a few trees from the chainsaw.
15. Reduce Waste
All businesses will produce some waste. Carry out a waste audit where you can identify waste that can be prevented or diverted away from the dump. Call your waste management company and discuss your service options. You may need less collections if you reduce your waste stream thus making cost savings. Scrutinise the packaging of your product and that of your suppliers to identify unnecessary packaging.
16. Recycle and reuse
Where waste cannot be eliminated, aim to recycle as much as possible. Again discuss recycling options with waste management companies. Think outside the box, try to reuse waste where possible. At my job we identified a large amount of food waste going to landfill. We purchased a rodent proof compost unit which provides the finest compost to an organic city farm. Not only have we reduced our waste collection bill, in return, we receive an abundant free supply of the tastiest organic tomatoes every summer…
Instead of throwing away perfectly good and reusable items such as furniture and computers, donate them to organisations who will find new homes for them. We recently updated our IT systems and rather than dump 20 perfectly good computers, we donated them to an organisation which shipped them to a school in the Chernobyl area where they were needed and much appreciated.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways for a business to become green, there are hundreds if not thousands ways of becoming green, how you go about becoming greener will depend on your business and circumstances. Being green allows a company to fulfil its ethical and moral obligations which is of course admirable, but being green is good for business too. Planet Earth is at a crossroads and if every business did their bit, we could help to ensure that future generations will inherit a world in which they can do business. After all, business will be rather slow on a dead planet.
In the short term, for most companies and especially SMEs, becoming green is not only an option, but a viable alternative way of doing business. It makes perfect business sense to embrace and adopt green policies. From enhancing your corporate public image to making savings on energy bills and rates, the advantages to be gained from going green far outweigh any difficulties that you may encounter. President Trump may advocate a return to the polluting, inefficient and unsustainable business practices of old. But to many observers this is at best, short-sighted, and at worst, a cheap political ploy to garner votes from blue collar workers who feel left behind and cheated, and who ironically, could gain most from business becoming green.
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