Prime Minister Theresa May has launched the government’s environment plan, setting out measures to reduce plastic waste over the next 25 years. The Prime Minister announced the government will play a part in reducing plastic by removing all single use plastic from government offices. In answer to a later question, the Prime Minister praised the organisation Sky for banning single use plastic from their working environment and also indicated other businesses could have a positive impact by introducing a similar ban.
With this issue firmly on the government’s radar, employers may be considering steps they can take to work towards reducing the “throwaway culture” within their business. A starting point for employers is to introduce and implement a company-wide policy which sets out their commitment to tackling environmental issues. This could be in the form of an environmental policy, a sustainability policy or a green scheme. Rather than being a paper exercise, this policy should be available to all, with members of staff able to read and understand the company’s intentions towards environmental issues.
The policy can set out the practical steps the company will take in this area, or employers may wish to introduce specific environmental plans within their normal processes and procedures. Practical areas employers can consider include employee travel. When planning events or meetings, employers should be mindful of the location and set this depending on which location requires the fewest employees to travel. When requesting business travel, employees can be advised to review public transport first, with single-car use or private transport only being approved in specific circumstances. In addition, employers may wish to utilise technology such as video conferencing or conference calls which eliminate the need for employees to travel.
Another practical consideration for employers are the resources they use within their business. For example, all employers will need to hold certain information about their employees. Although, traditionally, this has been in the form of a paper file stored in a filing cabinet, employers can consider moving these online to cut down on the amount of paper needed. A paper-free workplace policy can also be used across all departments, however, employees may need additional support and training as this is likely to be a significant change to their normal way of working.
Additional considerations include making changes to energy use, using renewable energy sources, reducing wastage and lowering emissions. Employers can also take positive steps to encourage staff to become more environmentally aware. This can include introducing a ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme, providing branded reusable coffee cups and improving awareness by embracing vents such as Recycle Week. Any small steps employers take now will improve the culture of their workplace and contribute towards this becoming more environmentally friendly.