A sustainable workplace for the future

A sustainable workplace for the future

Sustainability in the workplace has become significant issue for businesses who are constantly faced with the challenge of embedding sustainability into their cultures and ‘shaping’ sustainable attitudes and behaviours in their people. According to one report, 73% of Australian employees feel that it is important or very important for their organisation to behave sustainably (2012 Attitudes and behaviours towards sustainability in the workplace and at home). Further, a 2010 Accenture report demonstrated that 93% of CEOs believe that sustainability issues will be critical to the future success of their business.

The appeal of sustainable buildings

Building tenants want environmentally sustainable, healthy and productive workspaces that demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility. The Colliers International 2012 Office Tenant Survey demonstrated that 95% of tenants said they wanted to occupy a ‘green’ building, up from 75% in 2010. Another study by Jones Lang LaSalle and CoreNet Global (2010) showed that 48% of Corporate Real Estate (CRE) executives would pay up to 10% more rent to occupy a sustainable building. Contributing to the appeal, Green Star-certified buildings produce 62% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than average Australian buildings and 45% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than if they had been built to meet minimum industry requirements (GBCA, 2013).

Last week, Mark Thomson (Schiavello’s Corporate Sustainability Principal) and I attended a Sustainability at Work workshop. The workshop focused on ‘engaging staff to achieve sustainable workplaces’ – an important topic at the moment as it’s PEOPLE who play the most imperative role is supporting workplace sustainability strategies.

Initially, it was important to understand what ‘sustainability’ actually means. It is now recognised that sustainable workplaces should positively impact the triple bottom line of a business contributing to:

_Environmental and economic benefits (e.g. promoting efficient use of resources such as energy and water, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions)
_Social benefits (e.g. demonstrating corporate social responsibility and improving employee effectiveness through improved wellbeing and morale)

So how do you create a culture of sustainability within a workplace? The answer, like all effective change management, is to communicate with and involve employees in the change. Ultimately, the change needs to be embedded in the culture and employees need to be enabled to make the change with established autonomy and purpose.

Communication and involvement can assist with creating autonomy and purpose by fostering awareness and an understanding of why employees are participating in sustainable activities such as reducing travel or riding a bike to work and paper usage. Individually, employees need to be able to engage in the change behaviours without burden and feel as if they are contributing to something important. Collectively, the organisational culture needs to support sustainability with the right processes and procedures.

At Schiavello, we believe that sustainability must be integrated into every aspect of the workplace to ensure a positive future for all employees. Watch this space as we explore and share strategies for fostering and encouraging greater sustainability across the workplace and beyond.

Keti Malkoski, Schiavello Workplace Research Psychologist
Follow Keti on twitter @kmalkoski

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