Throughout 2019, a year that saw corporate purpose rise to the fore, perhaps no concept was more pervasive in the reputational zeitgeist than corporate responsibility (CR) and environment, social, and governance (ESG) efforts. The evolution of CR from philanthropic side-project to a critical component of a strong company means that every aspect of a business must now be scrutinized beneath this new lens.
Environmental sustainability, though one of the original tenets of CR, remains a key hallmark of a responsible corporation. While adapting to the changing parameters of CR can be a complex and long-term process, many companies choose to begin their sustainability transformation by making their office more environmentally conscious.
Starting this evolution at the office has a clear benefit – making changes close to home shows both the feasibility and the direct pay-off of making the switch to more “green” practices before expanding this to a corporation’s entire operations. Reputation Institute began its own sustainability journey at our Boston headquarters this year, aiming to make our operations as environmentally conscious as possible. Using our own experience over the past months, we’ve collected some key steps for companies who want to make their office more sustainable:
1. Rally the team. Put out a call for a “Sustainability Team” in the office. Making the opportunity open to any employee brings in a wider variety of skill sets and allows for collaboration across teams. Employee ownership of the office’s sustainability encourages better accountability and buy-in to changes, while also building ambassadors from within. Reputation Institute’s Boston headquarters has its own Sustainability Team made up of Boston-based employees whose sole purpose is implementing and promoting environmental sustainability initiatives at this particular location. The structure of a sustainability team could vary depending on the type of company – a large, global company may choose a structure like ours, with groups organized for each office location, while smaller companies with fewer offices may choose to have one unifying team.
2. Take stock of your current situation. Understanding where the office stands before undertaking new sustainability initiatives is key to making the right changes. A simple way to measure the state of office sustainability is to measure your office’s carbon footprint. Most carbon-generating information about an office building (i.e. purchased electricity, heat, AC, refrigeration) can be gathered through building management, and these contacts would also have knowledge of “green” alternatives for these services. Beyond building inputs, a baseline can also include office waste disposal, employee transportation, and purchased materials.
As part of its own baseline setting, Reputation Institute’s sustainability team facilitated an employee commute survey to gauge the carbon footprint of our daily commuters. This allowed the team to show the emissions per person in the office and demonstrate the impact of switching from a car commute to public transportation, biking, or walking.
3. Start small. Once a baseline is set, the next step is deciding where to act first. The easiest way to move forward is by selecting small but impactful changes to make immediately while parallel-pathing longer-term goals on the appropriate timeline. For example, switching your office building to run on renewable energy may be a long-term goal in partnership with building management, but perhaps encouraging employees to work remotely one day a week to limit the emissions of a commute is an easier switch to implement in the short-term. We began our efforts by hosting a lunchtime presentation of recycling guidelines for the office building to reiterate the practices that were already in place before introducing new ones.
4. Begin with the “tried and true.” While CR and ESG continue to evolve, the movement for “greener” office spaces is certainly not brand new. With its legacy comes a litany of ideas for improving office sustainability. Tried and true guidelines for improving the environmental footprint of an office exist for a reason and beginning with familiar practices offers a higher likelihood of adoption. Some examples (all of which Reputation Institute’s Boston headquarters introduced this year) include:
- Incentivize use of public transit
- Encourage employees to bike or walk to work
- Offer remote work arrangements
- Prioritize virtual meetings and presentations
- Start a compost bin
- Stock reusable kitchen items
- Source organic or low-packaging snacks where possible
- Collect and recycle technology and batteries
By taking stock of the environmental impact of the office setting and involving employees in efforts to improve, companies can begin their journey toward a more sustainable future in a feasible and readily visible way.
We’d love to hear from you to learn how you are approaching sustainability in your office. Share what’s working at your company or email us with questions! Best of luck to you and your team.
Manager, North America