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How UK businesses will adapt to be more sustainable after COVID restrictions

What does climate change have in common with COVID? Well, they’re both worldwide phenomena. They have a universal impact, meaning that any attempt to manage their effects requires mass cooperation.

Because of these similarities, many people seem to be viewing our global response to the pandemic as a “preview” of how we’ll react as global warming worsens.

Perhaps this is why sustainability is so high up on the agenda right now. In the aftermath of COVID, we are anticipating the potential crises to come – and thinking about what we can do to avoid them.

Companies are no exception. As vaccine rollout continues and offices reopen to differing extents, many businesses are making plans to improve the workplace in terms of its environmental impact.

The need to make savings

Concerns about the wellbeing of the planet aren’t the only motivator when it comes to increased sustainability measures. Given the economic impact of the pandemic, companies desperately need to make savings.

One way they can reduce costs is by installing solar panels at the office. Although this requires an upfront investment, this soon pays off. Companies can reduce their bills to virtually zero or even use surplus energy as an additional revenue stream.

Innovations such as solar panels make an economic case for implementing environmentally-friendly changes. Business owners can ensure their own business model is more sustainable by investing in this affordable, low-risk asset that’s guaranteed to save them money in the long term.

A safe reopening

Offices should not be reopening without careful evaluation about how this process can be made as safe as possible. For example, many offices are operating on a rotating schedule to avoid overcrowding the workplace.

This has the added benefit of reducing emissions. With fewer people travelling to work every day, there is less traffic and less air pollution.

Changes to the office environment

A COVID-safe approach will require many changes to be made to the work environment. For example, it’s unlikely that businesses will continue to enforce hot-desking policies in the office.

The current willingness of businesses to reassess their office environments and achieve greener goals could result in the promotion of more radical developments. One trend that has been noted is the increased cultivation of green spaces in and around the office, which has proven to have a positive impact on employee wellbeing.

When it comes to sustainability, fewer people in the office should also mean decreased electricity consumption: good news for the environment!

The promotion of positive habits

As we all embrace “the new normal,” it seems to be a suitable moment to reevaluate and improve on our old habits. Companies can support employees to make sustainable changes in many small ways. They might provide cutlery and cups that help them avoid single-use plastic, for example.

Offices could invite farmers from the surrounding area to sell their wares on site, thereby encouraging their employees to shop locally and choose organic produce. 

An office might also incentivise employees to cycle to work in a variety of ways. One potential scheme would allow them to purchase bicycles using company credit, which they then pay back in monthly salary deductions.

The need for new technology

The UK Government has set a target of net-zero emissions by the year 2040. Reaching this will require many companies to make significant changes to their operations.

Offices can anticipate this now by implementing positive changes such as installing energy-efficient bulbs and investing in solar panels or even rainwater harvesting systems.

There’s no doubt that businesses will be held to higher standards of accountability in the years to come, and the recent changes to office culture may introduce new challenges to the reporting process.

Although business-related travel is bound to decrease, thanks to our newfound familiarity with Zoom, it could still be difficult to measure the emissions of remote workers.

Social responsibility and sustainability

In a post-COVID world, companies should expect customers to be more conscious regarding the environmental impact of their consumption habits. Increasingly, customers expect a higher level of ethical commitment from the business world.

It’s not just the public demanding greater social responsibility from commercial bodies, either. Investors are also interested in how businesses are demonstrating a commitment to sustainability, and even young people entering the job market prefer to work for a company with proven values.

With this in mind, we can expect offices to become important sites of analysis and action: places where sustainability levels are measured and measures to improve sustainability are taken.