At my first startup, we had a few initiatives to help the company “go green”. Being that we were an in-office culture with many free lunches and at a time when we were rapidly scaling, we created a lot of excess waste and our employees took notice. Over the years, as the talent pool has become more environmentally conscious, so has the need for companies to build more sustainable practices. Just like in Nielsen’s consumer behavior survey that found Millennials are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to change their spending habits if it will reduce their impact on the environment, companies that prioritize adding sustainability into their overall business strategy are more likely to attract and retain socially responsible applicants than those that do not. Not only that, but a study by the University of California found that employees at “green” companies are 16% more productive than average.
I was catching up with a few former colleagues about the ways that we helped our companies to become more sustainable and I wanted to share a few of the top ones with others who are looking for creative ways to help their company build sustainable practices.
”At Fiksu, we put in compost bins. It all spurred from the company that we used for coffee letting us know that we could compost stuff with our coffee grounds. It was a newer concept so we had to get a waiver and insurance proof from the building to use the loading deck but it was a great way for us to show employees how we were taking steps to be green.” – Kacy Bassignani, now VP of People Operations at SignalWire
There are a few different services that will come to your office and set up your kitchen with everything you would need to compost. In fact, Bootstrap Compost will come and pick it up for you.
It seems like recycling bins are a common fixture in most offices, but if you are in a smaller building or in a region where there might be less-than-adequate waste disposal services, a company might need to advocate for getting recycling added to their office or building. This, paired with some education around what can and can’t be recycled in these bins, is a great step toward reducing a company’s carbon footprint and becoming a more eco-friendly business.
Encourage Reusable Products
A step above recycling would be to encourage employees to use the glassware in the kitchen instead of plastic bottles. At many of my startups, we have rented a water cooler or worked with vendors such as Bevi to give employees even more options when it comes to sustainable beverages.
Reduce Water Consumption
On the opposite end of the water spectrum, companies can ask their building management to replace faucets and toilets with low-flow options to reduce water consumption. Some buildings are already implementing these changes from a long-term cost savings perspective, but for other companies that are planning to do build-outs or renovations to their space, asking for these low-flow options can be a smart way to become a greener business.
Free food has been a common perk that startups give to employees. But in wanting to make sure that everyone gets something they like and that you don’t run out, companies commonly over-order which can lead to a ton of food waste. With the amount of Americans that are experiencing food insecurity, companies that have a surplus could consider donating the excess, but it can be challenging to find places that will take food donations. The great thing is that eZCater has partnered with Replate to help companies solve this challenge. Companies can now donate their unused food to their local community that needs it.
Have a Plan to Recycle e-waste
Every startup I have been a part of has some kind of computer tenure policy. Typically after a computer is purchased, we will have the employee use it for around 3 years and then they are eligible to get a new, faster machine. Then we are tasked with the challenge of disposing, repurposing, or selling the used model. It is said that we generate around 50 million tons of e-waste every year. If you are at a company that is looking to reduce its amount of e-waste, take a look at Apple’s trade-in and recycling program. You can trade in your old device for credit towards your next Apple purchase or get an Apple gift card, which can be a win-win for the environment and your IT budget.
A lot of employees and companies have a desire to do something to help make the planet healthier but don’t know where to start. One great way to help ignite the conversation around going green is to have a guest speaker come into the office to talk about how employees as individuals can reduce their carbon footprint. There are organizations like Let’s Engage that will connect you with tons of sustainability speakers who can educate and excite your team around creating sustainable best practices.
Bye Bye Paper
Being in HR for so many years, I have seen stacks and stacks of papers come across my desk. I have come into companies where employees fill out their I9’s and benefits paperwork with pen and paper. Not only is this not scalable, it also kills a ton of trees. There are a lot of tools out there that can help your office go paperless. In addition to tools, I found some great tips from Sean Peek at business.com to set your office up for success as a paperless office. From educating teams on how to minimize their paper usage, to creating new digital filing systems, to moving printers, these steps can help your office reduce its paper usage and become more efficient at the same time.
Shop Local, Shop Sustainable
According to the Alyce 2020 State of Swag Survey, companies on average spend $185k on swag and a good portion just gets thrown into the trash. Because of the low cost of the swag, companies can buy more of it, but more isn’t always better. Companies should follow the advice of Nick Bennett, who is now the Chief Customer Officer and co-founder of TACK, but back in 2020 stated “People buy low value items because you get more for your money. But a nice piece of exec swag goes a much longer way than a pen or a cheap chapstick does.”
If a company is looking to be more eco conscious they should shift their focus to buy better quality items from local sustainable and eco friendly vendors.
“For our year of service gifts, we want to do something special for everyone who celebrates a milestone anniversary (5,10,15 years). We also want to make sure that everyone has a personalized experience. For each anniversary we have a selected gift but if someone doesn’t want that, they can opt to make a donation to a charity of their choice for the cost of the gift. It’s a great way to go green since we’re not having an impact with shipping a gift, and it’s also a great way for someone to commemorate their achievement.”- Sarah Salbu Young, Talent Programs Partner at Pegasystems, manages a global recognition program to celebrate years of service, life milestones and great work.
Support the Community
“One of Acquia’s core aspects of our DNA is Give Back More. Acquia has been working with nonprofits to provide clean cooking stoves in underdeveloped countries and they plant a tree for every new hire in partnership with Tree Nation. You can learn more about the other cool ways they support the community and are helping build a healthier environment here.” – Amy Parker, VP Global Talent Development & Employee Engagement, Acquia
Companies can take the practical steps above to build sustainable best practices for their business, doing so will get your brand noticed in the right way, help to engage and retain a socially responsible employee base and create a better healthier environment for us all.
Learn more about our Author: With a master’s degree in Opera, Jen Paxton didn’t think she would have a career in Talent Acquisition or PeopleOps, however, she fell in love with helping candidates find the right role. She started her career at JobSpring Partners placing technical professionals then moved on to Robert Half before deciding to move to an in-house recruiting team. She has grown teams at later-stage startups like Fiksu and LevelUp and built Recruiting and PeopleOps strategies from scratch at small startups like Logentries, TrueMotion, Privy, and Smile. She took a slight detour from her usual Head of People roles to Co-Found a video content platform called Jamyr which was recently acquired by Recruitics. She has been a part of four successful acquisitions and almost all of her companies have won “Best Place to Work” awards at least once while she was there. She loves coaching managers, fostering a feedback culture, and building programs that will help develop a sense of belonging. In addition to her career, Jen is a mom of two girls, loves being outdoors, eating tacos, and drinking her weight in loose-leaf teas.
*Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.