HR often has a big role in company culture, and when it comes to sustainable business practices, that role is magnified. Often, being sustainable as a business requires protocols and procedures. It’s best when these initiatives are guided by the people responsible for general protocol and procedures; the HR department.

When it comes to reducing a company’s eco-footprint, the most effective and lasting ways to do so involve balancing sustainability and profitability. In this case, sustainability applies both to the environment and to the company’s ability to continue eco-friendly efforts without hindering profitability. After all, if your company goes under, it won’t really matter if it’s eco-friendly or not, will it?

Below are some methods HR can use to build a company culture of sustainability in a lasting, impactful way.

Responsible and Economic Disposal of Office Furnishings

When your office gets new desks, computers, printers, or other equipment and furniture, it is someone’s job to get rid of the old stuff. Sometimes, unfortunately, that job lands with the janitorial staff, and stuff ends up just thrown away. HR can facilitate alternatives to responsibly dispose of old office equipment.

A first step would be to offer the old furnishings to employees, either for free or at a fair market price. This can be as simple as having pick-up point or as involved as having an internal raffle, auction, or distribution of items.

After employees, the community can be looked to. Old computers can be donated to community programs that benefit the disenfranchised. Furniture can be offered to local shelters and low-income housing programs. All donations should be documented for tax purposes, so HR will need to approve the organizations partnered with. Employees can be consulted for suggestions and connections, but HR will have to verify tax exemption status of any donations.

Building Professional Relationships with Local Partners

One of the most effective ways to decrease your carbon footprint is to exist locally. Sourcing products and services from local sources decreases resources spent on transportation and keeps money in your local economy. Here are areas where you can seek local partners:

  • Break room supplies: Any food, coffee, and paper products the company supplies employees can likely be sourced locally. Instead of hitting up big box stores, forge a partnership with a local supplier. You’ll likely be able to get a wholesale deal.
  • Conservation: Work with local conservation initiatives to find volunteer opportunities. This will increase employee awareness of local causes and give your company an opportunity to directly contribute to your community.
  • Food: For company events, hire local caterers or work with locally owned restaurants to provide food. The food will likely be less generic and of higher quality. This will not only impact your local economy and help build community awareness of your business, but it will also cause people to look forward to your company events!

Discourage One-Use Items

One of the first steps most businesses take to encourage eco-friendliness is to discourage unnecessary use of the office printer. Paper and ink add up quickly, so this is a great first step. But there are a lot of other sources of office waste. Encourage employees to bring in their own coffee mugs and other dishes. Discourage use of keurigs and other products that produce lots of waste. Provide reusable versions of commonly tossed disposables. For a fun incentive, offer employees company branded reusable straws, cups, or handkerchiefs.

Even when HR is not the department responsible for these items, they usually do need to be involved in making sure that programs, partnerships, and initiatives follow company protocol. Since HR is often a point of approval for all departments, HR professionals can use their knowledge of multiple company initiatives to link people together and maximize efficiency. At the end of the day, efficiency is exactly what both the company and the environment need.