HRM Five: Greener workplaces

In this year of Climate Action, here are ways that HR can work with their organisations and employees to help protect the planet.
By: | May 20, 2018

Yamini Chinnuswamy offers five important points on everything you wanted to know about HR practices today, but were too afraid to ask. Check out previous editions of HRM Five here.


Unless action is taken, parts of Asia are expected to be too hot to inhabit by the end of the century. Tropical storms, droughts, and wildfires will ravage many places across the continent, and also in the rest of the world.

Accordingly, Singapore has designated 2018 to be the Year of Climate Action, and will work with fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to reduce energy intensity and renewable energy use within the region.

Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Masagos Zulkifli noted that “the Government cannot do it alone”, and has encouraged organisations, educational institutions, and individuals to join in the Climate Action Pledge.

If your organisation would like to join in the effort, here five sustainable practices for HR to consider implementing in the office.


1. Raise temperatures

The MEWR suggests that office buildings with centralised air-conditioning have their set-temperatures raised by one to two degree Celsius. Air-conditioning might keep you cool in the moment inside that heat has to go somewhere – namely outside, into the rest of the environment. Some developments, such as the Nucleos property in Singapore, have also implemented district cooling systems that are up to 40% more efficient.

2. Use energy-efficient lighting and appliances

Lighting makes up a large portion of the energy consumed by the average office building. LED lights aren’t just energy-efficient alternatives – they’re also longer-lasting, don’t emit any ultraviolet radiation, and don’t emit much heat. Motion sensors can also make sure lighting is only active when necessary – your archive room or supply closet is probably empty more often than not.


3. Eliminate disposable plastic

Plastic water bottles are useful to distribute to guests or during meetings, but they’re also wasteful – people frequently take just a sip or two, before throwing them out – and largely unnecessary. Maybe consider giving reusable cups as your next bit of company swag, and keeping a stock of extras for guests. Likewise, smaller companies might want to consider French press devices or filter coffee pots over coffee pod machines – some of the premium capsules are made of aluminium, but many are mixed plastic, which cannot be recycled.


4. Encourage virtual working

In this digital age, organisations have more options than ever for all sorts of enterprise software – including virtual meeting platforms. Rather than having employees travel between worksites, consider pushing for workplace policies that prioritise virtual meetings. These also save time and money. To further reduce the carbon footprint, organisations can also encourage workers to work from home occasionally. Some offices also charge a high premium for parking, so as to discourage workers from driving in.


5. Go hard on recycling

Companies that don’t already have a go-green or paperless initiative in place are outliers, but unless you make it harder for people to be wasteful, old habits will die hard. HR can consider ordering only chlorine-free recycled paper along with recycled toner, configuring printers to print in draft mode by default, giving colour printing access only to those who need it, or implementing departmental printing quotas.