Publication - Advice and guidance

Better Business: How to go greener with staff to improve performance

Published: 12 Mar 2012

This practical guide offers help and

advice for businesses and other employers

who want to reduce their carbon footprint. In particular, it provides information on what the critical success factors are for involving staff to drive change and how staff engagement offers real benefits that are much broader than just carbon savings.

Better Business: How to go greener with staff to improve performance
What are other businesses doing?

What are other businesses doing?

Tackling energy use

BT's Energy Saving Campaign

BT ran a pilot Energy Saving Campaign with staff at its HQ in London, a building housing some 3000 employees. The aim was to reduce energy use by 10%. In 3 months, energy consumption was down 17%, equating to cost savings of £200,000.

BT engaged staff by:

  • Identifying areas of the business where significant savings could be made and engaging key staff members within them who had the influence to implement changes.
  • Recruiting Energy Champions (from across all levels of the business) to help to raise awareness about the campaign and reduce energy waste by reporting faults, conducting energy audits and networking to share ideas.

Following the success of the pilot at HQ, BT has rolled out the initiative to 25 of its other buildings and now has over 300 Energy Champions across the UK. This has led to savings of over £800,000 a year for the company.

"It's our corporate social responsibility; companies should be leading by example and people can be involved by just being energy efficient -in that sense everyone can be an energy champion"

Incentivising energy efficiency at InterfaceFLOR

InterfaceFLOR Europe (a flooring manufacturer) has replaced its output-based bonuses for production line staff with a new scheme which rewards staff for reducing energy consumption and waste. The QUEST (Quality Utilising Employee Suggestions and Teamwork) initiative sets targets for reducing the amount of energy used per metre of flooring produced. Worth up to £800 a year for each worker, the scheme provides a strong incentive to reduce energy consumption through simple actions (e.g. switching off lights and machinery) and also to generate ideas for making the manufacturing process more efficient. For example, workers came up with an idea for reducing waste simply by welding a metal bar across a material cutting machine. This idea has since been taken up by InterfaceFLOR's other factories across the world.

Other things businesses are doing to reduce energy use:

- Making good habits the norm - engaging staff to turn off lights and other equipment through the use of reminders and incentives.

- Reducing the standard temperature of the workplace in stages with staff buy-in.

- Embedding energy efficiency behaviours into current systems and processes - e.g. at the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor Hotel housekeeping staff are now expected to do a sweep of each room, turning off any lighting/appliances left on by guests, before beginning the cleaning process.

- Using data from energy monitors to identify where new procedures should be introduced and instances where current procedures haven't been followed - e.g. at Coca Cola's bottling factory managers can identify when weekend shut-down procedures for machinery have been missed.

- Radically rethinking the use of work spaces (e.g. by shutting off areas that aren't often used, or by reconsidering whether staff could work at home instead of at an office) means less energy used in heating and lighting the premises.

Reducing emissions from travel

Aberdeenshire Council's Worksmart Programme

Worksmart is a programme offering staff a variety of working options including fixed working (at a single base), home working, and flexible working (splitting time between a fixed base and home). The aim is to reduce the number of commuting miles taken by staff, as well as reducing the number of offices and workstations required by the council. Over 1000 staff are now participating in the programme, and none of those who have joined have gone back to how they used to work. An employee survey in 2011 found that commuting mileage has been cut by 68%.

"Working in this way has improved my organisational and planning skills…and this also enables me to have a greater work-life balance as I don't have to spend two hours every day commuting to work"

"The rising price of fuel has made it easier to persuade employees to avoid work-related journeys and adopt more flexible working and by eliminating the commute, staff have more personal time"

Halcrow's combined parking and public transport promotion scheme:

Halcrow is a multi-national engineering firm which has set up an innovative scheme at its Glasgow office to reduce carbon emissions from commuting. The company has set up arrangements with local bus companies to provide its staff with subsidised fares. These are self-funded from income generated from charging staff £5 per week to use the company car park. Parking spaces in the car park are allocated according to a range of criteria with those who car share, or travel longer distances, given higher priority. Staff are also provided with information about public transport and cycle routes. In 2009, 12,300 subsidised bus journeys were made among the 350 staff, with estimated saving of 6.4 tonnes CO2.

"The company gets the environmental benefit of shifting from plane to train and I get the benefit of being able to do more work on the train than on a flight"
(Employee, Scottish and Southern Energy)

Other things businesses are doing to reduce emissions from travel:

- Promoting lift-sharing schemes - raising awareness of car sharing, helping to match up employees interested in sharing lifts, e.g. through links to external websites, and allowing lift sharers preferential use of parking spaces.

- Subsidising public transport - some large companies are working with neighbouring companies to fund dedicated bus services, other smaller workplaces have negotiated with bus companies to subsidise employees' fares.

- Using videoconferencing - avoiding unnecessary business travel by using technology to hold virtual meetings.

- Training staff in fuel-efficient driving techniques - reducing emissions from fleet vehicles and business travel through more fuel-efficient driving.

- Introducing cycle-to-work schemes - offering employees loans towards the purchase of bikes and equipment, offering free bike servicing, and investing in infrastructure such as cycle racks and showers.

- Restricting staff car parking - reducing the number of spaces and/or the number of days a week each employee can use the staff car park.

- Putting in place policies on business travel - requiring rail travel instead of flying, initiating 'no fly periods', encouraging use of public transport or providing bikes for travel to local meetings.

Reducing waste and increasing recycling and reuse

Waste reduction and recycling at Wiles Greenworld

Wiles Greenworld is an office supplies distributor where all 50 staff reduce waste and recycle as a result of environmental education and training, and try to use reusable and recyclable materials at all times in the workplace. The firm also 'nudges' employees towards recycling by making it the easiest option, e.g. by placing lids on general waste bins but not on recycling bins, and by removing waste bins from desks.

In addition to this focus on staff behaviour, the company sells products made from recycled materials and provides free recycling services to customers. Wiles Greenworld ranked number 1 for staff engagement in the Sunday Times Best Green Companies 2011 list.

Other things businesses are doing to reduce waste:

- Informal monitoring and giving staff reminders without 'naming and shaming'.

- Getting front line staff to identify ways of reducing waste in manufacturing processes.

- Selling waste products to recycling companies.

- Providing recycling bins that are easy to access.

- Providing individual recycling boxes at desks.

"Wiles Greenworld ranked number 1 for staff engagement in the Sunday Times Best Green Companies 2011 list."

Introducing more sustainable food practices

Low carbon kitchen initiatives at the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor

The Executive Chef at the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor Hotel has introduced measures to reduce the impact of its catering activities. These include:

- Developing a new menu using local food sourced within approximately one hour's journey to Edinburgh. This required flexibility to add new dishes to corporate set menus

- Raising kitchen staff's awareness of the amount of food waste being produced and encouraging them to reduce waste in food preparation

- Creative reuse of leftovers and scraps from food preparation to produce additional menu items

- Recycling food waste through a specialist company. Between 1 and 1.4 tonnes of food waste are now recycled each month, which previously would have gone to landfill.

Since introducing these measures the hotel has been successful in gaining a silver Green Tourism Business Scheme award.

Other things businesses are doing to reduce emissions relating to food:

- Reconsidering food storage requirements - changing menus and/or ordering processes to reduce refrigerator space needed.


Email: Jonathan Waite