Our attitude to our workplaces can be very negative - it's not our electricity bill, our stationery, or our machinery, so we can waste it.
However you should think of it differently: Making the business environmentally friendly improves the workplace, your health, the performance and reputation of the business and improves the environment for everyone.
Smaller firms may find understanding and managing their environmental impact more of a challenge, but many of the trade associations which advise and represent small businesses provide guidance, and organisations such as the Carbon Trust administer grant and loan schemes for carbon reduction initiatives. In some parts of Britain there is a ‘Business Environment Club',
100 Top Corporations & Climate Change - Greenpeace International, Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066Az Amsterdam, The Netherlands. www.greenpeace.org
1. Audit your business, become Carbon Neutral
Industrial energy use contributes about a third of carbon dioxide emissions so is a clear priority.
Step 1:Decide that reducing your Greenhouse gas emissions is a priority, and agree to establish a healthier bottom line. Set clear goals, appoint someone to do the initial research and do an audit to establish where changes would make the most difference. Establish appropriate monitoring systems (eg meter readings). Educate your staff, and get them involved in the ideas.
Step 2: Maximise your energy efficiency, and plan a timeframe for the improvement of your building/s.
Step 3: Reduce your waste. Increase your recycling.
Step 4: Organise your transport and help staff to commute more sustainably.
Step 5: Audit your ‘product' to reduce its environmental impact, market its lead in terms of sustainability.
Step 6: Generate and/or buy green energy.
Step 7: Create links with suppliers that are choosing to become carbon neutral.
Step 8: Consider implementing an Environmental Management System that meets internationally recognised standards such as EMAS or ISO14001.
And Finally: Publish the information, promote your ethical standards. Transparency, openness and commitment to the environment will win you custom.
Forum for the Future - 227a City Road, London, EC1V 1JT. Tel: 0207251 6070. www.forumforthefuture.org.uk
2. Recycle and avoid waste
Simple actions can reduce waste.
For example, abandon the vending machine - use china mugs. If you do have a vending machine, make sure it's a Fairtrade one, or, better still, replace the machine with a stall or honesty box system selling ethical snacks from a supplier such as Traidcraft.
Traidcraft Plc. Kingsway, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, NE11 ONE. Tel: 0191 491 0591. www.traidcraft.co.uk
Fairtrade Vending Ltd - Unit 1, Henley Business Park, Trident Close,
Medway City Estate, Rochester, Kent, ME2 4FR. Tel: 0845 6120 690 - www.fairtradevending.co.uk
Unnecessary waste consumes energy, as more raw materials have to be processed, and it leads to faster depletion of resources generally. Offices can use vast amounts of paper and using recycled paper, using both sides of the sheet where possible can make very significant reduction in waste.
Buy recycled paper, not only does it reduce the number of trees being cut down for use as pulp, it helps to expand the market for recycled paper goods.
Paperback Ltd. Unit 2, Bow Triangle Centre, Eleanor St., London, E3 4NP. Tel: 020 8980 2233. www.paperback.coop
3. Encourage the use of public transport
Local authorities and bus companies tend to listen more carefully when approached by the business community. Ask your employer to lobby for bus services that meet your work needs. Organise bike to work days, a car-free day, or a sponsored walk to work event. Use the money raised to improve your environment.
Provide bike racks.
4. Get your Company to organise a car-sharing scheme, or use the phone to avoid travel
Organise and promote car sharing. You could provide cash incentives such as reduced car park fees for car-pool vehicles, or for vehicles with more than one person in.
Ask your employer to allow use of an office computer or a notice board in order to establish a network of people who can share cars making similar journeys to and from work.
Using teleconferencing is also a good alternative to travelling generally.
5. If the company you are employed by imports goods or uses imported goods, check that they are fairly-traded and are environmentally sound
The global economic system benefits the rich and 'developed' nations of the world. The consequence of unfair trade is both the accelerating degradation of the environment in other parts of the world (often hidden from our view) and is creating a globalised market where all jobs are increasingly insecure.
6. Buy responsibly
If you are involved in the purchase of resources and equipment, check its environmental credentials first. Don't throw out discarded equipment or furniture - see if you can recycle it through local outlets or organisations like Oxfam or the Salvation Army. Buying second-hand can save money and still mean quality.
Find out whether the business could buy and/or sell energy from a local supplier, or a renewable source.
7. Get involved in your local community
Get your company to sponsor or adopt a local environmental initiative in the local community
Whether it be money donated to help with tree-planting, recycling or funding staff time. There are thousands of voluntary projects that would welcome local sponsor-ship.
8. Ensure that your trade union and professional organisation adopts environmentally-sound policies and sets an example
Resolutions can be proposed to your union and employers to help develop awareness and a real commitment to change. Many progressive unions have model resolutions that can be presented to employers and environmentally aware companies publish detailed targets and achievements, and the TUC published a major report on climate change called ‘Trade Unions & Climate Change - A Just Transition' in June 2008.
TUC (Trades Union Congress) - Congress House, Great Russell Street
London, WC1B 3LS Tel: 020 7636 4030 - www.tuc.org.uk
9. Consider having an ‘ethical' career
Those of us who are in full-time employment spend much of the best years of our lives engaged in working to further the priorities of our employers. However hard we work to build a just, peaceful and sustainable future for everyone in our spare time, if our time at work is spent in doing things, which run counter to this vision, then bigger changes are needed.
Hopefully, the action points above show how we can all be a force for positive change wherever we work, and even in the most hostile organisations it is important that there are voices presenting alternative ideas on the inside as well as the outside.
Ethical principles lead some people to want to pursue careers in the public services, others choose to work in the voluntary sector or for environmental organisations. Business can be a powerful force for positive change.
Perhaps you want to work for a business with strong ethical principles, or have an idea for starting up a new Co-operative or Social Enterprise? These are all options that are growing.
Tridos Bank - Brunel House, 11 The Promenade, Bristol, BS8 3NN. Tel: 0500 008 720. www.tridos.co.uk
Naturesave Insurance - 58 Fore Street, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5RU. Tel: 01803 864390 - www.naturesave.co.uk
The Carbon Trust - 9th Floor, 3 Clement's Inn, London, WC2A 2AZ. Tel: 020 7170 7000. www.thecarbontrust.co.uk
Association for the Conservation of Energy - Energy Audit Information - Westgate House, Prebend Street, London, N1 8PT. Tel: 020 7359 8000. www.aceuk.org
Social Enterprise Coalition - Southbank House, Black Prince Road, London SE1 7SJ Tel: 020 7793 2324 - www.socialenterprise.org.uk
BRECSU - Garston, Watford, WD25 9XX. Tel: 01923 664000. www.bre.co.uk
Energy Savings Trust - 21 Dartmouth Street, London, SW1H 9BP. Tel: 0845 7277200. www.est.org.uk
Charity People - Tel: 020 7299 8700. www.charitypeople.co.uk
Recruitment - www.eco-uk.com
Ethical Careers - www.ethicalcareers.org
Co-operatives UK - Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchster, M60 0AS Tel: 0161 246 2900 - www.cooperatives-uk.coop
Charity Jobs - www.charityjob.co.uk
Environment Jobs - www.environmentjob.co.uk
Funded by the Norfolk Independent Waste Trust and Cobb Charity
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