We’ve always been a conscientious bunch at Ghyston, but this year we’ve decided to up the ante by proclaiming 2019 the year of sustainability. It’s a chance to confront our own behaviours and improve the environment both inside and outside work. I felt a bit sceptical about this at first, after all everyone here is well aware they should be eating less bacon, throwing fewer crisp packets in the sea, using paper straws and cycling to work. However, I have discovered in the space of just a few months that making a few simple changes can also have some surprising business benefits.
Our first step was to identify the key behaviours we wanted to address this year. These included reducing energy use and waste, increasing recycling and taking a good hard look at the ethics of our suppliers. Then the fun started. We’ve only been at it a few months but I want to use this blog to highlight some of the things that have already worked really well and which could benefit other businesses.
As anyone who’s ever worked in an office will know, food plays a crucial role in your day: our fridge is always stacked full with an array of goodies, some nutritious, others not so much. At the beginning of the year we ran a healthy lunchtime event, inspecting the food we ate at work to assess its impact on our health and the environment. Many of us had already thought about cutting down the amount of ‘unhealthy’ food we were consuming but coming together as a team has really helped motivate us to reduce our consumption of foods such as red meat that is proven to have such a detrimental impact on the environment and our health.
It might sound like a punishment, but a group of us willingly took a half a day out of our week to take part in a clean-up operation of the area outside our office. Working long hours with computers means we’re more used to exercising our brains than our bodies and it was great to get out there and do something physical that was also positive for the local community. We’re used to working on projects for months on end before we see any results but here we saw results immediately which was instantly satisfying. The team all slept well that night and came back to work the next day with morale still running high.
We rent office space in a building shared with several other companies; while there are many business benefits to this, there are some drawbacks. One of my great bugbears is the air con system which does not have any central management. It is a complicated set up, with multiple controls which often end up fighting against each other, consuming huge amounts of energy without any benefit to the building’s occupants. Because it’s so hard to manage, it also gets left on overnight and over weekends. Now we’ve got our best brains on the job, with a small team designing our own simplified control system to ensure the air con works how and when it is supposed to. We really like a technical challenge at Ghyston!
Bob the Builder’s mantra is impossible to avoid these days, but we decided there was more to be done, particularly as our building doesn’t offer recycling facilities for certain materials. As well as lobbying for better waste management services, we’ve begun making our own runs to the bottle bank as well as taking less commonly recycled items such as crisp packets to specialist recyclers. Waste reduction has proved popular with our staff, particularly since we began making sure that all perishable foods - like fruit and bread - found a good home at the end of every week.
Like our food census we’ve also undertaken a thorough investigation of our suppliers’ ethical and sustainability standards. Where possible we’ve switched to local companies for food and cleaning products, changing our coffee to fair trade and even switched up peanut butter brands for a palm oil free version. Building links with companies on our doorstep helps cut air miles and contributes to the local business ecosystem, which ultimately benefits Ghyston and the wider community.
I’m proud of how much we’ve achieved so far in 2019. Staff engagement for the year of sustainability is, if anything, higher than when we began. Later in the year, we will be planting trees, organising regular communal meals that reduce energy use and setting up a wake-on-lan system to enable our computers to be off when not in use but still available..
Becoming more sustainable has truly proved infectious and inspirational for all of us at Ghyston, I hope it can do the same for your business.