Why employee engagement is a cornerstone to a sustainable future

| minute read

by Avinash Lunj, UK Head of Climate and Environmental Sustainability

Through collaboration across our organisation, we’re empowering our people to prioritise the environment, and make conscious choices to benefit the planet. Our aim is for everyone to be sustainability champions, taking collective responsibility for helping to mitigate our environmental impact and address sustainability issues as effectively as possible.

From our experience, a robust sustainability programme that actively involves our people not only improves engagement but also builds loyalty. It strengthens our ability to attract and retain talent, and helps foster a powerful culture of sustainability.

We’re engaging our people in the following ways:

  • Embedding sustainability in the corporate culture, which focuses on engagement and collaboration
  • Providing opportunities to volunteer and supporting charitable causes
  • Offering sustainability-related employee benefits
  • Developing green skills through participation in activities such as energy saving challenges and waste awareness campaigns
  • Reporting on performance to demonstrate the positive impact our collective efforts are having.

Some of the great work we’ve done so far includes reusing or recycling 99.5% of our electronic waste, purchasing 100% renewable electricity, introducing a new employee car scheme where only electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are available, and rolling out a holistic energy reduction programme which looks to reduce overall consumption by 15%, when compared to 2021.

Encouraging more sustainable practices

Between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year– leading to the tragic destruction of wildlife in the waters, pollution of beaches and contamination of the marine ecosystem. To help be a part of the solution, we developed a policy on single use plastics (SUPs), over four years ago, which is continues to evolve in line with current legislation.

We rolled out the elimination of traditional single-use plastics across our organisation. This involved, our facilities team partnering with our catering contractors to replace plastic food and drinks packaging, with compostable alternatives made from plant-based materials. During the first year of implementation, we eliminated over 137,000 SUP packaging from food and drinks sold in canteens and replaced them with compostable products.

We stopped using plastic cutlery, water cups and water vending machines, polystyrene take-away boxes, and other plastic food containers, as well as plastic straws and plates. In time that eliminated most traditional SUPs in use. Traditional plastics are made from a process using damaging fossil fuel ingredients and they take 20-30 years to biodegrade, much longer than some types. By using plant-based packaging we not only created less demand for the hydrocarbons used in traditional plastic production, but found a product that carried certification to ensure it would biodegrade in six weeks.

At the same time, we encouraged our office canteens to offer a discount to our employees for purchases of hot drinks in reusable mugs, and as a result, 80% of hot drinks are now purchased in reusable mugs, compared with 20% before we introduced thisinitiative. With a small incentive, we have helped the vast majority of our people adopt a more sustainable practice in their every-day lives.

Promoting greener digital practices

In the era of cloud computing, the environmental impact of data centres has come under scrutiny. Some data centres use the equivalent amount of energy to heat 100,000 homes, raising concerns about resource depletion, water scarcity and carbon emissions. Raising awareness on the scale of the problem is important. The challenge is that it can be easy to assume that our individual contributions are just a drop in the ocean. However, routine activities such as taking photos, streaming media, and browsing the web collectively exert substantial energy demands. A short five-minute internet search, for instance, consumes energy equivalent to boiling a kettle for a cup of tea.

Digital sustainability is one of the major environmental challenges that we can all help to address daily. It’s clear that storing data, emails and files is energy intensive, so we run regular Digital Detox campaigns across our organisation to encourage our people to reduce their storage of emails and files. Small changes such as emptying our mailbox, limiting the number of recipients and deleting unnecessary emails can all help reduce the ‘hidden’ carbon footprint in our day-to-day activities.

Energy saving initiatives

The energy crisis has challenged all of us to think about how we reduce unnecessary usage in our homes and offices. Alongside our Energy Efficiency Working Group which formed in 2022, we initiated an energy savings campaign inviting our people to share tips on how to keep their energy bills down and reduce their emissions at home. This helped us to create behaviour changes which benefit us all, and showed a genuine interest from our people across the business in reducing the amount of energy they use personally.

By embracing energy efficiency, we've not only cut costs but also contributed to a greener planet. Our efforts include switching to LED lights in more than half of our UK offices, temporarily closing some offices during the holiday season to reduce our environmental impact and implementing real-time electricity sensors in our larger offices. These measures have slashed our building energy consumption by 50% in the past eight years.

As we celebrate our achievements, we recognise that delivering meaningful change takes time and that creating a sustainable future is an ongoing journey. Our next steps involve further collaboration, innovative approaches, and a continued commitment to sustainable practices from all our people. Our success to date has been the result of joint effort across the business, demonstrating that sustainability transcends the remit of a single department and by working together we can make changes that have a positive impact on the environment, society and the communities we’re a part of.

Read more about sustainability here.

Read more about our three-step approach to achieving net zero

Meet our Environment and Sustainability team

Read more about integrating digital technologies to deliver environmental benefits through Smart Mobility Solutions




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