In recent years, efforts to enhance sustainability have increased, and most companies of all sizes in Africa now treat social and environmental impact as a business concern. Nevertheless, businesses often struggle to balance profits and social responsibility as they build sustainable workplaces. The two are competing goals, yet they should complement each. Keep reading down here as we explore various ways of building a sustainable workplace.
What is a Sustainable Workplace?
A sustainable workplace refers to a workplace that is environmentally conscious and encourages employees to undertake practices that impact the environment positively and reduce the waste of resources. By way of explanation, sustainability in the workplace focuses on balancing the environment, employees and profits to achieve long-term success.
5 Ways to Build Sustainable Workplaces in Africa
Are you that one business that wants to transition to more sustainable operations or doing business? Here are six best practices to adopt to make your workplace more sustainable and remain profitable:
1. Employee engagement
Employees play a significant role in building a successful sustainable workplace. Therefore engaging them to participate in sustainability programs or initiatives is essential. First, a company should inform their employees about its long-term sustainability strategy. Another practical step is to provide employees with proper knowledge about sustainability. It could be done through sustainable education and training for employees. It can be as simple as a lunch and learn talk. Employee engagement raises awareness and makes employees more conscious of sustainability.
Leaders of an organization could also invite employees to co-create best practice sustainability efforts and strategies. Alternatively, leaders could back employee-led initiatives that support sustainability in the workplace.
Why does employee engagement matter? Employee engagement in sustainability efforts brings about a feeling of meaningfulness to employees, who are more likely to take pride in their job or the organization they work for. Furthermore, it makes employees feel a sense of responsibility which makes them align with an organization’s sustainability goals.
2. Engage in philanthropic endeavours that support environmental sustainability
One of the effective ways an organization can show environmental stewardship where it exists is by engaging in philanthropic activities. For instance, a company could engage in volunteer programs whereby its employees collaborate with the local community to clean garbage, plant trees, keep waterways clean, help wildlife, etc. Another way is by providing financial support to ecological and social projects focused on environmental sustainability.
Initiatives that focus on environmental friendliness or activism promote a positive relationship with the immediate community where a business is located. It shows that a company is not focused on profits only but prioritizes the environmental health of those around them.
3. Control waste and manage waste disposal
Building a sustainable workplace starts with the business practices you undertake. One significant thing to do is control the amount of waste produced in the workplace. Encouraging the reusing and recycling of waste is the best way to do it. For instance, employees should be encouraged to reuse bottles/cups and grocery bags. Going paperless (paperless policy) is another approach that could help a business significantly reduce waste.
Also, taking up the responsibility of waste disposal management is essential. Depending on the business operations, waste must be reusable, recyclable and converted to energy. Therefore, there needs to be a safe way to dispose of it. It entails treating and disposing of waste without releasing excess toxins to the environment and those around it, like employees.
It shows the community and employees the commitment to protecting the environment. Additionally, it eliminates potential hazards posed by excess and improperly managed waste that could lead to health problems around the workplace.
4. Switch to green and renewable energy
Switching to green and renewable energy is one of the practical initiatives to reduce carbon footprint, which is a vital step to protect the environment. This energy has lower carbon emissions, thus contributing to better living conditions in the workplace and surrounding environment. Examples of green energy that companies can look into include solar power, biomass energy, wind power and hydropower.
A business that embraces green and renewable energy shows customers and the community that it cares about their well-being. Generally, it shows that it has their interest at heart.
5. Consider sustainable offices in sustainable buildings and have sustainable business practices
Employees spend most of their work hours in offices, where sustainability should start. First, employees need to work in an eco-friendly environment, which means renting sustainable buildings (like green buildings) to set up offices for employees. Another aspect is embracing a biophilic design in such facilities to create sustainable workspaces for employees.
Also, the above should be accompanied by sustainable business practices such as choosing green and energy-efficient appliances and electronics and providing sustainable office supplies and foods.
A sustainable office in a sustainable building impacts employees’ well-being and productivity in a good way. In brief, a sustainable office creates a pleasant work environment that increases employee morale and job satisfaction.
Workplace sustainability may sound complex, especially for small or new businesses. However, as you can see above, there are simple initiatives that business owners can adopt without affecting much of their profits and still make impacts related to a sustainable workplace. Moreover, making sustainability mandatory in the workplace could create consistency and help employees adopt sustainability practices more quickly.