Written by Heidi Wadsworth | 16th December 2021

As public awareness about the climate crisis hits an all time high, there is mounting pressure on businesses to be more sustainable.

2022 is set to be the year that businesses focus more on being ‘greener’, which not only works towards protecting our planet, but also plays an important role in employee engagement.

 

Here’s why, and how your business can become more sustainable:

For recruitment and retention

Prioritising sustainability can be one of the most effective ways to attract and keep top talent. Of course, factors like pay and work-life balance play their part, but your approach to sustainability is more important than ever in finding good candidates.

According to a survey of 1,000 young UK employees by TheTalentPeople, 33% said they think that climate change has affected how they search for job opportunities. Of these people, more than two thirds (68%) said they’d like to work for an employer that is doing something positive for the future of our planet.

Young people will be especially impacted by climate change in the coming years, so it is no surprise that environmental commitments would be important to them in their working lives as well as personally.

So, what can you do?

Review workplace practices

In the new year it’s a good idea to review your processes and work practices to ensure that they are in line with your sustainability goals.

You could update your corporate values to include social and environmental goals, publish “green” goals on your website and include “green” successes in your annual report.

Any changes need then be communicated to your entire workforce.

Don’t forget to think about how energy efficient your workplace is. Can it be improved? Simple things like switching off lights can be significant in the long run. Encouraging recycling where possible too and going paperless are two other simple but effective measures you can take towards being more sustainable.

Permanent flexible working

One step towards becoming more sustainable, is to review and update your flexible and home working policies.

It’s unclear what’s in store for 2022, but allowing your employees to work from home for at least some of the week will go a long way in reducing your business’s overall carbon footprint.

According to O2’s research in 2020, if employees could work from home twice a week, it would lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by a staggering 14.3 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Plus, with fewer people in the office, you’ll probably save money usually spent on lighting and heating the workplace.

A greener commute

Remember that remote working doesn’t work for all businesses, and if this is the case for you, you could look towards promoting more eco-friendly commutes instead. One example is the Cycle2Work scheme, which allows employees to spread the cost of commuter bikes and cycling accessories through their employer over 12 months.

You could also introduce subsidised train or bus travel – depending on how your employees prefer to travel to and from work.

You might even want to invest in electric company cars, and install some charging points at your office. This may be costly initially but will save you money and reduce your business emissions in the long run – it’s a win win!

Provide training

Some employees will have a good understanding of what they can do to help the company become more sustainable, while others might need a bit of training to educate them.

As an employer, you should clearly set out how your company’s sustainability goals have a real impact and how each member of the team can play their part in achieving those goals, providing training where needed.

Think about how you can train employees on issues specific to their jobs, such as waste management and health and safety.

Sustainability ambassadors

Selecting a small team of people who are responsible for sustainability initiatives in the workplace can do wonders for your efforts. It creates accountability – there are people specifically responsible for it, and they can take care to follow up with others and encourage a culture of sustainability in the workplace. Also, a team of ambassadors will keep the ideas flowing. Task them with talking to other employees about challenges and ideas, and give them the power to make decisions.

Green incentives

It may not be easy getting everyone on board with your sustainability goals, so it’s worth having some clear incentives attached to them.

This may also help you to attract the right candidates, if you include “green” benefits in your job ads.

These could include; gift vouchers to cycle shops to buy a bike so they can cycle to work. Instead of electric company cars, you could provide discounts on alternative energy installation or upgrades (think solar or wind), or energy efficient appliances such as Smart Meters.

One long-term goal could be to support a charity that aligns with your eco-friendly goals. 1% For The Planet is a great example – by joining this organisation, you commit to donating 1% of your gross sales each year to their environmental partners – all working together to improve the state of the planet.

On a smaller scale, you could partner with a tree planting company, and plant one tree for every sale, or for each employee.

Embed a sustainable culture

Minimising environmental impact is an important consideration for any business, but you also need to embed sustainable working behaviours within your company culture. What good are these policies and initiatives if no one follows them?

It’s also important to build a company culture that reflects your values and makes employees comfortable enough to share their ideas, including those about sustainability.

Talk to your team members to gather their ideas for how your business can go green and be more environmentally conscious in the workplace. Getting input from your employees will help them feel part of the team and engaged with business values. This is likely to then improve their job satisfaction and make them more driven at work.

 

Whatever you choose to do, keep reviewing and refining your goals and initiatives. It’s important to remember, building a greener business is an ongoing process! Over time, you will then start to see improved recruitment, retention and employee engagement and relationships.

If you’d like any support or advice around sustainability and employee engagement, please get in touch with our team at [email protected].