What are the environmental policies that would make a real difference in the business world? Many have been touted over the last decade, but which ones would make a genuine and dramatic difference? The following are the hard-hitting possibilities every business should be striving for.
A paperless office
Is it possible? An article from the BBC in 2012 considered whether it is. How, for example, could enormous companies such as Google or Facebook ever go paperless? In the piece, it’s acknowledged: “Talk of a paperless office has been around for well over 40 years.” Yet, few have adopted it and most businesses now use more paper than ever.
Of course, the smaller your business, the easier it will be to achieve. For bigger companies, there’s a lot of new technology around to ensure printing isn’t essential: cloud computing, laptops, smartphones, apps, electronic signatures, and e-invoicing (Islington Council in London saved £200,000 annually with this one) all mean hitting “print” isn’t the only option.
Why is it such an important goal? The World Counts estimates: “We use more than 2 pieces of paper for everyone on Earth every single hour. Demand for paper is expected to double between 2005 and 2030.” In America, this amounts to 40% of the total waste created annually.
This figure varies across the world, but the World Counts claims if everyone uses more than 200 kilos of paper each year (an amount already being met in the US, Japan, and Europe), there “would be no trees left”.
It puts the idea of a paperless office into perspective. By utilising a mix of modern technology, a strict no printing policy, and recycling bins for any work that has to pass through a printer, then your business could start a journey towards being paperless.
The result? Plenty of savings on paper, printers, and ink cartridges, as well as something to boast about to the wider world.
Commuting times vary by country and city (take a look at this dramatic global daily commute heatmap to see the differences), but it’s loathed by most workers. In fact, it’s a source of depression, fatigue, and stress. This damages productivity in the office—isn’t it time to acknowledge this and change the status quo?
As more businesses allow working from home, there will be fewer cars on the road, less traffic, and more space on public transport. This can be offset by the worker’s electricity usage at home, but you can provide them with guidance on energy saving tactics to limit the drain on their finances and the environment.
Widespread carpooling & cycle to work schemes
Commuting remains a major issue, with the daily rush for millions of employees to get into work appearing increasingly outdated and even ridiculous. There are many businesses who now offer flexible work hours so their staff can travel in less stressful circumstances.
Working from home is another way to alleviate traffic, but if some of your staff have to be in the office, then a cycle to work scheme, or carpooling, are options to take the stress away from roads and public transport routes.
This can not only reduce congestion issues in cities and town through fewer cars being on the roads. It could also reduce commuting times for some of your staff, in turn alleviating the associated well-being issues.
Recycling & beyond
If you haven’t already, dot recycling bins about your premises for paper waste and products such as cans, plastic, and tin. How many cans of Coke does your staff get through every day, or bottles of water? All of this adds up to an enormous amount each month and, after widespread anti-plastic laws emerging in 2018, it’s time to take action.
Business is hectic, of course, so you might find it difficult to bring organise recycling. If you’re wondering how to even go about it, read this short information piece from Wrap for advice. You’ll also be able to find a local equivalent in your area for advice—have a scan online and get your procedure set up and policies in place.
But even recycling isn’t enough to challenge the plastic hangover the world now faces. The Guardian’s environment editor, John Vidal, states: “In the 1950s the world made about 2m tonnes of plastic a year. Now that figure is 330m tonnes a year – and it is set to treble again by 2050. It’s not enough to return a few plastic bottles, or even to pick up an old mattress on a beach.”
He proposes a reduction in plastic production and alternative methods, which we’re beginning to see thanks to innovative new businesses who offer alternatives to plastic. Each person can do their bit, too, by turning to environmentally friendly products in order to clamp down on the excess of plastic.
The use of non-toxic cleaning products
Many businesses don’t think about the long-term effects of using harsh chemicals like bleach in the office. While they can be a bit more expensive, brands such as Ecover offer a plant-based alternative that’s much kinder to your staff and the environment.
Additionally, your business could look after real plants in the office to offset VOCs and CO2 emissions. Does your office have plastic plants? Well, your staff would, no doubt, appreciate some real greenery—when you’re stuck indoors all day, it can prove to be inspiring and relaxing for your hard working staff.
Kate Palmer is the associate director and head of advisory at Peninsula UK, offering HR services for small businesses. Created for SMEs, it helps to streamline their day-to-day activities with expert advice and inspirational ideas.