Sustainability & ESG in the Workplace



Sustainability in the Workplace

In recent years, the way that we live, and work has transitioned rapidly. Sustainability has moved its way up the agenda of business operations and provides huge growth opportunities by pushing innovation and productivity. Sustainability in the workplace has the potential to encapsulate and fulfil core company values, while engaging with key issues that we face in societal transitions in sustainability. Being sustainable in the workplace means not only focusing on your existing practices in business but laying the groundwork for future workforces.


But what is sustainability?

Many people hear this word on a daily basis but can’t explain exactly what it means, and there is an abundance of literature still discussing the definition. The UN defines sustainability as “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Sustainability refers to environmentalism, social equity, and economic development. While this still a broad definition, the motivation of sustainability is to enhance the environmental, social, and economic pillars, for now and for the future, through innovative solutions and practices.


So, what should sustainability in the workplace look like?

It is not only about reducing your workplace footprint, but it should focus on innovative tools to encourage the wellbeing of employees, encourage environmentally conscious decisions and promote long-term management that can evolve working culture.


Something that EVERY business owner can do now to be more sustainable:

  1. Training employees on environmental best practice: engaging directly with your team can empower employees to integrate sustainability within their day-to-day work, promoting more environmentally conscious decisions.

  2. Create a sustainability policy: while many companies have them, they are most effective where clear-cute measurable objectives are in place, such as reducing the office carbon footprint. Regularly reviewing it and seeking employee input will promote policy success.

  3. Flexible working: allowing employees to work flexibly can reduce emissions from commuting and enable a better work-life balance, improving employee wellbeing.

  4. Donate to charity & offer volunteer days: directly engaging with charities can improve employee wellbeing and directly targets environmental concerns.

  5. Office plants & green walls: plants in the workplace are a great way to improve employee wellbeing and productivity and improves indoor air quality.

Making sustainability engaging and accessible should be a key focus for achieving sustainability in the workplace.


ESG & Net Zero

Many workplaces are seeking large-scale change by focusing on ESG (Environmental Social Governance), the three dimensions of sustainability. Investors are increasingly evaluating ESG criteria and where companies do not engage with ESG, they now pose financial risks. Whereas strong ESG credentials can promote company growth.


So, how can a business improve their ESG credentials?

  1. Reduce operational and embodied carbon emissions & aim for Net Zero Emissions

  2. Use products and materials that are sustainably sourced and have Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s)

  3. Produce less waste and set waste reduction targets

  4. Facilitate a collaborative and social workplace with hybrid working training and development opportunities

  5. Integrate wellness into the design and management of a workplace

  6. Illustrate a traceable, transparent, and ethical supply chain

  7. Implement diversity & inclusion policies


Accreditations

There are a number of accreditations available to demonstrate sustainability and ESG in the workplace, which can vary dependent upon business operations. An ISO 14001 (Environmental Management) can help a business to become environmentally friendly and help focus on adaptive sustainable management. There are also a number of other ISO standards as part of an internationally recognised framework for environmental management. A B Corp certification measures a company’s social and environmental impact. In construction, BREEAM is an internationally recognised scheme for best practice sustainable design. 1% for the planet certification body encourages businesses to give 1% of their gross sales to environmental projects. The Carbon Neutral Certification shows a company’s internal measures to offset their emissions.


Although there is no handbook or one-size-fits-all policy on sustainability in the workplace, we can all start by talking openly. If you would like to make your workplace more sustainable, just start simply by having an open conversation with your team and find out:


1. What does sustainability mean to them?

2. Would they like training in sustainability?

3. What changes would they like to see in the workplace?


At JAW Sustainability we provide specialist sustainability support in the construction industry, understanding client objectives to integrate sustainability in a meaningful way. If you would like to discuss sustainability, ESG and wellbeing in the workplace, get in touch with us and we’d love to chat!

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