Establishing a strategy for workplace sustainability is at the forefront of many global organizations' list of priorities, with many company leaders being pushed to make long-term business investments toward a greener and more profitable workplace. Eco-conscious building management also helps reduce business costs and optimize expenditures.
91% of business leaders feel a responsibility to act on ESG issues. One way leaders are addressing sustainability is through real estate management. Commercial and residential buildings are responsible for nearly 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Sustainable corporate real estate practices are becoming an even larger priority for enterprises to reduce environmental impact by enhancing efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.
To understand where your workplace stands today regarding sustainability, conduct an audit. Conducting an ESG audit will help you to create a business sustainability report for investors and employees, communicating the strengths and opportunities in your workplace sustainability practices, which is key in determining where developments can be made, and how you will achieve them.
How companies are implementing ESG in the workplace
Businesses large and small around the globe are implementing sustainable workplace practices. Brands including Nike, Google, and Facebook, are using green methods within their workplace, from utilizing green energy to creating recycling infrastructures.
Other examples of sustainability that many workplaces are implementing include:
Implementing energy management systems and policies to reduce consumption
Raising employee awareness of sustainable workplace practices in an office environment
Using smart office technology to minimize utility use and identify areas for improvement
Prioritizing water conservation using recycling and reduction methods
Promoting a digital-only office communications plan to reduce paper consumption
Reducing the amount of waste produced via recycling
Investing in office plants to promote air quality
Along with making a conscious effort to introduce and maintain environmental practices in the workplace, companies are analyzing how to optimize their workspace overall. As more businesses implement hybrid and in-person return-to-office policies, the need for physical space is changing. Rather than wasting space and energy when it isn’t being used, companies are reevaluating their operational efficiency to identify where improvements can be made. By understanding how their physical space is used, companies can improve agility to drive business growth, financially, and environmentally.
The impact of sustainability in the workplace
Environmental sustainability in the workplace has a positive impact on various business areas, including employee health and wellness. Sustainability in a workplace environment increases cognitive functioning and reduces sick days by 30%, subsequently improving workplace productivity as well.
The impact of sustainability in the workplace is also of great importance to employees. A survey conducted by Morgan Levell found that 62% of employees felt it was important to them that their employees were committed to ESG practices. As companies weather today's tenuous macroeconomic environment, attracting and retaining top talent is crucial, particularly as employees’ needs are put under the spotlight.
For leaders and investors, developing an environmentally friendly workplace gets ahead of any potential environmental legislation that may be introduced. Additionally, it also lowers company expenditure by wasting fewer resources, and implementing technology that performs at a higher efficiency, resulting in reduced energy bills and service costs.
How to conduct an audit for workplace sustainability
The first step towards a more sustainable workplace is through an audit of your office's energy usage. A sustainability audit is a targeted evaluation of your current workplace practices. By recognizing your current environmental impact, your company can set out initiatives for executing and promoting improved sustainable measures.
1. Evaluate current resource usage.
Start your audit by assessing your how your workplace is currently utilizing it resources. As you are taking inventory of your equipment and practices, keep improvement top-of-mind. Look for patterns that indicate potential energy waste or inefficient practices and consider where you can implement behavior changes or swap out equipment to make investments in your sustainability.
Begin by creating an inventory of all energy-consuming devices and equipment in your workplace. This includes computers, printers, lighting fixtures, heating and cooling systems, kitchen appliances, and any other electrical equipment. Make note of their power ratings or wattage to understand their energy consumption levels.
Then, evaluate your energy usage and electricity bill over a specific period, such as monthly or quarterly to identify peak usage times and areas of high consumption. This analysis will help pinpoint opportunities for energy conservation and help produce ROI figures after changes have been implemented.
Identify outdated or inefficient equipment that consumes excessive electricity. Consider replacing those appliances and electronics with energy-efficient models that bear the ENERGY STAR label or other recognized certifications. These devices are designed to use less energy without sacrificing performance, resulting in long-term energy and cost savings.
Another important aspect of a sustainability audit is assessing waste management practices in your workplace. Evaluate the current waste disposal systems and recycling programs in place and determine if there are opportunities to reduce waste generation and increase recycling rates.
You can conduct a waste audit by analyzing the types and quantities of waste generated. Identify areas where waste can be minimized, such as implementing paperless processes, reducing packaging materials, or providing reusable office supplies.
Consider implementing a comprehensive recycling program that covers a wide range of recyclable materials, including paper, plastic, glass, and electronics. Provide clearly labeled recycling bins throughout the office and educate employees about the importance of proper recycling practices.
Water conservation is a crucial aspect of sustainability in the workplace. Evaluate your office's water consumption patterns and identify areas where water usage can be reduced. This may include checking for leaks, installing low-flow faucets and toilets, and providing filtered water fountains to promote refilling bottles.
Consider implementing water-efficient landscaping and design strategies as well, such as decorating with plants that require little water, such as cacti and succulents, and water pieces that reuse its water supply.
Transportation is often a significant contributor to environmental impact. Evaluate your workplace's transportation practices, including employee commuting and business travel. Identify opportunities to reduce reliance on single-occupancy vehicles and promote greener alternatives by encouraging employees to use public transportation, carpooling, or cycling for their daily commute. Providing incentives such as subsidized public transit passes or preferred parking for carpool vehicles have been successful with many global enterprises in reducing their carbon footprint from commutes.
2. Analyze employee behaviors.
To assess the environmental impact of employee behavior, it is essential to examine the resources they consume on a regular basis. This includes evaluating the usage of disposable consumer items, such as plastic cups or utensils, as well as paper consumption. By mapping out yearly consumption patterns, organizations can gain insights into the quantity of resources being utilized and their corresponding environmental impact. Sharing this information with employees can raise awareness and encourage them to actively engage in sustainable practices.
Another important aspect of sustainability auditing is analyzing how real estate and physical office spaces are utilized. Understanding the efficient utilization of space in relation to the size and needs of the workforce is a key metric in corporate sustainability reporting. By assessing how employees utilize office spaces across buildings, organizations can identify opportunities to save energy and optimize resource allocation.
During the analysis, it is crucial to identify periods when specific office spaces remain unoccupied. By recognizing these idle periods, organizations can implement measures to conserve energy, such as adjusting heating, cooling, or lighting systems accordingly. Additionally, if certain areas are consistently underutilized, space can be reallocated or repurposed to maximize efficiency and minimize waste.
3. Identify technology that can improve sustainability.
Innovation in technology is paving the way for companies to improve sustainability. Occupancy intelligence platforms like VergeSense provide businesses with real-time data to help them make confident decisions on how to optimize their portfolio and spaces. When integrated with room and desk booking apps, these platforms can also monitor and detect when space isn’t being used to release unused space bookings. Workplace analytics tools like Infogrid and Metrikus also address ESG standards by monitoring and analyzing energy usage data to help you find areas of improvement and automate critical sustainability workflows.
Building management can be aided with the introduction of temperature-controlled technologies that adjust thermostat temperatures based on a schedule, as well as motion sensors which automatically switch off lights when a person leaves a room.
During your auditing process, commit to researching and talking with various technology solutions that can help you become a more sustainable and efficient workplace. There are meaningful solutions for every budget you just need to find them and determine which are right for you.
4. Set up regular audits and reporting systems to monitor ESG initiatives.
ESG audit standards and company-specific benchmarks help businesses to measure and report their findings to employees, executives, and investors, advocating transparency within the company. An ESG audit program should be carried out regularly to maintain and monitor environmentally-friendly initiatives. Your ESG audit seeks to determine which sustainability issues are relevant to the company, the risks related to these issues, and how these are communicated to investors.
As changes continue to occur in the external environment, continually assessing your data and findings is essential, not only in financial terms, but also to ensure the company meets any future environmental regulations. Start by right-sizing your real estate portfolio and examining how efficiently employees use office spaces.