Springing into sustainability By Imogen Player

In a few weeks the clocks will go forward, we’ll have more sunlight in our days and as one financial year ends, another begins… It’s time to get your organisation sustainability spring ready.

Top tips to get your organisation spring ready

Carbon

  • It’s now time to start pulling together all of your carbon data for January – December 2022 to calculate your carbon footprint. Enough time has passed since the end of 2022 that you should now be able to get your final energy bill for the year from your provider (or from your landlord if you’re in a rented office).
  • As average day temperatures start to rise, remember to reduce your heating and change your settings from winter to spring. Do also remember to think about the carbon and energy hierarchy – can you avoid using the energy entirely, before considering reducing the amount you use, or switching to low carbon sources of energy or a renewable tariff?
  • If your organisation is situated in an appropriate location with low quality air emissions, prioritise opening windows instead of using air conditioning. This reduces energy use, also saving you costs.
  • Think about consuming seasonal food products in the office – buy local produce, eat more plant-based food and reduce your food miles to lower your carbon footprint. Many organisations buy fruit and vegetables for their employees – consider using local providers or those that provide ‘odd’ or ‘wonky’ food items that aren’t suitable for supermarkets because they don’t look perfect but are still very much able to be consumed and would be unnecessary waste otherwise.

Spring clean

  • If you’re tidying up your office or work environment, think about reusing or mending items that you first thought of throwing away, or donate them to a charity or social enterprise that upcycles products and materials. Use the waste hierarchy (similar to the carbon hierarchy): eliminate waste, then reduce, reuse, recycle or go to energy from waste and finally only if you can’t complete any of the previous actions, dispose to landfill.
  • There’s a continuous need to develop more data storage capacity, with the data centre industry accounting for around 4% of global electricity consumption and 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Think about tidying up, decluttering, deleting old data and streamlining your files, storage and processes – make it auditable and easy to access. Can you also apply this spring cleaning mentality to other parts of your business? – tidying up and improving processes is a continual improvement but one that we often put to the side in place of a higher priority item.

Spring decorating

  • If you’re doing some well-needed decorating, think about the materials that you’re using from a sustainability perspective – what’s the embodied carbon of the new desks that you’ve bought? Does the paint that you’ll use have high volumes of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that will impact indoor air quality and employees’ wellbeing?
  • If replacing older items, such as desks, chairs, IT equipment, vehicles etc. apply the waste hierarchy and think from a circular economy perspective. This will reduce your carbon footprint, will keep items in use longer and reduce the volume of raw materials that you’re using.

Governance

  • Again as we come into March/April and a few months have passed since the end of 2022, now is the time to do your governance reports, such as your diversity profile, your gender pay gap report, and your modern slavery policy for the year.
  • Refresh your knowledge on what new legislation/regulation/compliance requirements have come into effect over the last year, and make sure you’re complying with them. Similarly, see what future legislation is upcoming in 2023 and determine how it will impact you.
  • Determine what your priorities are for sustainability in 2023 and what your budget will be. For example, will you be hiring for a new sustainability role? Will you invest in some learning for your employees? Do you have spare budget and if so what’s a priority for you to focus on?

Employees

  • When carrying out annual reviews, typically held in April/May, set sustainability learning within objectives – who needs to know what on sustainability within your organisation? Does anyone have professional memberships (e.g. IEMA, CIPS) that they need to recommit to?
  • With better weather and longer days, think about how you as an organisation can promote and support your employees to think about more sustainable travel. Can they walk, use a bike or public transport when travelling to, from and around work?
  • From a wellbeing perspective, support your employees to spend more time outdoors in nature during the working work. Fresh air and natural light provide more energy and boost serotonin – supporting improved wellbeing and productivity levels.

Biodiversity

  • Spring is a time when many flora and fauna come out of hibernation/bloom, so consider supporting your local biodiversity. If you have a work wildlife area (or even in your own garden!) think about installing bird or bat boxes, bird feeders, bug hotels or planting low-maintenance native species or wild flowers.
  • As we start to use more water in spring and summer – to water plants, to wash vehicles etc. – think about applying the water hierarchy, similar to the carbon and waste hierarchy. For example, using mulch and bark on plant beds helps to reduce water evaporation, saving you water, energy and costs.
  • Find out more actions that you can do for biodiversity via The Wildlife Trusts.

 

For more information

Imogen Player
Senior Consultant
Imogen@actionsustainability.com

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