Want to help your workplace to be kinder to the planet and to people in need? Noticed that the coffee in the office kitchen isn't fair trade, and it's bugging you? Especially if you're working for a large corporation with many employees, making little tweaks can add up to a big difference over the years. You can also change people's mindsets, and teach them about issues they might not have thought about, like supply chain ethics or their carbon footprint. Your passion for a better world can really inspire others to think about how their own purchasing decisions can help to change things for the better.
Here's some suggestions that you could talk about with your workmates, with the Facilities department and so on, to make your office a more eco-friendly, compassionate place to be.
It's pretty much a certainty that if you work in an office, there's free coffee (side note: we ran out for a week when I worked at a call centre once, and there was practically a revolution). Workers on coffee plantations are often subjected to exploitative working conditions, not being paid enough to support themselves, much less their families.
There's unfortunately quite a few industries that involve such exploitation: from chocolate to pineapple! While you probably aren't getting free chocolate at work (although, wouldn't it be nice?), convincing Facilities to make the switch from standard coffee to a fair trade, sustainably-farmed brand will literally change many lives every year.
- Turning off computers
A lot of people just lock their computer when they finish work for the day. According to Computer Weekly, if a company has 200 PCs and they're all switched off after the working day finishes, it would save the company 12,000 GBP per year. That doesn't just make environmental sense, it makes economical sense too!
- Corporate social responsibility
If your company doesn't have a CSR policy, then it really should: according to Causemark.com, 75% of consumers say they are likely to switch from one product to another if a company supports a cause they believe in, assuming quality and price are similar. In this day and age, your brand is no longer just about your products/services, it's about your brand image; this is especially important to millennials, and can also contribute to employee satisfaction because they'll be proud to work somewhere that shares their values.
So basically that's the spiel that you should be giving to the CEO when you're having Friday night drinks after work. (By now, they'll probably remember you as the lady who saved them a ton of money by suggesting the policy of turning off computers. Or maybe as that annoying lady who keeps going on about coffee. Either way.)
A CSR policy could include matching dollar-to-dollar donations for fundraising, giving grants or sponsorships to local causes, or letting employees have a certain number of paid days volunteering in the community.
- Use that noticeboard!
Christmas time? Remind people about the true spirit of giving: Oxfam Gifts lets you give gifts such as a goat or a cow (for a rural family in need in the developing world) to friends, and it's really a much more memorable than the usual trinkets. (A friend of mine still tells people about how I got her a cow for Christmas once.) You can hang up posters for Oxfam Gifts, or for any other causes that are important to you (i.e. not to buy puppies from petstores sourcing from puppy mills), to encourage other people to participate; I've had great success with getting people excited about Oxfam Gifts and buying them instead of commercial Christmas presents, and it has a ripple effect when the gift recepient ends up buying Oxfam Gifts for their own friends next Christmas .
If there isn't a noticeboard, talk with your manager about just putting it up somewhere in the kitchen or near the water cooler. When it's for such a meaningful purpose, they're likely to be accommodating.
- Kiva loans
A surprising number of people haven't heard of Kiva. As the website itself puts it, Kiva loans change lives; it's a microfinance organization with a focus on the developing world, but also including people in need in the developed world. These are a great gift to give to someone for their going-away party, to congratulate them on their promotion, to thank them for agreeing to stock fair trade coffee in the kitchen, or really any time when a cow seems like an odd gift to give someone. (Which happens, sometimes.)
A lot of workplaces don't have recycling bins. Your workplace should have a recycling bin. 'Nuff said. If there's one already and it isn't getting as much use as it should, print out a handy guide to what actually belongs in the recycling bin and what doesn't. Also, try not to glare too much at the guy who's popping his Pepsi can in the trash, as tempting as it might be.
What are some tips you've used to make your office more eco-friendly and ethical? I'd love to hear from you!
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