Offices going green

Caprice of the West, money-cutting or the new stage of labor relations?

Most Western companies have recently been showing a growing interest in environmental responsibility towards their workers. As more and more people are getting aware of environmental changes, the enterprises are simply forced to pay more attention to this issue within their Corporate Social Responsibility policy (CSR).

Although I think it’s blasphemous to talk about dishes made of potato or corn when one-fifth of the planet is dying of starvation. Nevertheless, work spaces in the West are turning Green and that’s a fact we should know about.

The businesses realize that some simple habit-changes, such as papersaving are good, not only for the environment, but also for the office budget. The cost-cutting is also the reason why energy-saving office equipment and other smart tricks are intensively implemented. But that’s not all.

The Canadian “Globe and Mail ” writes about the number of new habits in offices in this country, such as waste separation, car-sharing, corporate showers, financial incentives for those traveling to their job by bike, pesticide-free lawns around their buildings, no throw-away dishes and even subsidies for employees who practice Greenness.

Telecommuting is another thing to be mentioned. There are around 135m people around the world working from home nowadays. A quarter of them live in the USA, where a special government program to promote telecommuting is being implemented . It’s evident that these workers help dramatically to cut business expenses, although it conceals some inconveniences and disadvantages for the teleworkers.

Businesses promoting telecommuting, regularly appeal to the fact that teleworkers save more gasoline and electricity, emit less greenhouse gases and trash and have lower current expenses. Thus progressive companies apparently see relations between a work and consumer paradigm which workers have, and know how to use this knowledge.

Another survey states that around 80% of Canadian employees would change their place of work to go to a “greener” company if all other conditions would remain the same . Therefore, businesses find advantages in appearing environmentally responsible before their consumers and now before their employees as well. The fact that companies invest a lot of money in trying to build a Green image confirms this. For example, in the new USG headquarter in Chicago, modern energy-saving materials were applied in the construction process, the space is designed to maximize daylight usage, nearly all office equipment bears the Energy Star logo, organic Java is served in eco-friendly, soy-based cups and cream and sugar is mixed using recyclable “spudware” utensils made out of potatoes …

On the other hand, nobody denies that the high expenses that come with CSR environment programs can favour tax manipulations or so-called greenwashing. Therefore, it’s hard to say whether a company is interested in environmental protection and in how far. CSR sceptics have a simple reply to this question: companies invest in environmental responsibility as long as the effect of such actions pays for itself; but when the moment of truth comes, businesses are relocated to places where less strict environment or labour legislation is applied.

Nevertheless, thinking optimistically, one may say that employees and their habits are now becoming the main bearers of the Green culture in companies and are even more effective than expense-cutting motives. There are very few amongst us who can directly influence environmental or labour legislation. But every one of us, being examples of environmentally responsible behaviour, could help corporate culture being changed all over the world.

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