Top Tips for Optimizing Commercial Office Greening

As a way to save both money and the environment, companies should look to optimize their office greening efforts. For those companies that are yet to make a start on greening, there is no more opportune time. This is because green means efficiencies and savings, which are both highly desirable outcomes in this current slow-down.

From experience working with companies to capture these efficiencies and savings, top tips for optimal office greening are discover, collaborate, plan, focus, and celebrate. First, discover. There is a common saying in green circles that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” In undertaking office greening, it is vital for a company to conduct a comprehensive audit before it starts to determine exactly where it stands.

Companies may also discover that employees are already doing things in a green way however no one has asked them specifically. It is also good to create baselines for electricity and paper consumption. This will show how much is being used and how much it is costing. While any length of time is good, optimally the baselines should be over a year, particularly so for electricity to get a sense of seasonal fluctuations. A process for ongoing measuring should also be set up. In this way, the effectiveness of any particular green initiative can be determined. It will also mean reduction targets can be set and progress towards these tracked. Measuring also provides useful information for internal and external communications.

Secondly, collaboration. Forming a green team to spearhead office greening is key. However, for a green team to be successful there needs to be the optimal membership. It is therefore best to get the right mix of seniorities, including at least one decision-maker, and the right skill set.

Communications, IT, the office manager, and the person who is usually liaises with building management are all important green team members. Green teams should also have a few naysayers. These people are useful on the green team as they are an excellent test before rolling out company-wide initiatives. Greening also works best when there is buy-in at the employee level and it is not just by management directive. For example, something as simple as a green suggestion box can work wonders.

The third office greening tip is plan. It may be obvious that planning is all important but it is surprising how many companies and green teams do not undertake this simple step. A green plan needs to be detailed. It also needs to be specific, prescriptive and address the who, what, how and when. While a green plan becomes the blueprint for the company’s greening efforts it can also be changed over time as necessary. A green plan also works best if it is supported by a Green Office Statement and written policies and procedures.

The reason for a green plan is simple. It allows a company to focus its greening efforts, which is the fourth office greening tip. Having focus means that a company can do the low or no-cost initiatives first that have the biggest impact in saving money and positively affecting the environment. A plan also means that a company can address “hot button items” first. These could be items like Styrofoam cup use or a poorly-functioning recycling program that are a topic of conversation around the water cooler or the subject of frequent questions at Town Hall meetings. Addressing these things first will help with employee buy-in for subsequent greening efforts.

While an important part of office greening is setting targets, the most critical part of this, and therefore the fifth office greening tip, is celebrate. A company should remember to celebrate when green targets are met or a good effort is made towards them. It may be as simple as an encouraging message from the CEO to a large-scale event. In addition, Earth Day, which is on April 22, is always a good time each year to celebrate a company’s greening efforts.

As a final thought, there is a well-known Taoist saying that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. So in terms of office greening, companies should not be afraid to start small and then simply see how it goes. This is because it is all about continuous improvement or kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese business concept embraced by multinationals such as Toyota and Canon that involves every employee. Upper management to the cleaning crew are encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. This is not a once a month or once a year activity. It is continuous and the results achieved can be extraordinary. So companies wanting to optimize office greening should keep at the forefront of their approach, small steps and continuous improvement. This will help underpin the success that will come with implementing the five key tips for optimal office greening, which to recap are discover, collaborate, plan, focus, and celebrate.

Claire Woolley is a global environmental specialist and Vice President with tenant representation firm Howard Ecker + Company. At Howard Ecker + Company, Claire heads up a business unit of the firm called Ecker Green that focuses on providing green office services to commercial office tenants.