Editorial Feature

Building Sustainable Workplaces

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Sustainability is a way of living keeping in mind the impact on the future and respecting the present. Sustainable workplaces provide a healthy environment for employees in terms of their physical comfort and well being, as well as locating them in an environmentally sustainable building.

What Makes a Sustainable Workplace?

It is essential for a workplace to have adequate ventilation, natural lighting and good air circulation. These factors must be considered in the design stage of creating a new workplace in order to avoid causing health problems to employees. Sustainable work places aim to ensure occupational health and safety and the inclusion of all ethical principles.

Building a sustainable work place is the first step towards building a sustainable environment. A sustainable work place is the cumulative result of a number of sustainable activities. Activities are considered sustainable if they satisfy one or all of the below goals:

  • Greater social responsibility
  • Greater ethical responsibility
  • Enhancing health and safety of workplace
  • Enriching the natural environment

Workplace Sustainability Factors

Sustainability is built around the principle of measuring your internal resource usage and the external costs involved in goods and services. When an organization decides to 'go sustainable' it not only saves money on resources but also provides health and environmental benefits to its employees and the wider community.

There are six major factors that an organization needs to concentrate on for building a sustainable work place:

  • Energy – Use of energy resources judiciously and substitution with renewable alternatives wherever possible. Energy resources include lighting equipment, heating and cooling devices. All these devices must be subjected to periodic maintenance checks for their optimum usage.
  • Water – Water is an indispensable resource which needs to be conserved. Suitable arrangements need to be in place for water conservation and prevention of contamination. Steps for water conservation include fixing any plumbing leaks and installation of water saving fixtures. Recycled water can be used in toilets. By installing rain water harvesting mechanisms , one can use this water for landscape irrigation purposes.
  • Transportation – Employees need to have an option to switch over to eco-friendly transportation means provided by the company, which are designed to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions. The organization should also look at telecommuting as an option and conduct certain meetings through video or audio conferencing methods.
  • Waste Disposal – The organization must keep in mind the three R’s while handling waste, Reduce, Recycle and Reuse. Organizations should have effective composting and recycling programs. Apart from recycling paper, DVDs, batteries, metal, toner cartridges, plastic, and other common office supplies, companies can use compostable cups and containers in their cafeterias.
  • Employee Awareness – As mentioned before, building sustainability is a collaborative effort, all the employees must be educated about the various sustainable practices. When employees are aware of the various methods for sustainability they will be able to contribute towards building a sustainable workplace. The awareness can be propagated through sign boards, circulars and also educative sessions.
  • Healthy Lifestyle – Sustainability is all about building a healthy environment. The organization must encourage their employees to lead a healthy life style by following healthy eating habits and regular exercise.

The Importance of Sustainability in the Workplace

Building sustainable work places is the need of the hour. It is important that all organizations look at sustainability as a vision and work actively towards making their workplaces sustainable. Incorporating sustainability not only promotes a healthy workplace but also benefits the environment in a big way.

Sources and Further Reading

  • Creating Sustainable Workplaces and Organizations – Alachua County Florida

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