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11 activities to boost sustainability in the workplace

Don’t just tell your employees to switch off the lights. Catherine Rubbens shares how to embed sustainability in the workplace and demonstrate that One Planet Living is a better way to live

In the first part of this blog series, I outlined six steps for engaging employees with sustainability. Now, I want to share some specific activities you can run to support your sustainability efforts. All workplaces are different so some may not apply, but many are easy to adapt.

Host a movie lunch

Seeing is believing and a short film can be a lot more engaging than a list of facts. The Story of Stuff has some great 20-min videos on a range of topics.

Add some snacks and time for discussion!

Lunchtime (pub) quiz

A light-hearted way to learn some serious facts. There are loads of questions you could use on EarthShare.

Make up for the lack of the traditional alcohol (or don’t – we’re not judging) with some snacks – and a good prize for the winning team.

Theme things

We (and some of our partners) use the One Planet Principles as themes for fun, monthly activities. This can be a good way to keep things fresh and demonstrate the diversity of action that can be taken.

Check out how One Planet Community Singita Serengeti boosted wellbeing in the workplace and the activities from our ‘health and happiness’ month.

Bake off

One of the most popular One Planet activities we’ve run was our local and sustainable ‘bake off’. Our staff were asked to bring in a baked good (savoury or sweet) that was then judged on two criteria:

  • Taste (self-explanatory)
  • Sustainable credentials eg local, free-range, fairtrade or organic ingredients, vegetarian, using leftovers, reduced sugar

Set up a sharing library

Clear a few shelves and invite your colleagues to bring in books and DVDs they’re happy to share – saving money, minimising waste and generating conversation.

Act local

Part of becoming a more sustainable company includes thinking about your relationships with the local community. Look at supporting your staff to volunteer once a year for a local project.

Business in the Community found that 82% of employees reported feeling more committed to their employer after taking part in a volunteering scheme.

Eat your greens

Host a meat-free Monday or put on an all-veggie spread at an event. Explain why reducing meat consumption is better for your health, the planet and your pocket.

According to Meat-Free Day, a company of 500 people going veggie for one day is the carbon-saving equivalent of six return flights from London to Zurich.

Bike to work

Ease the strain on your car park by making it easier for your employees to cycle to work. This could be providing more bike storage, access to showers or lockers or signing up to the Cycle to Work scheme.

Recent research also reveals cyclists cost employers up to half as much as their non-cycling colleagues in lost working hours each year.

Cut the car(bon)

It’s not feasible for everyone to cycle or use public transport. But you can encourage greener solutions like car-sharing and car clubs and look at installing electric car-charging points (the government provides financial support).

If you provide company cars, offer more environmentally friendly options. Walk (or drive…) the talk!

Meditate this

The health impacts of stress are worrying. Be a workplace with a difference and support your staff to meditate at work. It can help people to relax, focus better and increase productivity – so you’ll benefit too.

Brilliant blogs

We know that organisations are always on the lookout for great content to share. Once your sustainability activities are underway, consider asking for a few blogs from employees about what they’ve enjoyed and what they’ve learned. Make sure you share anything newsworthy with local and national press too.

One Planet Company Cundall has shared some great pieces about its sustainability efforts, from bee-keeping to meat-free meals

Read Part one: Six steps for engaging employees with sustainability to learn more about sustainability in the workplace and employee engagement.  

You can keep up-to-date with our how we embed sustainability in the workplace  on Twitter and Facebook – or tell us about your activities! Learn more about One Planet Living.

Six steps for engaging employees with sustainability

You’ve got your sustainability plans in place and are geared up to cut costs and reduce carbon emissions. But don’t forget to get your staff engaged with the process. Catherine Rubbens shares our six-step plan for effectively engaging employees with sustainability 

Lead by example

It’s vital that your CEO and senior management demonstrate their commitment to change and are actively involved in engaging employees with sustainability.

Make this commitment as visible as possible – you could even share a Youtube video of them taking action!

Inform

Don’t implement a load of new changes without letting people know first. A simple email, a few signs or a quick update at a team meeting will go a long way – especially if you explain why it’s happening.

Share information about the benefits (eg reduced costs, healthier, happier lives or protecting wildlife) in engaging ways and invite questions.

Engage

Help your employees feel ownership of new initiatives – ask for ideas and feedback. You may well end up with lots of new ways to meet your environmental goals.

Those who are interested in getting involved further could set up a group to continue to look at new ideas and monitor impact. Several organisations we work with have a ‘green team’ that champions change.

Make it easy

You can achieve so many ‘quick wins’ by making sustainable options the status quo.

Buy Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar, set your printer to double-sided, use recycled paper, swap to local suppliers and up the veggie options at events and in the canteen.

Say thank you

Change can be hard. Let your colleagues know you appreciate their efforts with a small present. A re-usable water bottle, coffee cup or canvas bag could also help boost your sustainability efforts.

As time goes on, you may find that you can identify ‘champions’ – people who are leading the change and always going one step further. Capture their stories to inspire others and consider ways to recognise them. For example, at Bioregional we have a monthly ‘Brilliance award.’

Keep challenging

The reality is that we all need to work much harder to move towards One Planet Living. Once the quick wins have been achieved, you have the opportunity to start making cutting-edge changes to your organisation and lead the way for others.

Keep an eye out for Part two of this blog, which will share 11 activities that you can host at your workplace to support employee engagement with sustainability.

One Planet Living is the vision of the world where everyone can live happy, healthy lives within the limits of the planet. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Wellbeing in the workplace: getting employees engaged with healthy living

One Planet Living recognises the importance of health and happiness in the quest for sustainable ways of living and doing business. Katherine Cunliffe from Singita Serengeti, a One Planet Community in Tanzania, shares how they put this principle into practice in a workplace.

Singita Serengeti is a wildlife reserve in Tanzania, dedicated to environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and community outreach. We have been using One Planet Living since 2012 to help drive our sustainability efforts.

Over the last four years we have installed solar PV, significantly reduced our plastic waste and continued with our extensive community development projects. We also have over 800 staff, so employee engagement is an important part of our work.

This February, we celebrated ‘Health month’ which was designed to promote healthy living among our employees. Over 250 people signed up – wearing a green ribbon to raise awareness and show commitment to the activities. We made things easy by running a variety of activities and implementing some new initiatives, including:

  • Lots of exercise options available every day of the week, from running, walking, cycling and yoga to volleyball, weightlifting, soccer and rugby
  • Healthy eating tips prominently displayed, including menus that listed calories per meal (all materials were provided in English and Swahili)
  • Lemon and cucumber water available at the canteen
  • Inspirational TED talks were emailed out periodically 

wellbeing in the workplace

Joseph Malenya, who works in the kitchen at Sasakwa Lodge, decided to sign up for Health Month so that he could get more information about healthy eating, get fit and lose weight. He made some dietary changes and participated in the weightlifting class – and lost six kilograms during the month of February. Reflecting on Health month, Joseph said: “I feel I have more energy and overall, I feel much healthier”. 

Francis Muruthi, the Singita Serengeti Paramedic, also observed through the clinic that there was a substantial increase in the number of people doing exercise in February and that several of the staff lost weight due to improved diet and exercise. 

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle for the Singita Serengeti team is something that the company is passionate about. One Planet Living has given us the framework and enthusiasm to do this and the result has been an increase in the amount of people who are exercising, eating healthily and appreciating the iconic setting which we are all fortunate enough to call home.

And while February may have ended, it doesn’t mean that this commitment to wellbeing in the workplace has disappeared. In the words of Moremi Wambura, a staff member from Issenye, “February has been very good for me and I will continue this during the year.”

Learn more about Singita Serengeti and its commitment to One Planet Living with its One Planet Annual Review 2015/16.

12 inspiring women in sustainability

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, we invited our staff to share the women that have inspired them in their work in the sustainability movement. There are so many we could mention but here are just a few…

Kirsten Henson is Director of KLH Sustainability, a sustainable construction consultancy. With an engineering background, she provides technical advice on setting sustainability strategy, implementation and delivery. She was involved in the early stages of masterplanning for the London 2012 Olympic Park.

Ronan Leyden, our Head of Sustainable Places, says: “Kirsten is a fearless leader that puts her whole self into what she does. During the Olympics, she made her personal mission to get people using recycled aggregate and personally took around bagged samples to prove there was no difference. She is motivated, pragmatic and very intelligent.”

May Al-Karooni is the founder of Globe Chain. After starting her career in property investment and finance, May created Globe Chain. This online reuse platform connects people, charities and businesses to enable them to reuse unwanted items within a global supply chain network. They have over 10,000 members within retail, commercial and construction.

Hayley Baines-Buffery, our Head of Sustainable Business says: “Every time I meet May she makes me feel completely inadequate (in the nicest possible way). She talks and works at 100 miles an hour and has achieved a lot in a short amount of time.”

Miki Agrawal, Radha Agrawal and Antonia Dunbar were frustrated by the lack of feminine hygiene options globally. So they invented THINX – a line of pants (that look nice!) that can either replace or supplement traditional products. A percentage from every sale is used to pay for reusable sanitary pads in Uganda (through a partnership with AFRIpads).

Emily Auckland, our Policy Manager, says: ‘Not only have they set out to revolutionise feminine hygiene and support women in developing countries, their product could also minimise the 10,000 tampons and sanitary towels the average woman will dispose of in their lifetime.”

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), led the charge on the historic Paris Agreement (signed in December 2015).

Sue Riddlestone, CEO of Bioregional, says: “I was lucky enough to witness Ms Figueres in action. She had an incredibly difficult job but did it with such integrity and intelligence, bringing everyone along with her on the journey. I was particularly impressed by the way she always remembered who everyone was – things like that matter in diplomacy.”

Nikki Silvestri is an advocate for climate solutions, healthy food systems and social justice. She is the Co-founder and CEO of Silvestri Strategies, a project design and management firm working to support thriving communities, economies, and natural environments.  

Emmelie Brownlee, our Communications Officer, says: “I came across Nikki when she spoke at the Disruptive Innovation Festival last year. She is a passionate champion for placing social equity firmly within the environmental movement and has successfully progressed this through her work with various organisations.”

Rachel Bradley has been the force behind B&Q’s sustainability programme One Planet Home for the last 11 years. She completed its transition to 100% responsibly sourced timber that began in 1991, is working towards the company’s products becoming peat-free, and adopted the RHS Perfect for Pollinators label to help customers choose the best flowers for butterflies and bees.

Suzannah Gore, Sustainable Business Officer, says: “Rachel’s determination, tenacity and leadership for sustainability are really inspiring. She has worked so hard to achieve true change at B&Q in a sector with a lot of challenges.”

Amie Shuttleworth is the Head of Global Sustainability at Cundall, an international engineering consultancy and One Planet Company. Recognised as one of Building Magazine’s Rising Stars of Sustainability in 2013, she has an impressive track record. Only a year into her role, she has already implemented several notable initiatives.

Claire Brady, Commercial Development Manager, says: “Amie is very committed to ensuring that Cundall seizes the opportunity to be true leaders in sustainability. She is doing this by ensuring that staff and projects have the information they need to provide the best sustainable solutions to its clients.”

Gabi Kaiser, Sustainability Officer at Cherwell District Council, has worked closely with us over the last three years on a number of projects in Bicester, including our LEMUR project (Local Energy Mapping for Urban Retrofit). She’s currently on a sabbatical in Berlin to better understand the German sustainability agenda and its stakeholders.

Nicole Lazarus, Oxfordshire Programme Manager, says: “Gabi is a ‘can-do’ sustainability activist who wants and does get things done. She has helped to lead the charge for sustainable and environmental projects in Bicester. She is inspiring, motivational and so much fun to work with.”

And we couldn’t let this list finish without a mention of two of our own inspiring women in sustainability:

Nicole Lazarus is the Oxfordshire Programme Manager at Bioregional, leading our growing programme of activities around Bicester and across Oxfordshire. She was one of Building Magazine’s Top 50 rising stars of sustainability for 2012 and was a finalist in the Outstanding Women in Construction Awards 2014.

Lewis Knight, Oxfordshire Project Manager, says: “Nicole is an inspirational manager, who practices what she preaches. She has a vast and in-depth knowledge of sustainability. She has the ability to think both strategically and innovatively.”

Sue Riddlestone OBE is the CEO and Co-founder of Bioregional. Through her work with One Planet Living, she has worked with organisations to create sustainable change – from a 6,000 home eco-community in Guangzhou, China to the London 2012 Olympics.

Julia Hawkins, our Head of Comms, says: “A true social entrepreneur, Sue has such a clear vision of what she wants to achieve and seems undaunted by the scale of the challenge in reaching it. She has the secret of being able to talk about sustainability in a way that anyone can relate to and understand, making it sound blatantly obvious it’s how we should all be living.”

Creating positive change with the Sustainable Development Goals in the UK

On 1 March 2017, over 250 people came together in London to explore how the ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals could be transformed into action for social and environmental change in the UK.

The buzz at the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) second annual conference this week was palpable. And it’s not hard to understand why. With news of rising inequalities and environmental degradation growing by the day, people want to know what can be done.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into force on 1 January 2016. They aim to set the world on a trajectory where poverty is eradicated, society is equal and just, the environment is protected, unsustainable consumption is curbed and catastrophic climate change is halted. They apply to every country in the world.

The Sustainable Development Goals in the UK

UKSSD is a multi-stakeholder network, designed to support the delivery of the Goals in the UK. Its conference this year explored how we can translate the ambition of 17 Goals and 169 Targets into transformational action in the UK.

The day was, in turns, inspiring and shocking. The reality of social injustice in the UK was at the forefront of many presentations – from homelessness and poverty to violence against women and unemployment. We were unable to forget that millions of people in the UK are affected by these problems every day. And, indeed, we shouldn’t.

The relationship between climate change and social problems was also unavoidable. As Dr Jane Davidson, Board Member of The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges and former Minister for Environment and Sustainability in Wales, succinctly put it when quoting the Bangladeshi Country Director of Oxfam: “Climate change won’t make poverty history, it will make it permanent.”

So where to start when things seem so complicated? Conference speakers came at these interconnected, pervasive and tricky problems from a variety of perspectives and expertise but a few common themes emerged from the day:

Simplicity

‘Sustainable Development Goals’ is not the most understandable phrase in the world and the sheer number of goals and targets can be off-putting.

It’s up to those who want change, therefore, to make it as easy as possible for people to understand and take action where they can make the most impact – from individuals and businesses to the government. It’s not about cherry-picking the easiest, it’s about making the process accessible.

Quotes of the day

“We don’t talk about ‘sustainability’ – we talk about people’s homes, their neighbours, the food they eat. It works.” Trewin Restorick, CEO and Founder of Hubbub

“Everyone needs to be clear about what their part of the jigsaw is and what action they can take.” Amanda Mackenzie OBE, Chief Executive of Business in the Community

Systems change

While we need to simplify in order to take effective action, we cannot forget that the challenges we face are inextricably interconnected and require us to understand the wider systems in which they exist.

And this is where the complexity of the SDGs comes in handy! The 17 Goals and 169 Targets recognise that there are many ‘leverage points’ for change, which can help us on our way to changing the conditions that contribute to environmental and social injustice. This is going to require bravery by those who are taking the first steps and we need to look to those already leading the way.

Quotes of the day

“The SDGs have fundamentally changed the game. They are the closest thing the world has to a strategy.” Dr Jake Reynolds, Executive Director of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

“Unless a business can prove it has a positive social impact it will not exist in the near future.” Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business (Plan A), Marks and Spencer

Collaboration

While we get stuck into our different parts of the jigsaw, we need to remember to talk to those working on the other bits!

But it’s not just about collaborating with those who we know. We need to listen to the range of diverse experience in the UK – especially those who are most impacted by social injustice and whose voices are often lost. Again, this comes back to creating an easy-to-understand narrative of change that people can believe in– we have to go and meet them where they are.

Or as one delegate put it, “do things with people – not to. And remember the slogan of the Sustainable Development Goals, leave no-one behind.”

Quotes of the day

“Being pioneering in your local communities attracts attention and can help scale up change” Pragna Patel, Founding member of Southall Black Sisters

“We all seem to be agreeing here that tackling inequality (SDG Goal 10) is key to delivering a sustainable UK.” Sue Riddlestone, CEO of Bioregional (on Twitter). 

Learn more about UKSSD and our work on the Sustainable Development Goals in the UK. 

Photo: Richard Couldrey

 

Building Energy Performance Improvement Toolkit (BEPIT)

We help housebuilders beat the energy ‘performance gap’ and build homes with greatly improved energy performance 

Building in energy efficiency with BEPIT

Drawing on four years of onsite research funded by Innovate UK, we’ve developed a practical, affordable and effective approach to ensuring that ‘as built’ matches ‘as designed.’  Average newly built homes exhibit a 50% gap between measured and predicted energy performance.

BEPIT combines detailed but easily understood learning materials with in-depth facilitation by an expert through each stage of your housebuilding project – design, procurement and construction. 

Benefits

  • Improved design – fewer buildability clashes on site
  • Smoother build – save time spent on snagging
  • Enhanced reputation – for building quality homes

What we learned is clear – the performance gap is real and its impact significant. We can help.

The BEPIT approach to reducing the performance gap

In the course of our research we found that the performance gap consists of multiple, minor, and frequently occurring issues spread throughout most elements of a building. But tackling these issues individually brings little return on investment, while approaches that try to deal with the whole problem in a single, central workshop rarely get the commitment needed to achieve long-term change.

Instead, we help you:

  • tackle root causes: through our research we developed a set of seven clusters of performance-critical issues to focus on.
  • pre-empt problems: we help you mitigate against these issues proactively at each stage of your project: design, procurement and construction.
  • get up-front buy-in from developer and project teams: making sure the message comes from the top is key to creating culture change.
  • build collaboration among teams: we enable teams to collaborate and communicate with each other to solve minor problems before they turn into major headaches.

Through a combination of focused meetings using our toolkit to educate and help communicate about issues and solutions, we work together with the lead contractor and subcontractors to beat the performance gap on your project.

Our approach involves no additional work for the team, but builds confidence, problem-solving, communication and technical skills – all of which can be carried forward into your next job.

Find out more at www.bepit.org or email douglas.drewniak@bioregional.com to make an enquiry. 

Read more about our research into the energy performance gap. Our project partners in this research included: A2 Dominion, Loughborough University, Willmott Dixon Energy Services, Silver DCC, PRP Architects. The project was funded by Innovate UK.

A One Planet holiday? Meet the destination aiming to revolutionise sustainable tourism

The One Planet Annual Review 2015/16 for Villages Nature® Paris has revealed it is making excellent progress. We had a chat with Olivier Robin, Director of Operations, who explains the vision behind the One Planet Destination and how it aims to engage its guests with sustainability in a new light.

With its One Planet Action Plan endorsed by Bioregional in 2013, Villages Nature® Paris is a new European holiday destination due to open in July 2017. This One Planet Destination aims to create a different kind of holiday, immersing one million visitors a year in nature while minimising its impact on natural resources.

1.What’s your vision for Villages Nature® Paris?

Olivier: We want to merge large-scale tourism with sustainable development to engage people. We are best placed to do this by helping our guests develop an emotional bond with nature through a variety of experiences. The range of activities at Villages Nature® Paris are designed to help people find the way that they enjoy doing this best – from exercising outside to exploring a forest or through enjoying a cooking or gardening workshop.

2. Why was it important for sustainability to be part of your vision?

Sustainability can often be seen just as a checklist of things to do – or not to do. As a leisure destination, we wanted to emphasise the pleasure that can be found in enjoying nature and living a sustainable life. More and more people are recognising the opportunity for positive change and innovation that a ‘green revolution’ provides and we wanted to be a part of this.

3. What kind of holiday will people enjoy?

People now look for trips that enable them to ‘slow down’. They don’t want to choose between relaxation and fun. We wanted Villages Nature® Paris to respond to this trend. Our guests will have access to five ‘immersive worlds’: entertainment and sporting activities, restaurants with local and fresh food, and a biodiversity trail. With Paris and the wider Paris region on the doorstep, guests will also be able to enjoy city life as well the local countryside with its rich heritage – or add to their magical experience with a visit to Disneyland® Paris!

4. How will guests feel when they leave?

Relaxed, inspired and happy! In France, we talk about ‘the good life’ and this is what we want to encourage – simple pleasures like soaking up nature, enjoying new experiences and discovering a new way of living in harmony with nature. Villages Nature® Paris is designed to inspire people to continue to do this after they go home. We hope that this will encourage them to make changes towards happier, healthier lives.

5. How has One Planet Living helped?

The ten One Planet Principles challenged and guided us to consider all aspects of sustainable development at Villages Nature® Paris – from design and construction to operations and guest experience. An environmental certification would have helped us consider technical processes, but wouldn’t have been able to support the development of the guest journey in the way that One Planet Living has.

As a planet we need to undergo a huge transformation, and business will need to play a leading role in this. One Planet Living recognises this and helps companies along a journey of change in a pragmatic and engaging way.

Villages Nature® Paris’s One Planet Review for 2015/16 has been written by Bioregional in conjunction with Villages Nature® Paris and shares the progress in developing a truly sustainable tourism destination.