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How to Craft Eco-Conscious Offices for a Better Tomorrow 

Because we are living in the era of empathy, and because we spend more than 30% of our adult life at work, we now need to be more eco-conscious about our offices.
Building eco-conscious offices
In this article

Back in 2020, the World Economic Forum reported that almost 50% of European citizens, and 75% of Chinese citizens consider climate change a major threat to our society. The US citizens have a similar perspective, according to Pew Research. 

Then the pandemic came. 

And the feeling grew. 

An IBM study shows that people are more focused than ever on sustainability and wellbeing. 

They call it “an era of empathy” because global consumers are getting personally invested across various sustainability and social responsibility issues. 

And because adults are spending more than 30% of their lives at work and on the road to and from work, they are becoming more aware of the need of a sustainable workplace. Also, data shows that office buildings alone account for 28% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions from all the heating and cooling, ventilation, lights and equipment. This is huge! 

Now, here’s the plan for our article: 

  1. How to reduce energy consumption and improve waste management in the workplace, 
  1. How to implement green technology initiatives at work, 
  1. How a mindset for sustainability can turn companies into “employers of choice”, 
  1. The eco-investor movement , 
  1. Companies and offices that can serve as inspiration for a sustainable workplace. 

Let’s get going! 

How to reduce energy consumption and improve waste management in the workplace 

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These two sustainable goals in the workplace are essential not only for environmental sustainability but are also bringing cost savings.  

Now, here are some strategies to help businesses achieve them: 

Energy-efficient lighting and the use of renewable energy:

  • Switch to LED or CFL light bulbs. 
  • Install motion sensors to automatically turn off lights in unoccupied areas. 
  • Use as much natural light as you can by rearranging furniture and using light-colored paint. 
  • Install solar panels. 

Appliance and equipment use: 

  • Turn off computers, monitors, printers, and other equipment when not in use. 
  • Use energy-efficient appliances and electronics. 
  • Set computers to enter sleep mode when inactive for a certain period. 
  • Connect office equipment to smart power strips that automatically cut power to devices in standby mode. 

Efficiency when it comes to heating and cooling:

  • Regularly maintain and clean heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. 
  • Use programmable thermostats to regulate temperature settings based on occupancy. 
  • Implement proper insulation and seal any drafts to prevent energy loss. 

Sustainable procurement: 

  • Source eco-friendly office supplies, such as recycled paper and non-toxic cleaning products. 
  • Prioritize suppliers and vendors with sustainable practices and products. 

Create green spaces: 

  • Incorporate indoor plants and greenery to improve air quality and create a pleasant work environment. 
  • Design outdoor areas that promote relaxation and connection with nature. 

Other

  • Energy-efficient office design. Use energy-efficient materials for construction and furnishings. 
  • Adopt a reuse and recycle policy.  
  • Implement composting. If your office generates organic waste (from kitchen areas, for instance), composting could be an effective waste management solution. This can result in a valuable soil amendment or fertilizer for office plants or staff members’ gardens.  
  • Water conservation. Install low-flow faucets and toilets to reduce water consumption. 
  • Reduce paper consumption to the minimum and implement e-signatures. Think twice when you want to print something. 
  • Rethink the parking lot to make I greener. By using turf grids, you can control the drainage In the parking lot as well as gain some green space. You can also add solar canopies to parking lots to add a source of renewable energy to your company. 

Now, if we look again at the data, it seems that the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. 

And if companies want to make a move towards sustainability, besides optimizing their electricity consumption, they should also encourage green and modal commutes

For example, US Census data from 2019 showed that nearly 76% of the workers in the U.S. commuted to work alone!  

And it’s here where both employers and employees can have a huge impact. We’ve covered the topic in our article,  Building Sustainable Businesses and Cities: the Vital Role of Low Drive Alone Rates. 

How to implement green technology initiatives at work 

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The Sustainability @ Work study by Adobe revealed that the implementation of sustainable practices at work can: 

  • Enhance productivity (35% of employees), 
  • Establish their company as an industry leader (31% of employees),  
  • Contribute to an enhancement in workplace culture (47% of employees).   
  • Create opportunities for innovation (37% of employees), 

 
But who’s driving the change in the workplace? 

Change starts with people, and according to Adobe, “millennials are the workplace sustainability ambassadors”. 65% of millennials are most likely to encourage others to be mindful of sustainability practices. They are also ready to make changes on a personal level as well. They are planning to change their home energy source (probably because they also afford it more than the Gen Z), eat more plant-based food, and rely on public transportation more than their car. 

Now, let’s see some ideas for green initiative employers can have together with the employees: 

  • Form a “Green Team” with employees from different departments who work together to find opportunities for sustainability improvements, plan awareness campaigns, and implement eco-friendly initiatives. 
  • Develop Monthly Sustainability Challenges. Introduce monthly challenges that encourage employees to adopt sustainable behaviors, such as reducing paper usage, conserving energy, or practicing waste reduction. Recognize and reward participants for their efforts. 
  • Local park cleanup. Organize a volunteer day where employees come together to clean up a local park, beach, or natural area, removing litter and debris to improve the environment. 
  • Tree planting events. Partner with local environmental organizations to host tree planting events, contributing to reforestation efforts and enhancing green spaces in the community. 
  • Develop carpooling programs. The idea is to reduce the number of cars on the streets, and the number of alone drivers. 
  • Hosting car-free days. Combine them with some reward programs. 
  • Offer incentives for public transportation.  This can include discounted or free public transportation passes or even cash incentives for employees who choose to take public transit to work.      
  • Support for local farmers. Organize a farmer’s market or promote a “Local Produce Week” where employees and community members can buy fresh, locally grown produce, supporting sustainable agriculture. 

Now, if we take a step back, and imagine an office that has lots of natural light, good ventilation, as well as plants…we can also see happier faces, right?  

It’s been proven that spaces that offer a closer connection to nature have many cognitive benefits. When we design living buildings, we will see improved employee moods, less stress and mental fatigue, and even increased productivity.  

So, let’s start building those nature-inspired offices, where we reuse, recycle, and reduce waste! 

How a mindset for sustainability can turn companies into “employers of choice” 

The enterprises that shape the future will be characterized not only by their interactions with employees and customers but also by their environmental consciousness. The demand for change is great both from customers and potential employees. 

The circular economy is inviting all of us (individuals, companies, businesses) calls for a total reconstruction of how we create, deliver, consume, and discard goods and services. The goal: fight climate change. 

To support this goal, the United Nations has packed 17 goals under the hood of SDG (Sustainable Development Goals). Since then, 72% of companies have mentioned the SDGs in their reporting. 

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Now, there are many signals in the market showing that employees care about the approach of companies towards these sustainability goals. 

An Adobe study says that fast forward 10 years, most employees expect sustainability to be fully embedded in their work culture. 

Also, the Unily study on 2,000 UK based office workers conducted in August 2020 by Censuswide showed that 65% of respondents are more likely to work for a company with a strong environmental policy, while 72% of them are concerned about environmental ethics. 

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But what individuals are also saying I that they do not feel that companies are doing enough to protect the environment. 

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Also, employees say they want to learn more green skills and be more valuable in the workplace, as well as feel the need for training on sustainable goals. 

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And here’s where employees are dropping the bomb: 64% of respondents say that they would definitely turn down a job offer from a company with a bad environmental record. 

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Amen to that, I say! 

At the end of the day, employees seek out companies whose mission resonates with their own and who prioritize their workforce. Similarly, customers gravitate towards businesses that mirror their values, show favorable treatment of employees, and uphold their responsibilities as ethical corporate entities, concerned about the environment. 

The eco-investor movement 

Now, there’s another benefit for companies that are environmentally conscious. IBM data shows that over 4 in 5 personal investors plan to act based on sustainability and/or social responsibility factors in the next year. 

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This significant change shows that investors have faith in the success of sustainable investments. Moreover, individuals are willing to embrace potential lower returns to remain aligned with their principles. 

As investors become more informed, companies should adopt and endorse universally accepted global standards for disclosures—clarifying the specific ones they adhere to. With growing scrutiny on sustainability reporting by investors, many will look to evaluate third-party benchmarks alongside corporate statements. 

It’s crucial not to underestimate the practicality and intellect of present-day investors. They recognize that advancing sustainability often involves trade-offs. Choices that decrease plastic waste might lead to higher carbon emissions, for instance. This is the reality. Investors don’t expect companies to have all the answers at once—yet they do expect a commitment to resolving challenges. They seek an authentic narrative to embrace. 

Sustainable workplaces: success stories to inspire yours

Now it’s time to look at some companies that are moving a needle when it comes to being sustainable. 

  • Mitsubishi in Japan has developed an eco-office concept that allows employees to control the air conditioning temperature for their individual desks. This enables the surrounding air conditioning to be set at a lower air supply rate without compromising comfort for the desk occupant. 
  • Bloomberg’s European headquarters in London has gained global recognition as the world’s most sustainable office. This cutting-edge facility is proof to innovative design and eco-friendly practices. Through advanced technologies, renewable energy sources, efficient resource management, and a holistic approach to sustainability, the headquarters showcases a new standard for responsible and eco-conscious corporate spaces. Compared to a typical office building, the Bloomberg HQ strategies deliver a 73% saving in water consumption and a 35% saving in energy consumption and associated CO₂ emissions. 
  • Citibank’s Wealth Hub in Singapore is designed as a “banking conservatory”, with garden meeting pods nestled amid shrubs and trees instead of conventional meeting rooms. 
  • The Crystal in London, UK is an office building inspired by the shape of a crystal, allowing an abundance of natural light for the whole day. The building also uses solar panels and a geothermal heat pump to generate all the necessary energy, thus cutting heating bills. 
  • Now, let’s look at Google for a bit. Google is hastening its shift towards carbon-neutral energy generation. The company has inked substantial, extended agreements for sourcing 100% renewable energy. According to their Environmental Report 2023, Google generated 10+ GW of clean energy generation capacity from more than 80 signed agreements from 2010 to 2022. This is the equivalent capacity of more than 31 million solar panels. 

Additionally, they are pioneering inventive methods to craft eco-conscious landscapes on their campuses. They are providing sustainable food options across their offices, and embracing adaptable work arrangements.  
 

If we look at Adobe‘s sustainability policy, we see that it wants to achieve: 

  •  100% renewable electricity by 2025, 
  • Net zero by 2050, 
  • 25% reduction in global water usage per full time employee by 2025, 
  • 90% global waste diversion rate annually through a combination of waste reduction, composting, reusing and responsible recycling. 

A great example of a company leading through climate positive action is Microsoft. In early 2020, Microsoft committed to being 100% carbon positive by 2030. It also want to mitigate all current emissions and offsetting all historical ones by 2050. Many other companies are also leading the way, creating fascinating workplace adaptations and operational changes. 
 

Conclusion 

Mitigating the environmental footprint of workplaces, whether traditional office, hybrid, or remote, is still an ongoing endeavor. Employees are enthusiastic about actively taking part in this endeavor.

Our hope is that the future of the workplace looks sustainable. So, let’s make the Patagonia dream come true: “Together, we can prioritize purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home.” 

Alina Belascu
Alina Belascu
Alina is a digital marketer with a passion for web design. When she’s not strategizing she’s doing photography, listening to podcasts on history and psychology, and playing with her 2 dogs and cat.