Sustainability in the workplace

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Courtesy of Fishace Ecological Engineering

Being a Sustainability Practitioner you can imagine it’s a case of ‘practise what you preach’ and so we have taken the steps to leave the city environment and swap luxuries for necessities. This involves renovating an old house and attempting to reuse and recycle site material, whilst researching and using more sustainable construction material alternatives.

My strategy is to work at home using today’s high speed communication technologies to earn the funds to reinvest into planned renewable energies in our home. The vegetable patch is coming on well, fed by washing and kitchen sink water. Rain tanks supply our water in a climate dry region and I attempt to keep travel to a minimum; whilst waiting for my brand new solar electric car in around five years time, that will clear my carbon conscience.

Australia 2001 - and an internet search raised 2 employment opportunities with a key word of “sustainability” - today the same search echoes a tally of 398 with positions for directors, managers and officers. Intrigued by a response and with 15 years hands on experience with international sustainable developments, so I applied for a few positions:-

As expected; the response was that the position requires a city based office with the Sustainability Manager placed in an energy guzzling, large carbon footprint; preaching the virtues of reducing resources. It just doesn’t work; it’s like employing a stunts person to become the health & safety officer.

So, teleworking or remote working or just plain working from home; dramatically reduces a city office footprint. Remote working can be validated by most economists, illustrating greater business efficiency and cost savings. When questioned why company policy does not include working at home, managers cite a mistrust of their employees, even though in today’s teleworking environment, information technology accessories abound with spy cameras and software to keep one’s eye on one’s employees. Of course there’s always the good old performance level as a key indication of employees suitability to this strategy.

But the greatest threat to corporate sustainability right now is the corporate structure itself. Gone are the days of ‘lean and mean’; replaced by top heavy managerial systems. The proverbial red tape is strangling the profits and the paper trail has increased with the advent of yet more administrative systems. One such example, particularly for sustainability in the legal profession, is my email to my superannuation scheme, who informed me that I would need to print out, sign and return by post, to change my contact details, yet at the bottom of the page it says ‘think before you print’ and sustain the environment. Just as we struggled for some years for legal acceptance of facsimile signatures, the same needs to apply for scanned, encrypted, legal documents.

So we can all do our bit for sustainability, but it is also the responsibility of governments and corporate entities to streamline, reinvent and replace outdated systems thinking with future; integrated, sustainability management systems. Just as industry adapted to the global information technology revolution, it’s now time to embrace the green revolution and the challenges of climate change with a burgeoning population on a finite, resource starved planet.

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