What does sustainability look like in the workplace?

Moving towards sustainable workplaces will be necessary for a net-zero carbon future, but simply installing recycling bins and encouraging car-pooling is not going to cut it.

To make our workplaces genuinely sustainable, there need to be some significant changes in behaviours and the structures where we work.

Here are some of the top ways you can transition to clean, green operations:

Green buildings

Australia is already on the front foot with green buildings, with over 12 million square metres of Green Star certified or registered green building space constructed and operational.

What are green buildings? These are constructions that have been designed to eliminate negative environmental factors and create positive impacts for a more sustainable future.

This can be achieved through a range of measures that can be implemented in new constructions and retrofitted into existing buildings, with options including:

  • Heating and cooling: Many efficiencies can be gained by insulating, ensuring the facility is airtight, using windows that block heat and cold, and upgrading to the latest, automated HVAC solutions that use sensors to ensure heating and cooling is only being applied to relevant space.
  • Lighting: Switching to LED lighting is essential if you haven’t done this already. They use around 75 per cent less energy and will last up to 10 times longer, which means less waste as well.
  • Water management: Did you know that just 2 per cent of the world’s water is fresh? Of that 2 per cent, 1.6 per cent is trapped in glaciers and solar caps. Preserving water has to be a key plank in our sustainability practices, and you should look at water-limiting fixtures and ways to recycle water throughout your building.
  • Carbon management: A simple way to offset our carbon in-house is by including plants in our building design. This is not only good for the environment, but great for business operations as well – with research showing that plants can lift productivity by up to 15 per cent.

Waste reduction

We come back to the recycle bins here, and while they are essential, there is much more to waste management in a truly green building.

Try to use recyclable materials where ever possible to make full use of those bins, ensure food scraps are being used for composting, and apply positive practices where workers are encouraged to limit the volume of waste being produced in the first place.

Digital operations 

We have heard of the paper-free office, but most businesses still use paper to some degree in their physical offices. By moving to digital platforms and team meeting services, you can drastically cut down your paper usage. For the paper that you can’t avoid using, ensure you are choosing recycled alternatives.

Travel 

Are all of those work trips 100 per cent necessary? We live in a world where Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other platforms connect us globally. If travel is essential, ensure you are paying to offset your carbon emission on these trips.

Carbon offsets 

For all of the greenhouse gases that businesses cannot limit, they should be offset. This means investing in certified projects that engage in tree planting and other environmental projects to offset your emissions.

Procurement 

Once you have your own house in order, it is essential to look at the various supply chains, manufacturers, and suppliers you use and what measures they have for a sustainable future. Choosing sustainable suppliers and manufacturers further reduces your business’s carbon footprint.