By Maxine Volker

Put simply, a sustainable workplace is a workplace which takes into account a regard for people and the planet. A business that employs sustainable practises is one that looks past profitability and revenue and considers how they can make a difference both inside and outside their workspace.Everything from ensuring the health and safety of employees to implementing responsible supply chain practises contributes to the sustainability of a workplace. These values result in a happier, more productive and beneficial environment for all. The first quarter of 2020 has seen a dramatic shift in workplace dimensions − COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and resulted in many companies having to implement remote working. While this certainly presents its own challenges, sustainability does not need to go out the window altogether. A sustainable workplace − which may now mean at home − contributes to viability in the long run, not only for businesses and their employees, but for the environment at large. So, what practises can companies implement both inside and outside the workplace to ensure sustainability?

A workplace that employs sustainable practises is ultimately a win-win for all. Sustainability may be in the form of a regard for environmental impact or, on a smaller but equally important scale, the health and safety of workers. Keeping sustainability in mind within the workplace reduces the risk of mishaps, illnesses and work-related hazards − resulting in a happier, safer and more productive space. Once a business has established a baseline from which to work, they may begin to reduce their environmental impact. By tracking monthly utility bills, they can get a feel for their energy consumption and then begin limiting the costs externalised to society. Changing wasteful habits is a good place to start. Simple practises such as turning off lights when they are not needed and limiting heater and aircon use are ways to reduce electricity usage. Offices can also make sure to turn off computers at the end of the day or enable sleep mode and power-saving features to reduce power consumption. Setting up a recycling program is an efficient way to track how much or how little a business is recycling. Placing recycling bins in places where workers are reminded to use them, such as lunchrooms and next to printers, is an effective way to make sure recycling practises are implemented. Recycling paper and setting printers to double-sided on default are ways to reduce paper wastage and therefor save costs.

When it comes to sustainable practises outside workspaces, responsible supply chain management is vital. Supply chains, which are critical links connecting an organization’s inputs and outputs, are a place where businesses have an opportunity to truly make meaningful environmental impacts. Although complex and often challenging, when a company incorporates sustainability into their supply chain, they are starting at the source. While in-office practises certainly make a difference, the reality is that until a company is able to involve their entire supply chain, they won’t be able to make a big enough impact. Once all parties involved in the supply chain of a business, big changes start to happen. Setting goals when it comes to maintaining a sustainable supply chain is a great way for a business to spark action. These goals can be big or small. Starting from the source by mapping a supply chain can help businesses to identify the areas most in need of sustainable supply practises. By examining each part of the supply chain from beginning to end, the company can put more sustainable strategies in place to ensure a more holistic supply chain. Consistently keeping a close eye on how the chain functions allows businesses to monitor the overall sustainability of their supply chain. Ensuring ethical sourcing is a vital part of supply chain sustainability. A supply chain manager needs to be able to see how their suppliers are extracting and producing raw materials and the overall impact this has on the environment. From there, changes can be made if needed.

Sustainability in the workplace strives to balance the triple bottom line of the three Ps − profit, planet and people. Over the years, sustainability has become increasingly important to both individuals and businesses as a whole. We often fall into the trap of thinking that small contributions don’t make a difference, so why bother. However, the truth is, it’s the little things added up that make the biggest difference. Integrating sustainability practises into workspaces requires having strong values and sticking to them. With a firm plan, strong leadership and teamwork, companies can do their bit to make a difference.

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