10 ways to work greener


Want to make some concrete changes to save the planet? ‘Acuity’ spoke to leading sustainability consultants to identify 10 practical ways businesses can reduce their expenditure, cut carbon and engage their people in achieving net zero.

Sustainability tips

When she was working with students at a New Zealand tertiary provider, Carolyn Cox, sustainability consultant and founder of Green Business HQ , identified a urinal that was costing the university more than NZ$5000 annually due to a constant flush.

But the value of that plumbing repair paled in comparison to the NZ$200,000 annual energy bill saving she achieved for the institute by changing the way overnight security teams switched things off.

Cox says that finance professionals are well placed to lead a conversation around why an energy audit should be carried out, its focus and what historical information is required to identify areas of waste.

“On the same campus, they had landscaped around a water feature that actually turned out to be a leak,” Cox says. “That’s where measuring and real-time metering is important. Have someone on your team check past invoices or invest in an energy monitoring system to see if there have been unexplained increases in costs.”

In most regions of Australia and New Zealand, top-ranking providers of green electricity have been identified and ranked by various bodies. For example, on the City of Sydney News website (a government-run resource) Diamond Energy, Momentum Energy and Energy Locals have been identified as the top three green providers from its list of 10.

Greenpeace’s Green Electricity Guide provides a similar measure, both nationally and state by state.

Supporting green energy providers sends a strong message to those not providing green options or companies that are simply greenwashing.

Danielle King, senior sustainability consultant and founder of Green Moves, says businesses should set a date by which they’d like to transition to 100% green power with a sustainable supplier, then work toward that deadline.

Much research has gone into the perfect office temperature, mostly revealing that there is no such thing. At the same time, every degree more that a system has to heat or cool the office environment can add 10% to running costs, King says.

Best practice in terms of sustainability is to set the thermostat to 18–20 degrees in winter and 22–24 degrees in summer, but people perform well in varying temperatures and everyone has their own individual comfort zone.

“From a management perspective, you just have to expect that you’re always going to get at least 10% of people unhappy about the temperature,” says King. Instead of looking for one solution for all and constantly adjusting temperatures, suggest more sensible clothing policies, and offer personal heating and cooling solutions to those who are less comfortable.

“[Personal heating] doesn’t heat up the environment around the person, but it does make the person comfortable,” she says.

You can’t measure what you can’t see, so it’s important to agree on a certain level of reporting with building owners and managers.

“If you’re leasing, access to information around power, water and so on is very important,” Cox says. “Make sure there are clauses in your lease that require reporting from the building owner, so you can accurately measure your footprint.”

Do lights and heating/cooling systems need to remain on all day and into the evening? Or could readily available timers and affordable sensor technology be used in areas of the building to ensure energy is only being used when those areas are being used?

Too often, King says, there are just a few staff on a particular floor, but the entire floor is lit and heated/cooled as a result. Sensors can cut energy usage dramatically.

On the Greenpeace list of simple ways to go green at work, turning computers off at the end of each day is number one. So why don’t we do it?

It comes down to what is easier and quicker, King says. But encouraging behavioural change can be relatively effortless and fun.

As an example, a business we worked with left a small chocolate on the desks of those who turned their computers off,” she says. “You’d be amazed at the impact that can have, and it doesn’t take long.”

King says there are many no-cost actions that can boost a business’s sustainability performance. One involves setting business policies that support sustainability goals.

“They include procurement strategies that make it clear that when appliances or technology need to be upgraded or replaced, the business does not replace like for like,” King says.

“They should instead actively look for the most efficient replacement because appliances are often there for the long term. So, it’s important to get your policies in line to say we’re going to do something about our procurement, to make sure whatever we buy is efficient.”

If your business has a well publicised carbon reduction strategy but your COO drives to work every day in a gas guzzler, do you really have a carbon reduction strategy?

Organisations should be thinking strategically about increasing the efficiency of their fleet, providing vehicle charging infrastructure and offering better access to alternative forms of transport – including public transport, electric bicycles and electric scooters, Cox says.

“If you’re looking at car parking space, could it be better to shift some of that money to public transport passes for staff or a fleet of electric bikes, for example?” she says.

Just as there are lists of top-ranking sustainable energy providers, there are also similar lists of sustainable financial institutions.

“In New Zealand, there is Mindful Money, which ranks the ethical performance of investment funds and KiwiSaver providers, and in Australia Market Forces can help you avoid banks still funding fossil fuels,” Cox says.

“Making sure your money is with the best-performing businesses in terms of sustainable investment choices is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.

“Most banks now also offer sustainability-linked loans with lower rates for projects that reduce your business’s carbon footprint.”

Many organisations are doing great work on the sustainability front without telling anybody about it, King says.

“A report from PwC said 77% of people are influenced by a company’s environmental record when making a purchase decision,” she says. “People are looking for credibility around sustainability.

“At the very least, put your sustainability policies on your website.”

Sustainability micro courses

An insight series from CA ANZ and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has been built around the popular How SMEs Can Create a More Sustainable World Playbook, offering practical guidance around embedding sustainable practices. Search the playbook title at: charteredaccountantsanz.com

CA ANZ also offers sustainability micro courses at store.charteredaccountantsanz.com including:

Assessing climate-related risks and opportunities

Sustainability Assurance

Sustainable supply chain management.

This article was first published by Acuity Magazine at the following URL: https://www.acuitymag.com/business/10-ways-to-work-greener