Eco-office – “Fashion or conscious choice”
The topic of ecology and environmental protection has been appearing in political and social debates around the world for many years. Long ago it got out of the towering skyscrapers of international organizations, representative government buildings, and secret offices of NGOs. The concept of being “eco-friendly” stormed our everyday life. The need to join the pro-environmental trend is also noticed by more and more enterprises. We are not talking about large corporations, where armies of marketing specialists armed with considerable budgets quickly noticed this trend and dressed it up to be more pleasant to our eyes and ears. The word “eco” was no longer just a lure to improve image and increase brand recognition. Eco has become an important element in the functioning of many companies and their employees. Of course production plants investing, for example, in circular economy, introducing energy-saving technologies, or using renewable energy sources have more opportunities, but what does it look like from the perspective of an office and “colorful collars”?
Initially ecology was just an empty slogan. Employers’ ideas were mainly limited to reducing the number of printed pages or investing in energy-saving light sources, which was associated primarily with “cost cutting”, not with environmentally friendly attitudes. There were no examples of good practices, willingness, and relevant knowledge. However, the situation gradually changed and companies started adopting a different approach to ecology. Contrary to popular belief, numerous innovative and low-budget solutions, aimed at educating and improving the condition of the environment, can be implemented in offices.
This is possible even in small enterprises. Their employees often organize collections of recycling materials such as plastic, cans, waste paper, or batteries, return toner cartridges for refills, or request the replacement of worn equipment. Sometimes teams undertake grassroots initiatives and actively participate in charity actions, such as cleaning on the “Earth Day”, or even make small donations to ecological foundations.
The employees of one HR consulting company showed exceptional creativity. Instead of buying birthday presents for their colleagues, they decided to make small deposits and the so-called “virtual adoptions” of endangered species represented by WWF Polska – which they extensively presented in social media and encouraged others to join as well.
Another interesting example is the Wosh Wosh shoe cleaning company, which organized last November another action based on the philosophy of “zero waste”, focusing on the collection of used footwear and giving it a second life. The shoes obtained in this way were given to those in need, mainly the homeless.
The last two cases show that ecology does not require large expenses. Sometimes an unusual idea and its persistent implementation are enough.
The situation is different in large companies, as they have much greater opportunities and target groups to which they can address their activities.
More and more companies are taking care of the environment already at the design stage of their office, using energy-saving technologies, natural materials, and plants for interior design, which, according to numerous studies, improve efficiency and well-being. These companies also make sure that the contractors they work with supply the company with environmentally-friendly products, including office and cleaning supplies. They also supervise the amount of ink and paper used, especially since changing fonts and margins alone can significantly reduce their consumption.
It is also an interesting idea to place stickers reminding employees to turn off the lights, reduce the consumption of PET bottles, and conserve water. A few years ago these tactics were used in the offices of, among others, DHL or Kompania Piwowarska, as part of the campaign “Harmonized with nature”, which used thought-provoking questions and hints, e.g. “Who reads your newspapers?” “One circulation of a popular newspaper is about 1000 trees. Share your newspapers”, to point out the need to reduce the amount of waste generated and segregate garbage.
Companies increasingly often send their employees regular e-mails and internal newsletters containing tips on how to care for nature – not only at work, but also on a daily basis. They also publish relevant information related to ecology. Some companies use internal communicators or information boards for this purpose. Others, in turn, create their own portals, reports, or spots presented on company TV. In the case of new people joining the team, information about the pro-environmental attitude and all applicable rules are provided at the very beginning, during the onboarding process.
All employees, including the Management Board and high-level managers, are often involved in pro-environmental actions, because they set an example and act as authorities and innovators in organizations, which is extremely motivating to employees.
Health and ecology are also a great leitmotif integrating the team during events and company trips. As part of such activities employees become involved in various charity campaigns, e.g. planting trees or supporting the construction of green homes for families at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Another interesting idea are exchanges and fairs with clothing and other accessories, the so-called SWAP. This is a great initiative, especially for parents with small children, who, besides contributing to environmental protection, can also save a lot of money.
According to the principle “healthy body, healthy mind”, managers of many organizations decided to also pay attention to how their employees eat. Sweet and unhealthy snacks begin to disappear from social rooms, and their place is taken by vegetables and fruit. Companies also encourage employees to eat regular meals and not skip breakfast. Those with larger budgets organize “health days”, where employees can take part in special workshops and consultations conducted by dieticians, doctors, and physiotherapists. They also frequently promote active forms of spending time and participation in sports events, using public transportation and bicycles, e.g. by offering reimbursement of expenses incurred on a city card, and present positive examples in their social and internal media.
Guided by these principles, as part of its “Superheroes” program, Carrefour selects employees promoting environmental protection and healthy lifestyle and sends them to development trainings aimed at creating a team of leaders supporting the implementation of CSR policy.
Coca Cola has been constantly involved in employee volunteering since 2008. It created the initiative “Volunteer on the bright side of life” supporting both small and large social events, including the Swedish plogging, i.e. running combined with garbage collection.
Sometimes companies also invite employees’ families to cooperate by organizing science picnics, workshops, or art competitions for children on environmental topics. An example of such activities is the “Babylab” project implemented by Bayer, where environmental protection issues appear among popular science topics.
Along with the increase of “ecoconsciousness”, there are also candidates on the market who ask as early as at the stage of recruitment interviews whether both the mission and vision of the company fit into the principles of sustainable development and how they translate into specific CSR actions. For many of them participation in such activities is important when making decisions about choosing a new job. Research shows that engaging employees in such activities increases their loyalty and productivity as well as significantly reduces turnover. Sometimes candidates resign from further participation in recruitment because the company does not pay attention to ecology and does not participate in projects related to responsible business. This very often applies to companies testing their products on animals, strongly interfering with natural ecosystems, or cooperating with entities undertaking actions unethical from the ecological point of view.
Remember that nothing happens by itself. Employees and their involvement are key elements of the idea behind eco-offices. That is why “eco-actions” must always be closely correlated with education and well-functioning internal communication. For this purpose companies employ specialists in the area of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or assign appropriate tasks to marketing, communication, and HR departments. It is important that the assumptions of pro-environmental initiatives are implemented regularly and preferably in “small steps”.
It seems that the fashion for “eco-friendliness” will permanently enter the minds of Polish enterprises and become one of the most important elements of their organizational culture. This approach results not only from the necessity dictated by progressive climate change, but also from the growing knowledge and need to shape the world around us. In addition, engaging employees in projects related to ecology fosters the creation of lasting relationships, facilitates cooperation, and improves atmosphere, which directly translates into the attractiveness of a given company, which is very important in the era of high competition for valuable and motivated employees.
Last Updated on February 25, 2021 by Karolina Ampulska