We recently did a poll of our database of employees on what non-compensation-related amenities most influence their job satisfaction. We were surprised to find that “eco-friendly development strategy” ranked at number 5 on our poll, above more obviously self-interested choices like free lunches and on-site gyms. It’s clearly quite important to employees that their companies pursue environmental goals along with revenue-related ones.
Sustainability for a new decade
In the past ten years, corporate sustainability initiatives have become much more sophisticated. Typically, companies approach sustainability in a holistic fashion and focus on implementing business strategy that will both create long-term stakeholder value AND which addresses the ethical, social, environmental, cultural, and economic dimensions of doing business on a global stage.
In regards to climate change, we see companies looking at carbon emissions in an increasingly sophisticated ways, too: many now develop strategies for addressing each one of three types of carbon emissions. “Scope 1” emissions are those created directly by a company through assets they own, such as manufacturing facilities, “Scope 2” emissions are those created indirectly by a company through their purchase of energy and other third parties, and “Scope 3” emissions are those created indirectly by employee travel and commuting.
Examples of Major Corporate Sustainability Initiatives
- Lyft: In 2018, Lyft announced an ambitious carbon offset program to make all rides on the platform carbon neutral. Secondly, the tech company set out to tackle “Scope 2” emissions by pledging to purchase enough renewable energy to cover the electricity consumption of every Lyft office space, driver hub, and electric vehicle mile on the platform.
- Starbucks: Sustainability has long been a part of the ethos of the coffee chain, and thus they run a number of sustainability initiatives that range from confronting the impact of coffee farming on climate change to using recycled materials in their retail operations.
- Pharmaceutical giant Novartis is taken a sophisticated approach to tackling so-called “Scope 3” carbon emissions with a dashboard that quantifies its carbon emissions impact in a visual and interactive interface.
- Companies like Tom’s Shoes and Bombas socks practice a “one for one” ethos: for every product purchased by a consumer, the company donates another to a person in need.
Easy-to-Implement Sustainability Initiatives
While sustainability benefits from a holistic approach, there are a number of easy ways to create an eco-friendly business development strategy that can positively influence employee satisfaction AND save money. Consider:
- Less international travel: Studies show that one of an individual’s largest contribution to climate change is international jet travel. Encourage employees to teleconference as a means of diminishing their overall carbon impact and that of the company.
- Go digital: Company-wide initiatives to reduce printing can have a positive effect on environmental impact, while saving money. Encourage employees to use email and applications like Slack to reduce their need to print.
- Go remote: Our study showed that remote work arrangements were seen as a powerful incentive to employees — and they are also fantastic for reducing commuting time, expense and impact. Consider making remote working arrangements part of your sustainability plans and you will also have created a powerful driver of employee happiness.
- Lighting: Upgrade your lighting to energy-efficient standards like LED or compact fluorescents. Light timers can also contribute to energy efficiency and cost savings.
- Raise the temperature: Huge inefficiency in buildings is due to over-cooling or over-heating. Luckily, as technology advances, so do ways to measure and optimize the interior temperature of the office. Consider setting your summer air conditioning to a few degrees higher than normal and deploying portable air conditioners to those who need them.
- Buy secondhand: An overlooked but cost-effective way of making your office more eco-friendly is to buy secondhand equipment or furniture from any number of specialized brokers. Then, rather than requiring the resources to manufacture a new piece of equipment, you have a cost-effective acquisition and you have saved a copier or piece of furniture from the landfill.