Protecting our planet by considering the environment is right at the top of many people’s agendas at the moment, and businesses can play their part too.

Long gone are the days when being an environmental activist meant hugging trees at proposed development sites.

Now, everyone is coming around to realise that we all need to work collectively to save the planet for future generations, with wealthy investors and powerful governments all getting on board.

Businesses also need to show their employees and customers that they care, that the environment matters to them.

As a business, if you take small steps to be environmentally friendly, not only can you help make a difference, but you send out a signal showing you have morals and values which others may rate highly. At MovePlan we are committed to a proactive approach to environmental issues, working with staff, clients and suppliers to reduce pollution, waste and the use of energy.

You don’t have to invest large amounts of money to install solar panels on your office roof, or make grand promises such as going completely plastic free. There are small, simple changes that can be made in the office which will make a difference.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

The three Rs should always be considered in every aspect of office life, from stationary orders to plastic cups. It is not just about recycling, but thinking about what is ordered to reduce the amount of waste. For example, do you really need plastic cups for the water dispenser? Could you encourage staff to bring their own water bottles to fill instead? Does that large document actually need to be printed, or could it be emailed round? Statistics show that 50 per cent of the waste of businesses is composed of paper. If you encourage staff to constantly question what they use, they will eventually adopt a more environmentally friendly mindset which will also save money for your business.

At MovePlan we operate various policies to help reduce our waste, which can be easily replicated at other offices. These include returning toner cartridges to the supplier for refill; removing under desk bins and replacing them with centralised bins with recyclable options; and ensuring our landfill disposal is kept to a minimum, for example by sending old mobile phone handsets to charities for recycling. We also encourage our clients to source sustainably produced furniture and to re-use or refurbish furniture where possible.

Encourage staff to work from home where possible

This could end up being a winner for both the business and employees. With many people trying to juggle personal and work life, allowing staff to log-on at home is environmentally friendly and benefits employees by saving them time commuting. Staying at home saves on car journeys to the office. Various studies have shown that productivity actually increases when people work at home, with YouGov research showing that 30 per cent of people feel their productivity increased when working away from the office, and only 17 per cent found their efficiency reduced.

MovePlan recognises the benefits of this, and we encourage staff to work from home when they aren’t required on a client site.

Think local

To reduce the number of unnecessary journeys with deliveries from further afield, consider doing a little research to see if your needs can be met closer to home. From buffet lunches to office supplies, are you using businesses operating nearest to your office? Not only will you help reduce pollution emitted from vehicles on the roads, you will also be putting your money back into the local economy.

Car sharing

Set up and facilitate a car sharing scheme to encourage staff to group together to make their journey to work. Not only does this reduce the number of cars on the road, it could help staff form better relationships with their colleagues.

At MovePlan, we also encourage the use of public transport and to take direct flights when flying is unavoidable. Our Ireland office runs a TaxSaver Commuter scheme while our UK office operates the Cycle to Work scheme.

Set up a green team

Pass the baton over to staff to help make the office more environmentally friendly. You may find numerous employees who feel passionately about this, and who would welcome the challenge of finding ways to be eco-friendly at work. You may also find people who already have an in-depth knowledge about being environmentally friendly, and have been waiting for an opportunity to use their skills in this area.

By passing over responsibility to employees, you allow them to take ownership meaning they are more likely to adopt any new policy with enthusiasm. If orders come from above people can feel resentment at being told what to do, and might be tempted to ignore the advice. Employees engaging with each other is likely to be much more effective.

Launch team competitions

Healthy competition in the workplace, particularly that which will benefit the environment, could be a fun way of encouraging staff to go green. Suggest a new challenge for each week, or month, such as walking to work or going plastic free, with prizes for the winning team.

Switch off electrics and lights when not in use

This is probably a policy which most offices already have in place, but there is no harm in sending gentle reminders about why this is so important. You could make it the green team’s responsibility to ensure all lights and computers are switched off at the end of the day. At MovePlan, staff are encouraged to switch off unnecessary lighting, heating and air conditioning, and not to leave computers on standby for long periods. Monitors can account for almost two thirds of a computer’s energy use, so it’s important to switch these off when they aren’t being used.