15Feb2019

Sustainable development in the workplace menu?

On Wednesday 6 February, CLC and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra organised an event Workplace Menu on Sustainable Workplaces related to workplace climate activities. The keynote speaker in the event was Dr. Vanessa Timmer, the Executive Director of One Earth, a Vancouver, Canada-based environmental ‘think and do tank’ creating and imagining sustainable ways of living. Vanessa is also one of the authors of the UN Environment report ”Sustainable lifestyles: Options and opportunities in the workplace”. The report outlines how workplaces can support and motivate their employees and customers towards more sustainable lifestyles.

Vanessa presented various ways to promote sustainable lifestyles in our choices related to eating, mobility, consumption, living and leisure activities. The UN report lists over a hundred alternatives for a sustainable lifestyle such as decreasing food waste, favouring a low-carbon diet and public transport as well as encouraging environmentally friendly travelling and other leisure activities.

Vanessa emphasised that sustainable choices aren’t necessarily boring, but we can also enjoy life while not burdening our environment. To demonstrate how we can see things from a new perspective, she showed us a video called Dear Meat.

Many companies have already combined the goals of sustainable development and occupational wellbeing by offering their employees teleworking opportunities and organising various activities in the workplace, such as massage, yoga classes or even vegetarian cooking courses. Birthday and retirement parties can also be celebrated by giving the person unforgettable experiences rather than tangible gifts.

In the Zero Emissions Day last year, many CLC member organisations promoted climate activities among their staff. Hanna Pihkola from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd and Tomi Lehikoinen from IBM told us about the ways their companies motivated the employees. At VTT, climate activities are combined with occupational wellbeing by favouring cycling. TestEat research and pilot project restaurant was opened in IBM’s Munkkiniemi premises in Helsinki for purposes such as testing the use of artificial intelligence in decreasing food waste. The restaurant is open for everybody, not just IBM staff.

Eeva Helström from Sitra told us about the ways Sitra has systematically studied how Sitra’s vision and everyday choices in the workplace can be linked with UN’s sustainable development goals. No meat is served in Sitra’s events and employees’ flight carbon footprint is compensated.

Pia Björkbacka from the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK presented a sustainable development training for workplaces and training material provided by SAK. There are still businesses that fail to understand the importance of sustainable development training even if it would benefit both employers and employees.

Matti Kahra from the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK pointed out that accommodating sustainable development in business actually boosts competitiveness. He summarised the options for the Finnish business environment very effectively: in twelve years’ time, the business environment for Finnish companies will be either a global economy with -45% emissions or a global economy adapting to about 2C warming. From a business point of view, it is therefore important to understand both the risks brought on by climate change and the business opportunities created by climate change mitigation.

The event ended with workshops discussing how the workplace can support the climate-friendly lifestyles of employees and what kind of practices and guidelines would be necessary.

CLC is establishing a member network focusing on employee experience from the perspective of climate change mitigation. The invitation for the first meeting will soon be on its way. All members are warmly welcome to join the network and participate in the Zero Emissions Day campaigns on 20-21 September 2019.

The presentations are available at Sitra’s website.


Further information:

Employee experience network: Kaisa Hernberg, kaisa.hernberg(at)clc.fi

Zero Emissions Day: Sari Siitonen, sari.siitonen(at)clc.fi

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  • 15 Feb, 2019
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