A sustainable workplace is a place where balancing the welfare of the planet, people, and profit is taken into account in the operation. Therefore, it is also expected to safeguard the safety, health, and welfare of the employees.
Sustainable workplaces and, broadly speaking, the blue economy sector go hand in hand in many ways as there are a large number of activities that occur or depend on the marine and coastal environment. The blue economy comprises sectors such as coastal tourism, marine transport, renewable energy, fisheries, and aquaculture, and there are a number of ways sustainability principles can be embedded into workplaces located in these sectors.
The deeds can be big or small but very often also small actions increase sustainability.
The success of a sustainable workplace depends heavily on the people working in it. It is difficult to establish such a workplace without having all of its members committed to its set principles. Therefore, in order for this to realise, the employees as well as the entrepreneurs themselves need to be on board. However, to enable everyone to do so, some tools are required. Tools such as education or training, or different kinds of equipment that make people aware of the principles of sustainability and provide them means to act responsibly and make sustainable decisions in their everyday work.
Sustainable workplaces will be further explored below and examples of viable practices to increase sustainability and raise awareness among your staff will be provided.
You can find related information also by familiarising with different Bite Size units within Blue-C learning offer, such as Green practices for your initiative and Upskilling your staff.
The main aims of this BIte Size are:
- Grow awareness about sustainable workplaces
- Learn how to contribute to a more sustainable workplace for you, your staff/peers, and your ecosystem
- Learn strategies to become a leader of change and educate others in your ecosystem
The world has changed, and so do business’ priorities.
Before the priorities in running a business were mainly focused on money, power, and prestige. The Millennials have brought a new perspective to business life: instead of the “old” values, they would rather work for a cause that they believe in.
The concept of working has changed too. Nowadays a considerable number of people spend more time at work than at home or elsewhere, and it is certainly more pleasant to spend that time in a sustainable and agreeable environment. A workplace operating responsibly is likely to be less stressful than workplaces, the only goal of which is to make profit.
What is more, the sustainability principles draw from the Blue Economy concept, which according to the World Bank, states that “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems”. By adopting sustainable practices and principles, workplaces in the blue economy sectors are able to contribute to the conservation and responsible use of marine resources, enhance social wellbeing, and advance long-term economic benefits.
However, not everyone thinks that a sustainable workplace could be economically successful. Many people still expect that business is there only to make profits. This kind of thinking means, for example, minimum wages for employees or use of open office spaces. In other words, things that would minimise expenses and discard the welfare of employees. The economical string might be especially heavy for those starting out a business or for micro-entrepreneurs, but bear with us in the small practices that have a huge impact in the long term.
Thus, it’s about balancing the needs of the company, its employees, your community and those of our planet.
Benefits of sustainable workplaces
Nowadays, more and more enterprises and small businesses have become aware of the benefits of responsible actions, and can see the possible positive long-term impact and even profitability. You can learn more about that on Creating a positive impact.
The integration of sustainability principles into the blue economy workplaces is of utmost importance as it helps ensuring the health and resilience of coastal and marine ecosystems and communities depending on them also for generations to come
Successful companies are forward-thinking, and the future businesses will be those that prioritise workplace sustainability, so there is no better time than now to re-evaluate your workplaces and business practices and steer your enterprise towards a more sustainable future.
Sustainable workplaces with aware staff will reduce environmental impact, improve businesses’ bottom line by reducing costs, and help hiring capable personnel in the foreseeable future.
But if that feels challenging, you can start small. For instance, changing lighting to less electricity consuming or rethinking the size of meal portions, may lead to savings and increase sustainability. Placing plants around your workspace will not just make your office more beautiful but it can uplift the atmosphere and even reduce indoor air pollutants.
These are examples of small things that may make you (and your peers/workers) happier, and act as an incentive to be more committed. Needless to say, that most likely, a sustainably and responsibly run workplace leads to increased productivity and perhaps even decreases illnesses among employees.
If you are now puzzled about the sustainability of your company, you can take the simple sustainability test offered by Technopolis to find out. In any case, you will get some useful tips and food for your thoughts by continuing reading.
Challenges in improving sustainability of your working environment
We hope that by now we have convinced you of the benefits deriving from running or contributing to a sustainable workplace. Nevertheless, the improvement will take some effort as it involves addressing various challenges.
For instance, the most significant sources of environmental impacts in office spaces, for example, are related to either management, communications, procurement, energy and water, recycling and sorting, cleaning, travel, or food.
However, generally speaking, on your path towards a more sustainable working environment, you may mainly face lack of awareness and engagement. There may also occur resistance to change. An entrepreneur may, in addition, face some financial constraints caused by additional costs or limited access to different resources. In remote areas, a lack of inadequate infrastructure for services such as renewable energy or recycling facilities can turn into a problem hindering your attempts.
Many of the occurring challenges may be tackled by collaborating with your fellow entrepreneurs and community members. Co-work, co-design and co-creation with your community may indeed help overcome challenges (more on collaboration to be found on “Your Ecosystem” area of knowledge). Pooling your resources and expertise can even bring benefits to each and one of you.
Besides, active communication is crucial if you want to engage your entire work community towards sustainable development. And, it is worth noticing that in the current digitalising world where information travels fast, an enterprise is likely to find gains from just operating in a sustainable and responsible manner, especially if communicating and marketing it well.
Social media channels are very effective and cost-efficient ways to spread information and reach potential clientele and committed staff. A sustainably aware worker, buyer or traveller is very likely to search for an organisation or company offering services produced responsibly. Especially, aware travellers are getting more and more all the time. Using digital channels is a skill worth acquiring for many reasons, and you can learn more about it within our “Digital Marketing & Social Media” area of knowledge.
You can test your digital sustainability communication thanks to the Self-assessment tool for digital sustainability communication offered by the Lapland University of Applied Sciences. It provides you with a good start.
Ten ways to increase sustainability in your workplace
There are a number of ways, some easier than others, to increase sustainability in an enterprise. Here we introduce just 10 of them, but we encourage you to research further and find out the most suitable strategies for your initiative/role in the workplace:
- Educate yourself and, when possible, raise the sustainability awareness among your employees
- Pay attention to the use of inputs & resources (e.g. food waste). Consider circular options when feasible.
- Switch to renewable energy and use energy saving bulbs.
- Use local food and services – let the local community thrive with you!
- Check the sustainability of your suppliers.
- Develop a sustainable purchasing policy (e.g. food, textiles, chemicals aso.) and make sure your staff is aware of it as well.
- Reduce the water usage (litres/minute)
- Go digital and print less
- Increase sustainability awareness among your clients and/or visitors:
- You can develop a simple sustainability information package telling, for example, about energy saving (e.g. switching off lighting or electrical appliances whenever not in use), recycling waste, how to reach public transportation, local food suppliers and so on.
- Tell about the sensitive nature of the area and advice how they should act there. You can also make sure there are enough waste bins around and see that they are properly located.
- Apply for a sustainability certification for your (prospective) enterprise. Please see our inspiring Example regarding Certifications and labels for sustainability.
You can find further information by visiting the Additional resources listed at the end of this section.
Tips to raise your and your peers/employees’ awareness
Regardless of the size of the company you work for, it is essential to get the support and enthusiasm of the staff for an enterprise to be able to realise its sustainability goals.
But… how to raise awareness among the staff?
There are many ways you can engage with your peers or employees to work towards the set goals. Some of them are quite simple to put to practice, whereas some require a bit more effort and innovativeness.
Here we have listed some strategies for consideration, but we encourage you to explore further and go for those that are more suitable for your current situation. Also, bear in mind, sustainability is a long run effort, so you can start by committing to small steps, and aim bigger in the future!
- Use the innovativeness of the staff to find different ways to act more sustainably, for example, by providing sustainability tours to spot critical or potential items/operations. This will increase the commitment of the company.
- Remember to communicate your enterprise’s sustainability priorities and goals to your peers/staff. You can even have a poster on the wall to summarise them.
- Educate yourself and give others around you access to available training on sustainability principles, for example, in the form of digital open badges. Please check out our Case Study on Microcredentials to enhance skills in tourism, since it provides you with an inspiring example that can be applied also in other blue economy sectors.
- Share information on consumption of food, electricity or use of water with others to make them aware of the impact of their sustainability actions.
- Share a list of your sustainable suppliers with your staff to ensure responsible purchasing of needed items.
- If applicable, make sure the kitchen staff and purchaser are able to plan the purchase of food supplies and menus for meals carefully, and in advance to avoid the purchased food going off and to reduce food waste in general. You can find more information by getting acquainted with our Case study on Reducing food waste to increase sustainability in tourism.
- In case you are the owner, you might want to consider implementing a monthly or bi-annual reward for employees who master sustainability in their work or come up with a new idea to improve your company practices.
You can find further information by visiting the Additional resources listed at the end of this section.
To have a sustainable workplace in the tourism and hospitality sector is a continuous process. Both the entrepreneur and staff need to be committed to constant improvement. They also need to be willing to adapt new practices as technology evolves all the time.
Nevertheless, nowadays, green practices are important if an entrepreneur in the tourism and hospitality sector wishes to be successful also in the future. One needs to keep up with the trends and development as the new generation in particular can be quite picky with their choices.
Sustainable workplaces in the leisure and sport can have a large impact on a variety of activities, especially, as the sector can easily engage its communities through different educational initiatives and joint activities for children and young people (why not others too) to promote environmental awareness.
Sustainable workplaces in this sector can offer benefits, among others, to environmental conservation, employee wellbeing, and inclusion of local communities.
Having sustainable workplaces in the energy sector will contribute to the development of renewable marine energy sources. These energy sources, such as offshore wind farms, tidal energy or wave energy, are often located in sensitive areas. Thus, sustainable workplace practices in the construction and operation of facilities will ensure that the disturbance to the environment is kept to a minimum.
Fishery and aquaculture are sectors that play a crucial role in the health of marine resources, thus, sustainable practices in these workplaces are of great importance.
In these sectors, it is essential to implement responsible fishing practices, for instance, apply the set fishing quotas and avoid damaging fishing methods. In aquaculture, one should pay special attention to feed sourcing and waste management.
Transport as such and ports as significant transport nodes belong to a sector that produces emissions and consumes a lot of energy. Nevertheless, this sector has been able to do a lot to create more sustainable workplaces. However, the extent of the sector usually requires long-term processes and a lot of work to improve its sustainability.
In many cases, collaboration and cooperation between ports, transport companies, port operators, shipping companies, and other stakeholders can result in different concrete improvements, such as reduction of emissions, more efficient wastewater treatment and handling of waste, or decreasing consumption of energy, all reducing environmental footprint. Also, using new technology has had its effects as well.
In case you are interested in this topic, you can familiarise yourself with the efforts the Port of Turku has made on its way towards more sustainable operations in the article found in the Aboard Magazine (Additional resources).
Transport sector is a good sector to measure sustainability performance. One can easily find guidance on the internet how companies and organisations can measure their performance, for example, by using key performance indicators (KPIs). Please consult the Additional resources for further information.
- Microcredentials to enhance skills in tourism
- Sustainable Travel Finland
- Reducing food waste to increase sustainability in tourism
- Microcredentials to enhance skills in tourism
- Sustainable Travel Finland
- Reducing food waste
- Principles of sustainable tourism
- Certifications and labels for sustainability
- Recycle your cooking oil
- Northwest Regional Skills Forum
- Donegal Local Enterprise Office [LEO]
- Grow Remote
- Spectraforce. 2022. 8 sustainable practices in the workplace. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfM0MxBfi2g
- HR Technologist. 2019. How to create a culture of sustainability in the workplace. https://youtu.be/usUKwAqMZ08
- Lapland University of Applied Sciences. Self-assessment tool for digital sustainability communication. https://blogi.eoppimispalvelut.fi/value/self-assessment-tool/
- Technopolis. 2023. How sustainable is your work environment? Take the sustainability test to find out. https://technopolisglobal.com/about-us/sustainability/sustainability-test/
- Aboard. Port of Turku Online Magazine. 2022. Environmentally responsible port operations. https://aboard.portofturku.fi/en/2022/04/environmentally-responsible-port-operations/
- Blue Bite. 2022. 10 sustainability KPI measures. https://www.bluebite.com/brand-strategy/sustainability-kpi-measures
- Green Ideas for Tourism for Europe. http://www.greentourism.eu/
- Hermes, Jennifer. 2014. 18 ways to raise employee awareness about sustainability. Strategic Sustainability Consulting. https://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/01/18-ways-to-raise-employee-awareness-about-sustainability/
- Lesperance, John. 2016. The Blue Economy: Origin and concept. Commonwealth of Learning. https://www.col.org/news/the-blue-economy-origin-and-concept/
- Maryville University. 2023. The importance of environmental awareness when running a business. https://online.maryville.edu/blog/importance-of-environmental-awareness-when-running-a-business/
- Rise. 2023. 10 ways to encourage an environmentally conscious workplace. https://risepeople.com/blog/environmentally-conscious-workplace/
- Sievo. 2023. How to measure sustainable performance: KPIs and Metrics. https://sievo.com/blog/sustainable-procurement-part6
- Treehugger. 10 best office plants to brighten your workday. https://www.treehugger.com/cubicle-friendly-indoor-plants-4868734
- United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA. 2022. Using green roofs to reduce heat islands. https://www.epa.gov/heatislands/using-green-roofs-reduce-heat-islands
- Wiseman, Lauren. 2021. Lets make our workplaces sustainable. WWF United Kingdom. https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/top-20-tips-workplaces-sustainable
- WWF Finland. What is green office? https://wwf.fi/greenoffice/en/what-is-green-office/#what-are-common-sources-of-environmental-impacts-in-offices
- WWF Finland. WWF Green Office. A responsible employer takes care of the environment. https://wwf.fi/greenoffice/en/