Jayne Mammatt shows why going green is the right thing to do and gives some practical tips on how to reduce your company’s environmental footprint. She also shows how HR can help change the culture and values of a company to become greener.
by Jayne Mammatt, Associate Director for Climate Change & Sustainability Services at Ernst & Young
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jayne Mammatt is Associate Director for Climate Change & Sustainability Services at Ernst & Young.
There is a common perception that only resource or energy intensive companies need to take green issues seriously due to their large impact on the environment. However, office-based companies, such as professional services firms or financial institutions, also have an impact on the environment and therefore have an equal responsibility to manage their activities to reduce their emissions and environmental footprint as far as possible. In so doing, such companies have proven more resilient in a depressed market – because their commitment to sustainability means longer-term planning in all aspects of the organisation’s operations.
This comes down to a simple yet far-reaching concept: going green must be done for the right reasons and not just for the sake of appearances or brand-building with environmentally conscious consumers. Consumers are smart; the industry is smart. Green-washing will be identified as such, and the benefits of authentic sustainability planning will not accrue.
Studies have shown that companies that are committed to environmentally sustainable practices have performed better in the recent economic downturn as a consequence of better long-term business practices, stronger corporate governance and greater risk management.
This performance boost is the result of the focus on sustainable business as opposed to short-term profiteering. Companies with a long-term sustainable view have built underlying foundations and plans which are more resilient. These plans represent integrated thinking with a basis on understanding the role of the organisation in the complete socioeconomic-ecological system within which it operates.
How to go green Going green starts with personal choices, rather than changing the office. This means amending business and personal approaches to how you impact the environment. For something which may appear daunting at first, with many individuals and companies unsure of where to start, here are some simple tips to provide immediate – and easy – pointers on how to reduce impact.
Exchange incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient options.
Turn off lights, computers and air conditioning systems at night and over weekends.
Set all printers to default double-sided printing.
Use partially or totally recycled paper where possible (the carbon footprint for the production of recycled paper is dramatically lower than for virgin paper).
Make it a group effort:
Going green can only be successful with the support of staff and also suppliers and customers.
It is especially vital that green initiatives have buy-in from the company leadership.
You can’t manage what you haven’t measured:
It is imperative to understand exactly what your environmental impacts are. From a carbon perspective, this entails calculating a carbon footprint which can be done relatively easily using the internationally accepted Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
A similar exercise can be conducted to determine your water use and where initiatives can be implemented to reduce consumption. This is especially important in South Africa as we already are a water-stressed country – and this is expected to intensify in the coming decades.
Implement a sustainability or environmental strategy:
It is imperative to have a goal to work towards. Targets and initiatives should be implemented to achieve your goals.
A strategy helps create awareness within the business.
This seems obvious, but it is difficult to instil a culture of recycling in a company. Changing the mindset of throwing everything into one dustbin takes time and effort.
This can be more difficult in countries in Africa where recycling is not as entrenched in the culture as it is in Europe.
It is important to make employees aware of the recycling campaign and how they can get involved. For example, placing small paper recycling boxes on each desk will remind people to recycle.