Achieving sustainability at the workplace

Polin Kumar Saha | Published: August 10, 2018 21:33:37 | Updated: August 31, 2018 21:35:27

The word 'sustainability' has become a part of our daily life. Any individual action at workplace or home, whether it is small or large - can be a significant contribution towards achieving sustainability.

Adopting Sustainability concept in corporate culture can reshape daily lifestyle and provide the workforce with many strategic alternatives to overcome challenges to sustainability. Physical and mental health is also influenced by consumption behaviour of natural resources, which influences employee efficiency and skills in many ways.

New attitude to behavioural change has opened up scope through which effective corporate decisions can be taken daily in an office environment.

Initially, a list of the concerned and important resources that matters to the workforce needs to be made. This checklist needs to be prepared so that natural resources are consumed in a sustainable manner rather than exhaustively. This method can be a very important agenda for any implementation programmes at the workplace, as every organisation deserves to be transformed in the context of achieving SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). As a developing country, the individual and collective thoughts and actions should also be aligned with global changes and the achievements need to be tracked.

Based on the sustainability approach, the reasons behind personal and organisation decisions need to be understood despite limitations.

An ideal office should have some essential characteristics. The office should be environment-friendly and healthy; comfortable and good-looking so that work can be performed easily. The office should be affordable for operations and maintenance; connected with the neighbourhood and community; well-organised with a workforce whose members are in agreement about how energy, water, space and materials should be used.

In general, the workplace can be made more sustainable through the following factors:

1) UTILITIES: This refers to basic utilities like water, electricity, fuel, gas etc. Most of these services directly release harmful gases into the atmosphere. If a sound plan with alternative options for these services can be made, offices will become more sustainable. For example, electricity can be produced from renewable resources like solar power and waste in a small scale. In addition, natural light (sunlight) and, or sensor light can be used for most of the spaces of the office building. Another example, inexpensive devices for water supply like faucet aerators and low flow bathroom devices can be considered. Rainwater harvesting and preservation can be another source for daily water needs. However, any of these systems should be implemented following consultation with experts. Overall, such methods can help with cost reduction.

2) FITNESS CENTRE: A small gymnasium can be set up with few instruments in the office premises. Employees can use this space after office or during weekend/holidays in different ways, e.g. on daily-basis, slot-wise or through booking system. On the other hand, under sustainability practices, walking and cycling can be promoted. A small bicycle pool can be set up at office premises under the fitness centre from where employees can rent bicycles.

3) WASTE MANAGEMENT: The production of waste at the office should be allowed to become self-sustaining. Corporate waste can be taken care of through four processes- reduce, reuse, recycle, or dispose. For this purpose, we can have separate bins at office premises to collect different types of wastes for reuse, recycle and dispose. We can also develop and circulate our strategic approach among other employees for managing wastes on a daily basis.  

4) DESKTOP GARDENING: Desktop/indoor gardening is not only an aesthetic beauty, a physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of people can also be positively influenced through such gardening. For example, filling the surroundings of individual desktop, meeting-room, or corridors of the office with plants and greenery can be great initiatives in corporate practices towards sustainability. Some selective long, grassy trees and flowers can be grown to conserve the environment by minimising carbon footprint, and providing fresh oxygen.

It is important to consider a sustainability-based corporate culture that can solve most daily problems faced by employees in the most advanced methods/realistic approaches.

On the other hand, rapid and unplanned growth of Dhaka is adversely affecting the environment. Groundwater is declining while only half of the total population in the country has access to electricity. The per capita energy consumption in Bangladesh is also one of the lowest in the world.

So, time has come to consider the ways through which individual actions can lead to social change.

Polin Kumar Saha is a Senior Research Associate at BRAC Research and Evaluation Division

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