Beyond the green bin – sustainable workplaces

Beyond the green bin – sustainable workplaces image

As we head back to the workplace from lockdowns and remote working, why not have a think about how you can create a better working environment for you and the planet?

Green Business HQ is a sustainability consultancy that helps businesses kick-start their environmental journey. They helped us write a strategy to improve our carbon footprint, learn to better manage our supply chain and minimise our waste as part of their STARS Sustainable Business ProgrammeWe caught up with director Carolyn Cox for some practical tips on how companies can get started. 

Why should a business have a sustainability strategy?

It’s more important than ever before to have a strategy because of the state of our environment. People are really aware of the problems we’ve got around climate change, biodiversity, the drought we’re going through, and coronavirus. People are being more careful about the money they spend, therefore they’re looking for products and services from businesses that are doing the right things for people and the planet.  

What’s a good first step to take, where can you start? 

Often businesses tend to want to start with their waste because it’s really tangible and often they can feel a bit guilty about what they’re putting in the rubbish bin. It’s quite a good way of engaging employees. People associate being green with recycling and composting, so it’s a good beginner step. 

Do companies need to think beyond installing a compost bin? 

Waste tends to be an entry-level conversation, but you can start looking at the bigger things and create a strategy for the areas where you’re making the biggest environmental impact.

Most businesses are beginning to think about their carbon footprint, the impact they have across the supply chain, and what they are buying as a business. Look at your office waste and products and ask if it’s sustainable – is the office toilet cleaner environmentally friendly? Is the paper environmentally friendly? If you’re selling products, it can be a lot more complicated – is the clothing or fabric sustainable? Has a fair wage been paid? 

How can you get employees excited and involved in the workplace?

There are lots of fun things you can do. A yummy morning tea shout and a chance to discuss what goes in the recycling and compost bins can be really effective. I know Tribe’s brought lots of their team along to our Women of Sustainability events. It’s networking but you’re also hearing stories from other businesses about what they’ve done. You can learn lots from what other businesses are doing, because they’re always sharing what has and hasn’t worked, what’s the best waste company or how to get rid of packaging. It’s great to get inspired by listening to others!

You can also measure your personal and business carbon footprint. There are different  tools available or you can just do it in a simple spreadsheet. You can make it a challenge for employees to get them involved with incentives. We also run a workshop called Climate Talks, where workplaces  can find out about climate change, use an online tool to measure their footprint and then create an action plan. 

What do you say to a company that says it’s just too much effort?

There’s always something you can do that’s not that complicated and often you can make it a part of what you’re doing already. For example, someone’s always going to be buying the office cleaning products and stationary, so allow that person to have the discretion to choose the more sustainable option. Integrate it into what you’re already doing. 

Who are some great sustainable companies that are doing this well?

  • Kowtow - I really love what they do because they’re so transparent about where every part of the  clothing they sell comes from
  • Ecostore – a go-to where you can refill your own containers
  • Ethique – their whole philosophy around bar products which eliminate plastic packaging is really cool! 

Who are some great companies that supply great sustainable products for businesses? 

  • R3pack – they do compostable courier bags that are great for smaller businesses 
  • Carbon Click – for people who have online stores, they can work with Carbon Click to add carbon credits to online purchases
  • Ecostore – as mentioned above, great cleaning products for the office 
  • Environmental Choice – New Zealand’s environmental product label website has a whole range of great products and services to choose from
  • Sustainable Business Network – a variety of businesses with environmental values 
  • B Corp certified businesses