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      Navigating the road to sustainability in the workplace

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      PAs have a key role to play in the creation of environmentally friendly work spaces, writes Danielle Francis, PA to Chair at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)…

      The UK has announced a legally binding net-zero carbon target of 2050: Poorly considered energy use and waste production quite literally costs the Earth and is now set to hit businesses in the pocket directly.

      Of course, we’re all used to seeing buzz words like ‘waste’, ‘recycling’, ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘climate change’, but what do these really mean when it comes to offices and your work?

      Ultimately, we have a responsibility to set the standard now for future generations. External criticism is at an all-time high and now is the time for industry leaders to take positive steps to make changes in the way we work to benefit the environment.

      And as PAs it’s our role to drive this change in support of our Senior Management and encourage others to get on board.

      This can be done in a number of ways. At the FCA, we have always sought to be as environmentally friendly as possible. However, our relocation to Stratford in 2018 gave us an opportunity to make our biggest environmental changes ever.

      We took over a plot of land near the Olympic Park and were able to build our new office from the ground up, designed to incorporate the very latest approaches to progressive ways of working.

      We worked collaboratively with colleagues in the Facilities team, Architects and the Design team to ensure we created space to fulfil our people and environmental objectives. Senior leaders and their PAs were brought on board at the very earliest stages to ensure we listened to opinions and made decisions based on colleagues’ requirements.

      We focused our design on different office spaces to give a pronounced emphasis on community, but also ensured nature permeated all areas of the building. Nature is good for your health as well as looking good: vegetation and water act as a natural filter, capturing harmful pollutants and toxins, which could otherwise cause life-threatening health problems.

      In addition, plants in the workplace are proven to have a positive impact on a person’s mood, creativity and health. As such, we have several ‘biophilic’ initiatives. We’ve installed living walls – panels of plants, grown in the atrium.

      On a practical level, the office move also saw the FCA give all staff a reusable water bottle and coffee cup as part of our plan to reduce waste. We have also changed the packaging for our catering. In 2017 we used 2.6m items of refuse single-use plastic (SUP) in our catering service. This included items such as plastic straws, cups, cutlery and polystyrene takeaway containers.

      We have estimated that in 2019 we will use just under 250,000 SUP items. This is a reduction of almost 91%. In addition to SUP we have also reduced the number of non-recyclable disposable items such as napkins and coffee cups from 1.7m per year to 860,000, a reduction of 49% [yearly average September – February 2017 vs December – May 2019].

      Digital also impacts the physical – we made the move to Microsoft OneNote which, combined with a new hybrid laptop and ways of working, has seen our printing decrease by 50% – equivalent to 8.7m sheets of paper saved.

      We still have a long way to go, as do most organisations, but over time we are gradually taking steps and making changes to reduce the negative impact we are having on the environment.

      As our knowledge increases, so does staff awareness, and it’s important to listen to both internal and external voices to drive change for the better.

      Image by rawpixel from Pixabay