In these lean times, encouraging staff to think green will not only cut costs to your organisation but will also help motivate your staff. Emma Mason, NetRegs.gov.uk Communications Officer explains how.
Recent estimates say that UK businesses generate around half of the UK’s CO2 emissions. But surely they’re referring to large organisations? After all, what impact could a small organisation possibly have? More than you might think it turns out.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that’s those with fewer than 250 employees, cause about 43% of serious industrial pollution incidents and generate about 60% of commercial waste in England and Wales. While much of this may be accounted for by waste-producing industries such as construction and retail, even an office based business can impact the environment.
Can an HR team inspire a greener organisation?
Working in HR puts you in a unique position to influence staff behaviour, so why not use green initiatives to motivate and incentivise your staff?
You’ll need to lead by example, and make sure you are doing the right thing as your actions will influence the rest of the workforce to do the same.
Ask senior management to support and endorse your new initiatives to boost efficiency and cut down on waste.You could ask colleagues to become environmental champions and help them to conduct walkabouts to identify and discuss the environmental issues affecting your company.
Another great idea which works well in many companies is to set up an internal environmental group that meets regularly to discuss and tackle your company’s green issues.
But before you develop any new staff schemes, start by identifying the top environmental issues affecting your company.
Did you know that office based businesses are responsible for emitting 6.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year? It’s the simple things that seem to be causing the problem. Leaving a photocopier on overnight uses enough energy to print 5,000 A4 copies!
Most energy in the UK comes from non-renewable fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, which as we all know, are running out. Burning them contributes to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and to global climate change.
As leading business entrepreneur (and Dragon), Duncan Bannatyne points out, “ We live in a world of finite resources which will eventually disappear, unless we take action now to reverse the damage. We all share this responsibility but innovative businesses can play a leading role in securing the future prosperity of our planet.”
Duncan continues, “Demonstrating good green credentials is a key principle of smart business, providing financial advantage as well as environmental benefits”.
Reducing your business’ energy use, could save you money. If you reduce the temperature in your office by 1C, you could reduce your heating bills by 10%.
It’s not only energy that’s the problem. Waste is also a massive issue.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)
About 1.8 million tonnes of electrical and electronic waste is generated every year, making it the fastest growing waste stream in the UK. Hardly a surprise when you consider how many mobile phones you have owned since they became a mass media channel just 12 years ago.
If your business uses electrical and electronic equipment (such as mobile phones, computer monitors and printers) there are regulations that you must comply with, known as the WEEE regulations, which aim to reduce the amount of this waste going to landfill. If your WEEE contains hazardous substances you may need to treat it as hazardous waste.
Duty of Care
All businesses (no matter how small) have a legal duty of care to store, transport and dispose of business waste without causing harm to the environment. This involves ensuring that it is stored and transported securely and appropriately so it does not escape; making sure that your waste is only transported and handled by people that are authorised to do so; and completing waste transfer notes or hazardous waste consignment notes to document all waste you transfer.
In order to create less waste, it is recommended that businesses reduce, reuse and recycle their waste. This can reduce costs as well as reducing your impact on the environment. For example, the cost of landfill tax is currently £48 per tonne, but this will increase by £8 per year until April 2013. If you reduce the amount of waste you produce, your business could save 4-5% of it’s turnover by paying less landfill tax.
An SME focusing on waste disposal, Envar Ltd, have saved £624,000 in disposal costs by diverting waste from landfill sites.
A further benefit of choosing to recycle over sending waste to landfill is the potential energy savings. Recycling two glass bottles saves enough energy to boil 5 cups of tea! But what exactly can you recycle?
This question becomes all the more difficult to answer when you realise that many waste types are considered hazardous. Did you know that fluorescent light tubes are hazardous waste?
Hazardous waste (or special waste as it is known in Scotland) is any waste that is harmful to human health or the environment. There are special controls for moving, transporting or disposing off hazardous/special waste, which means that it can’t go in with your general waste and is subject to different rules to most things you recycle. It is recommended that you dispose of hazardous waste appropriately, in line with the legislation, at sites that are authorised to accept it.
So next time you prepare an induction for a new starter or rewrite that staff handbook ask yourself whether you should be highlighting any environmental company policies around energy, waste or recycling. And if you want to impress the boss why not suggest improving your company’s green credentials and save them some money too – it’s bound to be a winner!
To help you find out whether your office is complying with environmental legislation download the offices checklist from NetRegs.gov.uk.
NetRegs.gov.uk is a plain language environmental guidance website for businesses. For further information visit NetRegs.