Millennials and Gen Z now make up the largest percentage of the workforce and potential workforce...
Being eco-friendly is hard. Here's 5 ways for SMEs to get started.
It's important to remember that environmental responsibility is just one area in the ESG framework that's valued by young people. There are a lot of demands on organisations today when it comes to environmental and social responsibility, and in our personal lives we know how difficult it is to live sustainably. In an organisation where environmental responsibility covers so many areas, and with many of those extending beyond your immediate control, it's even harder to drive realistic results in this space.
For example there are the actions you are directly responsible for (carbon produced by your own boiler/company vehicles); those you're indirectly responsible for (such as carbon emissions produced through the electricity and energy that you buy to power your office); and associated actions (those taken by your suppliers or your employees in the process of travelling to work).
However, for all their savvy in a world of complexity and technology, GenZ has shown itself to be more impressed by meaningful action than PR spiel. This is a generation brought up in an environment where the line between advertising and entertainment is blurry at best. They can see through marketing messaging and recognise the difference between grandstanding and tangible results, making smaller, measurable and sustainable actions more impressive than transparent greenwashing.
In this article, we're going to look at the 5 things that you can start your eco-journey with, regardless of the size of your company.
Reuse, recycle, recover
Government required practices now encourage businesses to adopt reuse, recycle or recover waste policies, in that order. Recycling is something all businesses are obligated to do in terms of commercial waste, but where once that was deemed a solution to sustainability, we now know it's the final option for waste rather than a first port of call. The gold standard is to minimise waste in the first place, either by not producing it at all or finding ways to reuse and recover materials. Implementing policies that show the company does this on a broad scale, but also helping individuals to do it in their own daily actions, can take your company a long way towards net-zero targets.
Minimising waste by helping not to produce it in the first place, or by reusing items where possible can be as simple as reusing boxes and bags, or providing appropriate space for food storage and preparation in the office so staff don't feel the need to buy from the shops each day (it will also help in terms of cost of living). Can you provide access to water and other drinks in refillable bottles rather than single use plastic? Can you provide washable plates and cutlery?
Make recycling easy
If you haven't done so already, make sure there's clear and adequate recycling bins for different materials (typically paper, plastic, tin cans and glass) in the office/working environment so it's easy for staff to dispose of waste responsibly.
The benefits of hybrid working
Hybrid working has become a hot topic since the pandemic and the digitally native GenZ has generally taken to it like a duck to water. It's no longer considered an option at work, but for many some form of flexible and remote working structure is now expected. There are lots of opportunities that can generate, but consider how it may help you and your employees to live and work more sustainably. For example, can the option to work remotely minimise carbon emissions through less transport? By having a hybrid work policy, can you have a smaller office space and thereby minimise your energy consumption? Does working from home make it easier for employees to live sustainably - e.g: not buy that coffee in a disposable cup for the train journey?
Stay open to new ideas
Environmental wellbeing is an evolving area with new options, knowledge and solutions coming to the fore all the time. On the one hand that doesn't mean you have to do everything on day one - it's better to do a few things really well than lots of things badly. The latter might sound good on paper, but your young employees will soon sniff it out and they won't be impressed. It's also an opportunity to create a company culture that encourages open conversation and ideas generation from employees. Don't make them responsible for your actions but give them power and autonomy to raise ideas and action change with regular forums for discussion and an open attitude towards conversation.
In short - start with basics that resonate. Consider environmental responsibility from an individual perspective - one that rings true on a personal level. You might find it easier to implement small actions that make a big and visible difference both to the company's environmental credentials and your employees' capacity to live by their own values.
We've been working hard for the last 3 years to build a vibrant talent pool of 16 - 25 year olds in the UK. If you are an eco-friendly employer, talk to us about how we can help boost your profile and hire by purpose.