It’s fashionable to be sustainable nowadays, but does it make business sense?
One US shipping company conducted a survey and found that 57% of people would change their shopping behaviour to reduce their environmental impact; and 71% said they would pay more to purchase sustainable brands.
Conversely, we imagine few people make conscious decisions based on deliberately worsening their environmental impact. So, from a sales perspective, it makes sense. What about recruitment and retention, though?
As far back as 2016, data showed how important sustainability is to staff.
An employee engagement survey for a communications firm found that half of the respondents wouldn’t work for a company which doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments. Three quarters said their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work.
As more Gen Z enters the workforce, people born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, such views are likely to become even more prevalent. Generationally, views are becoming far more modern, as we are constantly evolving socially. In 2023, it’s more important than ever to prioritise positive environments in the workplace, as people are beginning to get a stronger sense of individual ethics and morals.
Ways for SMEs to be (and be seen to be) sustainable
The great news is that it is easier than ever to demonstrate your sustainability. Here are five ideas you could consider:
Offer a cycle-to-work scheme
Where distance permits, cycling is one of the best ways for people to commute to work. It is cheap, fast, zero-emission, skips congestion and helps people stay fit and healthy.
As an employer, you can sign up to a government scheme, which allows your employees to buy a bike under a salary sacrifice arrangement, which brings significant tax savings. Google “Cycle to work scheme” to find out more.
Choose sustainable suppliers
Often, it takes a bit of research to pick out the sustainable option with little to no cost impact. From choosing a website hosting company, which offsets the carbon emissions its servers produce, to partnering with businesses cutting down on their plastic packaging, you can make a big difference with small steps.
Let your employees shine at CSR
Employees love to make a positive impact. So, give them the opportunity through your corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Let your employees get involved and get fundraising or volunteering.
As well as doing good in itself, these are great stories to share on social media, your blog or via a press release to create buzz and goodwill for your business.
While there is a growing realisation among businesses that getting staff working together as teams back in the office is good for social interaction and bonding, remote working remains a popular choice, with employees whose role can be performed at home some of the time.
It also carries environmental benefits by reducing the carbon footprint caused by commuting. Even allowing a day a week of remote work could enable you to say that you facilitate a 20% reduction in emissions from commuting.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Adopting a reduce, reuse, recycle policy at work is a visible way to communicate to employees that your business cares about sustainability.
Reducing consumption of materials, encouraging reuse where possible (say by donating old office furniture and equipment to charity), and having recycling bins throughout the workplace are all simple things you can do to make a difference and send a positive message.
Written by Sue Tumelty, Founder and Executive Director of HR Dept