Doing Our Bit: How to Make Your Business More Sustainable

Do you feel annoyed when you see others around you not following basic sustainable practices?  

Picture the situation.

You’re standing in your office kitchen, meticulously scrubbing out the plastic salad bowl you used for lunch so it can be added to the recycling pile, when a colleague empties the remainder of the milk carton into their cup of tea before firing it into the general waste bin and exiting the room, without a care in the world.

We’ve all been there.

While such a situation might fill you with ire (why can’t we all just do the right thing by the environment?), the reality is that not everyone is educated on the ins and outs of recycling. Perhaps it’s laziness, perhaps it’s simply blissful ignorance, but sometimes it’s up to us to be the bigger person and share our knowledge surrounding such an important subject. After all, it’s often the smallest of actions that are the catalyst for change.

It is this mission – and indeed responsibility – that has seen countless businesses the world over adopt sustainability initiatives in order to reduce the staggering effects of climate change. And such moves towards a sustainable approach are not only vital from an environmental point of view. With research suggesting that sustainability efforts are of significant importance to three-quarters of employees at SMEs, it appears that staff satisfaction and retention rates may also be affected by a company’s policies surrounding this integral area.

So, with so much at stake from both a global and business perspective, how can your firm make a small difference to drive big change? In this blog, we examine some of the sustainability practices you and your team can adopt today. 

Recycling 101 promotes sustainable culture

Proper recycling can help your business with being more sustainable

Getting your sustainability drive off the ground is an easier prospect than it may seem. Beginning with the basics, such as upping the ante with your in-house recycling practices, is often the best place to start.

There are two simple ways to encourage your team to embrace the recycling effort and get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.

  • If you are part of a bigger firm that has a Green Team or a HR representative who drives staff initiatives, approach either entity to discuss the prospect of coordinating a team-building exercise based around recycling rules and regulations. The initial portion of the session could involve an expert coming to speak on what can be recycled, how best to recycle it, and why we need to up our efforts in this department. Following this, participants could be split into teams for a “recycle-off”, whereby they race to correctly dispose of various recyclables, all in the name of friendly and informative competition.
  • Those working in a smaller practice can make just as much of an impact by distributing a recycling “how to” sheet via email, which explains the many ways to correctly manage your waste and recycling in order to protect the environment. These sheets can also be displayed on the walls of the staff kitchen or canteen, so that the more oblivious among us will be forced to take note!

Statistics suggest that up to 60 percent of the rubbish that makes its way into general waste is actually recyclable. It’s our collective responsibility to reduce this figure in any way we can. Encouraging your colleagues and peers to get involved with the overall recycling effort by giving an overview of the common dos and don’ts is a great place to start.

Save your energy

Saving energy can help your business become more sustainable

Curbing climate damage through greater energy efficiency is another way businesses of all sizes can contribute to meeting Ireland’s target of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

Aside from the obvious environmental advantages, there are also direct benefits to businesses that commit to this route, such as the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat, which helps companies change their existing heating appliances to renewable systems, such as air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, and water source heat pumps, through the provision of grants.

Not all changes need to be as drastic to make an impact. Simple measures, such as replacing all light bulbs with LED alternatives will not only save the company money on electricity bills, but will also reduce damage to the environment, given that LED light bulbs use up to 85 percent less electricity than traditional light bulbs.

From recycling to upcycling

It can be beneficial from a sustainability point of view to look at the way we consume goods in the same way we treat the consumption of energy.

For example, over-consumption of business goods, such as flights for foreign conferences or the latest and greatest laptop, has played a large part in exacerbating the overall climate change problem. In fact, in a recent interview, Journalist and Author of The Day The World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves, J.B. McKinnon, stated that “consumption is the leading driver of our environmental problems around the world today, surpassing even the growth of the human population on the planet”.

But how can we make everyday moves to mitigate such a seemingly catastrophic problem? As the saying goes, every little helps.

A little innovative thinking can work wonders. Take a breather before tossing those worn-looking desks and slow PCs. Could some elbow grease in the sanding department and a lick of paint give your office furniture a new lease of life? Or maybe your local second-hand furniture dealer has just the right replacement. And when it comes to your devices, perhaps a once-over from your IT department or preferred specialist will keep those machines ticking along nicely for some time yet.

You get the picture.

Reduce, reuse…and consider remote working

Remote working can make your business more sustainable

While countless companies the world over had no choice but to introduce remote working as an operational norm once the COVID crisis hit, its many benefits have provided ample argument for its permanent retention as we (slowly) exit the pandemic.

Not only has this novel work model provided employees with a better work/life balance thanks to reduced commutes, it has also had a positive knock-on effect on climate change for the exact same reason.

A recent study has found that while digital resources required for those many video conferences can burn a significant amount of energy, their carbon footprint is drastically less damaging, with Zoom calls accounting for just 0.6 percent of the carbon emissions produced during an average commute.

Understandably, committing to remote working on a permanent and full-time basis is simply unfeasible for many firms, but considering measures for hybrid and flexi-working options could have a positive effect on the environment, while supporting your overall drive towards becoming a sustainable business.

The takeaway – having a sustainable business for the future

The measures listed above are simply a small example of a wide range of options that can be embraced in the interest of sustainability. Use them as inspiration to get your green juices flowing; chatting to your team and stakeholders and welcoming feedback on other potential initiatives will help you to build a sustainability mission that suits you and your business – and one that belongs to all involved.

For more on this, check out the webinar we hosted with Kate Ashmore of Institute of Legal Research and Standards. Kate, who has a particular interest in assisting law firms to set out sustainability objectives and to demonstrate how they can meet those objectives in a meaningful way talks us through some of the key benefits of sustainability for business as well as sharing her top tips on how we can better implement change.

Download and view that webinar here – this webinar qualifies for one hour of CPD training under the Management and Professional Development category.

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