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How can I make my workplace more environmentally friendly?

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Last month, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed disturbing conclusions about the condition of our environment. While finding that some of the effects of climate change are now irreversible, the report also said it was still possible to limit some of the most extreme effects of climate change, but only if drastic changes are made. Following the publication of this report, some employers may be wondering if there are steps they can take to make their workplaces more environmentally friendly; our Employment Law team discuss this today with some useful tips and advice.

Travel to and from the workplace

During the pandemic, business-related travel plummeted as many people worked from home and business meetings were conducted over video call. Allowing these practices to continue, at least partially, will help reduce vehicle emissions and their associated environmental impact.

Another option that may be available for some businesses is to implement a vehicle salary sacrifice scheme that offers low emissions or electric vehicles. Employees who opt into the scheme sacrifice a percentage of their salary and in return receive a low emissions or electric vehicle for their personal use. In addition to encouraging a greener method of commuting, a salary sacrifice scheme also has tax advantages for the employer and employee.

If a vehicle salary sacrifice scheme is not feasible for your organisation there are other methods you can use to encourage greener forms of travel such as:

  • A cycle to work scheme;
  • Organising an employee carpool rota;
  • Subsidising public transport and travel cards.

Changes to implement to promote a greener workplace

There are several changes you can make to adapt your workplace into a greener environment. One of the first may be to establish a recycling programme if you do not already have one, ensuring that workers are knowledgeable on proper waste disposal and which items can be recycled. Your recycling programme could extend beyond paper; old computers and electronics can also be recycled or donated.

Another change would be to switch to greener products in the office such as refillable ink cartridges, recycled paper, and “green” cleaning products. Take a closer look at your suppliers and try to only do business with those who have demonstrated a commitment to environmental sustainability. 

You can encourage your employees to move away from single use coffee cups and plastic by providing staff with (company branded) reusable travel mugs and water bottles, and ensuring there are plenty of reusable dishes and silverware in the office. 

Reduce energy usage in the workplace

You should remind your employees to turn off lights and computers when they are not in use. Installing energy efficient lights and/or motion sensors that turn off lights automatically when no-one is in the room can help reduce your energy usage as well as save you money on your energy bill.

Supporting environmental organisations

There are many charities and organisations at the local, national and international level that are committed to protecting the environment. You could support such organisations through sponsorship or fundraising. Alternatively, you could partner with a local organisation and organise a staff wide volunteering day where everyone takes part in an activity that promotes good work for the community, such as cleaning up a local park or planting a community garden. If your business cannot afford to allow all staff to volunteer all on the same day you might instead consider granting staff a day or two of special paid leave to volunteer on their own for an environmental charity they support.

There are many things employers can do to make their workplaces more environmentally friendly, but what is feasible for your business will depend on many factors including:

  • The sector you operate in;
  • Your size;
  • Your resources.

You should evaluate your business for areas where you could improve and try to set specific, reasonable goals for reducing your environmental impact.  Engaging with your employees on projects of this nature can lead to a wider pool of ideas, contribute towards buy-in from your workforce and spread your message that you are a green employer that cares about the environment.  Such activities and corporate messages can enhance your reputation as a business, improving recruitment and retention opportunities.

It is possible that schemes you implement will require a change in your policies or documentation in the workplace.  If this is the case, you can contact us on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk to discuss the amendments and how to communicate this with your employees. 

To receive regular Employment Law updates from the team regarding recent tribunal cases and legislation updates, you can subscribe to our weekly Employment Law Newsletter by completing our subscription form or emailing us at events@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.