Seattle has won the 2022 Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) Purchaser Award—the fourth time in six years that the city has won this award for its environmentally responsible tech purchasing practices. From Seattle's computers to its solar photovoltaic systems, everything is purchased from a supplier that meets the EPEAT’s strict sustainability criteria.
But unlike Seattle, many government organizations across the nation still have a long way to go in aligning with the U.S.’s sustainability goals committed to at the United Nations COP26 Climate Change Conference in 2021. At COP26, the United States committed to reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
With 2030 not far off, sustainability is a pressing issue and speeding up the green transition in the public sector is becoming imperative. To aid efforts, the federal government is investing $369 billion towards lowering the country’s carbon emissions.
But why does sustainability matter, and how can public sector organizations create more sustainable workplaces?
We can no longer deny that climate change exists. Across the globe, we’re seeing the climate worsen as the frequency and severity of natural disasters increase. One thing the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns illustrated is the harmful effect business operations have on the environment. As businesses closed and roads emptied, air and water pollution cleared, and waste generation dropped dramatically. It highlighted how massively businesses contribute to emissions and why going green in the workplace matters.
Aside from the environmental benefits, sustainability in the public sector also has the following benefits:
1. Makes you a more attractive employer
Working for green organizations matters to employees. A study by IBM Institute for Business Value found that nearly 70% of employees said they are more likely to apply for and accept a job with an environmentally sustainable organization.
Even more interesting is that nearly 50% of participants said they would consider accepting a lower salary to work for an environmentally sustainable organization. Public sector organizations that struggle to compete with private sector salaries can capitalize on this. Being a green organization could position you as an employer of choice.
2. Reassures your constituents that you are taking steps to redress climate change
There is a growing awareness worldwide that climate change is one of the biggest threats to mankind’s survival. As a result, more people are conscious of how seriously governments and organizations are taking climate change. Many want faster progress on this front.
In a study by Oracle, 93% of respondents expressed that sustainability and social factors are more important than ever to them. And 70% said they would be willing to cut their relationship with a brand they feel is not taking these issues seriously. As Americans feel the brunt of unpredictable weather patterns and increasingly severe natural disasters, they want to know that the government is taking steps to redress climate change.
3. Reduces organizational expenses
Aside from the positive effects on the climate, environmentally-friendly government agencies also save money. When you switch to an eco-friendly workplace, you use less energy and reduce wastage. For example, as a result of its sustainable purchasing policy, the City of Seattle could potentially save up to $180,000 annually.
Going green in the workplace usually occurs in four areas: waste, energy, water and transportation. Here’s how you can improve in each area:
Waste: Up your recycling
If you haven’t already done so, place recycle bins throughout your office and public facilities. All types of paper, including post-it pads, paper folders, paper hand towels and envelopes (even those with windows) can be recycled. Certain components of electronic equipment can also be recycled, so dispose of old equipment at an electronic recycling plant.
Energy: Switch to green technology
Install a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts for a consistent temperature and features zoning so that you can turn off air conditioning in unoccupied areas of the building. Another option is to install a solar energy system. Solar systems may not come cheap, but they can be a wise investment: with the saving in energy costs you’ll gain, the system should pay for itself in a few years.
Water: Install low-flow taps and toilets
Office kitchens and restrooms use gallons of water every year. Install faucet aerators on taps that reduce water flow and low-flow toilets to save water.
Transportation: Switch to a fleet of electric vehicles and encourage employees to carpool
If your organization runs a fleet of vehicles, consider replacing your old vehicles with electric vehicles. And by joining a carpool, your employees can contribute to the net-zero carbon emissions goal.
As the effects of climate change become more evident and citizens demand governments act expeditiously, we can no longer delay action to improve sustainability in the public sector. Not only are there environmental benefits, but it can also position your organization as an employer of choice for employees who value environmentally-conscious employers.
It starts with creating a green workplace culture. CPS HR Consulting specializes in change management in the public sector. Let us help your organization make the shift to a more sustainable future.
CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country. Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients. We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.