Workplace sustainability is far from a new concept, but recent years have seen environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies become increasingly important. Today, sustainability is not only a key factor in boosting your corporate social responsibility (CSR), but also in fostering a happier workplace with more engaged and motivated employees.
Read on to learn more about workplace sustainability and the steps that you can take to improve your ESG initiatives moving forward.
Taking a Closer Look at Workplace Sustainability
The term “sustainability” is thrown around quite a bit these days, but what exactly does it mean? In general terms, this refers to meeting our own needs without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same. The pursuit of sustainability typically looks to protect our natural environment, human and ecological health. More specifically, sustainability in the workplace focuses on balancing the triple bottom line — people, planet and profit — to promote long-term success and viability. It’s essential for leaders to recognize that they can’t create a sustainable work environment without protecting the health and well-being of the company’s most valuable asset: its people.
Simply put, sustainability is key to preserving our planet. And, while implementing eco-friendly practices has always been an important business goal, it’s become increasingly essential. There are a few reasons behind this:
- There’s growing global concern surrounding the carbon footprint and environmental impact of humans, including climate change and the depletion of natural resources.
- Customers and investors want companies to adopt more sustainable practices: A McKinsey U.S. consumer sentiment survey found that more than 60% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
- Government and regulatory bodies are also taking on a larger role in protecting the environment and, in turn, imposing stricter regulations on corporations.
- A more sustainable work environment boosts efficiency and minimizes risk, helping companies become more resilient and competitive in the long run.
The Key Pillars of Sustainability
If you and your teams are considering giving your organization or office space a sustainability boost, there are three main pillars to focus on:
- Environmental: Typically getting the most attention in terms of corporate sustainability initiatives, the environmental pillar emphasizes reducing a company’s harm to the environment (e.g., carbon footprint, plastic waste, water usage, etc.).
- Social: Emphasizing the social component of sustainability requires organizations to recognize the impact of their business activity on employees, customers, key stakeholders and the community at large — aiming for long-term support and approval.
- Economic: Companies are well-aware that business profitability and sustainability go hand-in-hand, but the problem is ensuring profit doesn’t impede on the other two components of sustainable business practices. This often involves reassessing compliance, proper governance and risk management.
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The Risks of Failing to Prioritize Workplace Sustainability
Firm commitments to sustainability are being made by organizations across the globe every day, but most still aren’t living up to these objectives. Harvard Business Review reports that up to 48% of employees don’t think that their company’s current product and service portfolio meets the needs of a more sustainable future.
What happens when organizations fail to live up to their sustainable potential? Teams can face:
- Responsibility for greater levels of energy consumption and carbon emissions despite a moral obligation to support sustainability.
- Considerable reputational damage that can lead to the loss of customers, investors and employees.
- Legal and regulatory issues from non-compliance that can result in hefty fines and penalties.
- The risks of depleting already limited corporate resources.
5 Ways to Encourage Your Sustainability Efforts at Work
According to Forbes, while 90% of business leaders think sustainability is important, only 60% of companies have a strategy in place to support it. If your organization is looking for ways to improve your sustainability and green initiatives, here are five simple practices to introduce:
- Advocate reducing, reusing and recycling
You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating how important it is for employees to reduce, reuse and recycle at work whenever possible. Organizations can foster this environmental mindset by encouraging employees to reduce the use of disposable materials, introducing recycling programs and incentives or opting for reusable utensils in the break room — to name a few. It’s also beneficial to continuously share information and tips on how your workforce can reduce, reuse and recycle most effectively for the best results.
- Go paperless
Although the business world is increasingly digitized, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average office worker generates around two pounds of paper every day. Considering all of the mistakes printed on the laser printer, bad photocopies, old memos and reports and old periodicals that organizations manage, it’s no surprise that paper is a large percentage of company waste. Companies can turn to a range of digital tools that support a digital work environment such as Kdan Mobile, which provides users with digital solutions like the PDF Reader and DottedSign. These tools help organizations streamline workflows and take considerable steps to build a paperless workplace. The use of tools such as ChatGPT prompts can minimize the amount of paper documentation related to task management and facilitate a paperless workflow.
- Reduce your energy consumption
Most businesses consume higher levels of energy than you might assume. But, because every facet of your business uses energy of some kind, there are several ways teams can lower their consumption moving forward. Energy-saving solutions include switching to water-efficient faucets and toilets, turning off the lights and reducing the use of air conditioning. In fact, Harvard Law School’s energy manager reports that simply decreasing your computer screen’s brightness from 100% to 70% can save up to 20% of the monitor’s energy. Remember that even small adjustments can conserve energy and reduce your environmental impact.
- Minimize business travel
According to Corporate Travel Management, business travel — principally flights — is the largest single source of indirect carbon emissions for office-based organizations, typically accounting for 80% or more. This once socially acceptable form of pollution can be combated by cutting down on the amount of employee work travel (e.g., opting for a video call instead of meeting in person) and promoting ground transportation like trains instead of flying.
- Encourage remote and hybrid work
Recent years have made it clear that more flexible working arrangements are here to stay. Introducing remote work opportunities reduces the pollution caused by commuting and improves the local air quality. Researchers in Spain report that implementing remote work for two or four days a week can cut the amount of nitrogen dioxide polluting the air by 4% and 10% respectively. This not only supports employee well-being, but as remote and hybrid options become more popular, you can anticipate a boost in employee productivity and satisfaction as well.
Examples of Sustainability Programs
Creating and implementing comprehensive sustainability programs can feel like a daunting task, but global organizations big and small are putting in the effort to foster successful efforts. Here are a few examples of this in action:
When you think about cars, environmentally friendly is not exactly a word that comes to mind. Ford Motor Company has set out to change the negative narrative surrounding automotive companies, introducing sustainable policies that span multiple aspects of the business. This includes using sustainable fabrics in vehicles, focusing on fuel efficiency, offering a clean diesel heavy-duty pickup truck and more. They even won the EPA Energy Star Award twice in a row.
It’s not just massive companies like Ford that are taking steps toward sustainability, even small, local businesses are doing their part to promote a better future. For example, The Green Corner Store is a personal and home goods store in Little Rock, Arkansas that prides itself on considering the environment in every phase of its operations. This includes curating products that have been sourced and manufactured responsibly and seeking third-party certifications (e.g., Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, Made with Solar Energy, etc.).
Here at Kdan Mobile, we’re dedicated to addressing today’s climate crisis. To show our commitment we’ve pledged to achieve carbon neutrality, raise climate awareness and decrease our overall business travel — all while empowering organizations to build a paperless office.
Some of our other sustainability goals include:
- Reducing our operation’s environmental footprint.
- Developing digital solutions that enable a low-carbon lifestyle.
- Increasing employee engagement — helping team members realize their full potential.
- Inspiring our stakeholders to give, serve and grow.
The Organizational Benefits of a More Sustainable Working Environment
Building a more sustainable workplace leads to several key benefits for your business. This includes:
- Reducing costs: Adopting sustainable practices like reducing energy consumption and water usage can help your teams save on utility bills and other operational expenses. A study from McKinsey found a significant correlation between a company’s resource efficiency and financial performance — where reducing resource costs can improve operating profits by up to 60%.
- Enhancing employee engagement and satisfaction: A workplace culture that prioritizes sustainability provides employees with a sense of purpose and shared values. This leads to employees that are more motivated and satisfied with the company long-term.
- Improving your organizational culture and reputation: Genuine investments in your CSR (i.e., not greenwashing) can boost your brand image, attracting customers and investors with a similar environmental mindset. This is a potential boon for your bottom line.
- Driving innovation: Finding opportunities to improve sustainability often involves looking for alternative resources or processes. This inevitably drives your innovation and product development to ensure your business is distinct and appeals to environmentally conscious consumers.
- Minimizing risks: More effective CSR initiatives help mitigate long-term risks associated with corporate resource depletion, climate change and other environmental issues.
Preventing Greenwashing Along the Way
While teams foster a more sustainable workplace, it’s essential to recognize and prevent greenwashing throughout the process. Greenwashing, also known as “green sheen,” is the act of making substantiated or misleading statements that deceive consumers into believing a company’s products or practices are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.
Why are we bringing this up? Unfortunately, just as efforts to boost environmental sustainability become more common, so do deceptive marketing tactics that claim to do so. In fact, not only does Gitnux report that 68% of business leaders admit their companies are guilty of greenwashing, but also that two-thirds of these respondents questioned whether their sustainable initiatives were genuine.
Moving forward, it will be critical for organizations to not only claim a commitment to a more sustainable future, but also put their words into action.
Considering Solutions to Support Your Sustainability Initiatives
Kdan Mobile is not only committed to rising to the challenge of environmental sustainability in-house but also to helping other organizations achieve their goals with sustainable workplace solutions. Our suite of solutions including the PDF Reader and DottedSign help you accelerate digital transformation and take significant steps toward a paperless workplace — whether in an office or remotely. Going digital is a straightforward way for you and your teams to boost your environmental efforts, and we’re here to ensure that implementing a paperless process is simple.
At Kdan Mobile, we know that environmental sustainability is the responsibility of businesses, individuals and governments alike. We’re determined to rise to the occasion, embedding environmental sustainability into our mission and digital solutions. Learn more about Kdan Mobile’s commitment to sustainability.
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