Creating a more sustainable workplace has numerous benefits – from greater business efficiency, to increasing organisational compliance with important regulations, attracting the best talent and doing good by the environment. Where should you begin? We spoke to Christopher McGreal, Compliance Manager from ACCO Brands Australia, home to many of Australia’s favourite stationery brands, to share his insights and five tips to help make your workplace more sustainable. ACCO Brands Australia currently supplies both the retail and commercial sectors with thousands of products for the home, office and schools. Each product has been designed with the consumer in mind.
Rethink and reduce your use
“Sustainability is all about reducing harm to the environment and reducing waste of resources,” says Christopher.
Think about how you operate in the workplace. Would you use the same resources at home? Would you still print a 90-page document using your own paper and ink or would a two-page summary do? Of course, printing does have its benefits, but it’s important to consider whether it’s necessary every time. Think about whether you need colour printing or if black ink is fine, print double-sided to minimise paper waste and try to reuse printed paper for taking notes before throwing them in the recycling bin.
“A great way to operate more sustainably is to reduce your energy consumption. Make it a habit to turn lights off if they aren’t being used for extended periods of time and use power-saver mode for electronics when they’re not in use. Remind employees to power down their laptops at the end of each day,” says Christopher. Consider alternative renewable energy options to power your workplace like solar energy.
Ensure employees are using equipment like air conditioners or dishwashers more effectively. “Air conditioners can overwork when not properly cleaned and similarly, dishwashers clean more effectively when food scraps are removed in the sink prior to use,” says Christopher.
Make recycling easy
Implementing recycling programs that suit your workplace and the types of waste being produced is a great place to start.
Station colour-coloured bins throughout the office, in breakrooms and in other common areas. Create clear signage that outlines what type of rubbish should go in each bin so employees can easily identify where their rubbish should go. Recycle the right way by checking on-product labelling, information from suppliers and guidance from councils and recycling contractors.
“Keep in mind that e-waste like batteries and electronic equipment should not be thrown away into general waste. There are local collection sites and industry-sponsored stewardship programs that can collect and safely dispose of this kind of waste,” informs Christopher.
“Make a conscious and informed choice when you purchase from suppliers. Look for ‘green products’ where available, especially those which have independent third-party certifications that support they are environmentally sustainable, like GECA and FSC-certified products,” says Christopher.
The GECA ecolabel identifies that the products are certified environmentally preferable by Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA). FSC is a global third-party certification system to provide assurance that forest products support responsible forest management.
During the purchasing process, consider what the product is made from. Recycled content is made from existing material rather than using raw sources. Also consider the product’s end of life, packaging that is easily separated into recyclable components can make recycling easier. Finally, consider whether the product is certified carbon neutral or manufactured using renewable energy sources.
Shop locally and sustainably
Support local sustainable suppliers that have transparent and demonstratable ethical sourcing practices. Support environmental and sustainable programs, especially those with independent third-party certifications.
“Look for Australian Made products and certifications that are issued and relevant locally,” advises Christopher.
Promote the cause internally
“Promotion is key to creating a more environmentally-conscious workplace and driving a positive change in behaviour. It’s important to enable and encourage employees to make sustainable choices every day,” says Christopher.
Implement waste monitoring and auditing programs to see where your business could improve. Involve employees by keeping them informed along the way. For instance, share information on the volume of material recycled and saved from landfill, money raised from donating bottles and cans, and communicate how these programs are helping the business achieve its sustainability goals.
“Reach out to local recyclers for information that can help raise awareness. Some of these organisations run events throughout the year which can be a great opportunity to get people involved,” says Christopher.
There are so many things you can do to drive behavioural change at work. Offer volunteer leave so employees can contribute to an environmental cause, create incentives for employees to bike to work, reduce unnecessary travel beyond the pandemic and encourage employees to share about the different ways they reduce their impact, both inside and outside of work.
“Even something as simple as identifying which stationery products in the stationery cupboard are sustainable options and allowing employees to choose their preferred products can influence procurement spend,” says Christopher.
Serious about sustainability? View ACCO Brands Australia’s range of sustainable products for more environmentally friendly alternatives of your favourite workplace products.