Dr. Sammis White, Interim Dean & Director of Workforce Development at UW-Milwaukee, discusses his recent trip to the International Green Economy Forum in China. The Forum specifically focused on bringing the issues of global resource consumption and resource productivity, of which climate change is an important aspect, higher on the agenda of policymakers and business. Scarcity and security of supply and price risks of certain resources, pollution and energy use over the lifecycle of certain resources, and social impacts, in particular in developing countries, we topics discussed.
Kate M. Nelson is the Chief Sustainability Officer for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has served in this capacity for the past five years. She is responsible for building the program from the ground up to address campus energy conservation strategies, stormwater management, expansive recycling programs, sustainable purchasing, urban gardening as well as engaging the campus students, faculty, and staff through multiple sustainability outreach and academic programs. Her previous research in the sustainable development of Costa Rica and Romania, has influenced and aligned her strategies for environmental policy and planning at home in Wisconsin.
You recycle your extra paperwork and turn the lights off as you leave the office. You are doing your part…right? Maybe you could take that to another level. Now you think of using a power strip for all your electronics (and turn it off at the end of the day) and you set up a carpool for some of your closest coworkers. Perhaps that did the trick. You are helping your place of business become more sustainable. Or are you?
While sustainability practices at work will easily vary from location to location, the ability to have a voice and the opportunity to engage in how your place of business carries out its mission is perhaps the real core of building a sustainable operation. Does your place of work share in your values? How are you able to make an impact? The business case for sustainability usually boils down to a return on investment. It might also simply mean the input necessary to produce your company’s “widget.”
An employee without a voice in how the organization is run is just as helpless as a leader without a following to move sustainability measures forward. Each must find the strategy and place for the two to come together and find a shared interest.
Employees from the front lines tend to have the best ideas on how to reduce waste. Having that input makes for better understanding and better morale. For example, flexible work schedules that reflect the real needs of the employees and the demands of the job reduce travel and its associated emissions.
Pulling together a company “green team” helps set a course and goal, it makes all accountable, and it celebrates the success. While energy reductions are important in order to save money and resources, it is also worth valuing the input of all stakeholders when considering a sustainable operation.
As you come together to build sustainability strategies across the workplace, don’t forget to bring your reusable coffee mug and extra sweater!
When you think business sustainability, you might only think of environmental issues like cleaning up factory emissions or properly disposing of waste. Business sustainability is actually a much larger issue that encompasses the longevity of a business and the “triple bottom line” - a process by which companies manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. In other words, business sustainability impacts profit, people and the planet. Businesses that can prove resiliency over time contribute to healthy ecosystems and strong communities.
Dr. Sammis White, Interim Dean & Director of Workforce Development at UW-Milwaukee, discusses why business sustainability should be part of every strategic business plan. According to Dr. White, businesses need to look longer-term and balance their profit motive with their use of talent and resources in order to achieve business sustainability.