How office managers can push their company towards ecological responsibility

Line Itani
Growth Analyst

Just as our world is going through rapid changes on technological, social, and recently sanitary levels, so are consumer behaviours and expectations. In turn, this also affects the way we do business, as 77% of consumers say they would be more willing to purchase from a company that has shown commitment to contribute to greater social, economic, and environmental good, according to this report from Aflac.  

Office managers, at the heart of CSR

More than ever today, Corporate Social Responsibility is hitting an all-time high. Companies can no longer afford to ignore their duty towards their employees, clients, and society as a whole.

While some companies have already established CSR teams that develop elaborate goals and strategies, many organizations still lag behind with no clear plan in the horizon. In such cases, and where there is a will for change, office managers have a great part to play in paving the road towards responsibility. Their pivotal role as a link between administration and employees makes them the perfect candidate to help shape corporate culture.

The following suggests ways for office managers to fulfil this crucial role as the spark that ignites the fire of CSR.

Pinpoint your major carbon emitting operations

While most companies account and report on emissions from their direct operations, emissions along the value chain, called Scope 3 emissions, can represent up to 70% of a company's greenhouse gas impacts, according to Climate-KIC.

Going beyond operational emissions and energy use, Scope 3 emissions encompass purchased goods and services, waste generation, as well as investments and choice of technologies.

As an office manager pushing to implement a CSR strategy, you should therefore study your company's value chain as a whole, identifying the main sources of emission. Do your research to construct a first inventory and identify the key areas where your company can better perform.

Reach out to other department heads

In companies with complex value chains, or various types of offerings, office managers might realize that a superficial research into their company's emissions will prove insufficient. Do not hesitate to invite other department heads into your investigation.

Team leaders will in fact have a better overview of their department's activities and their potential emissions, offering you a more insightful and granular view to complete your report. This step will not only be essential during the preliminary research phase, but also in eventual solution-finding and implementation.

Once your CSR project becomes a company-wide matter to look into, you will also be able to include it in your organization's corporate governance. A good CSR plan makes its way to company policy, making it more legitimate and possibly more implementable.  

Come up with a clear plan to grow closer to Net Zero

Once your areas of carbon emissions are identified, make sure to design attainable goals, which grow to become more ambitious along the way. Some key areas you might want to consider when developing these goals are those put together by Climate-KIC:

  • Supplier engagement/procurement

Company suppliers can play an important role in its carbon footprint, attempt to push towards more responsible procurement to impact your value chain.

  • Product service design

Materials and design choices ultimately determine the product’s lifecycle emissions. The longer a product's lifespan is, the smaller the overall impact.

  • Operational practices

In other words: how the company operated internally. Examples could be biking to work, or meeting virtually instead of travelling to do meet in person.

  • Business model innovation

Rethinking and enforcing business models that move away from continuous and unlimited production towards an understanding with customers on a more conscious way to consume.

  • Customer engagement

Using gamification, and consumer engagement with the brand to control how products are used in a more responsible manner.

The ultimate goal of an ecologically responsible strategy is to grow closer to net zero carbon. There are different approaches you can take in dealing with carbon emissions: you can go for either insetting, offsetting, or a combination of both.

Insetting means reviewing, as suggested above, the carbon emissions from ongoing value chain operations through different ways of operating, opting for sustainable options where possible or even reducing some carbon-intensive activities. Offsetting, on the other hand, involves making up for irreducible carbon emissions post-operation through environmental projects. We've put together a list of the best carbon offsetting companies that could help you implement the latter in a simple and efficient way.

Make it a team effort

While as an office manager, you will have the responsibility of putting the project together, do not forget to frame your goals as a collective end. A plan towards eco-responsibility is only viable if all stakeholders are on board. Encourage department heads you've collaborated with to include their teams or do so yourself if the organization is a small one, making going green a company-wide team effort.

This will give the entirety of your team ownership of -and responsibility towards- your ambitious project. Allow co-workers to suggest new approaches, incite them to think of their own activities and how they can optimize them, driving them towards a holistic understanding of CSR. This will allow you to share your success as a team when goals are achieved, building stronger bonds within the organization, and opening up doors to more challenges along the way.

CSR leaders can even go beyond their own team and reach out to other players, creating a network of partners to develop specific CSR goals with, joining powers to create real impact and communicate about it.

Communicate your successes

Just as internal communication with relevant stakeholders is important, as mentioned above, so is external communication. Today, consumers are increasingly veering towards responsible brands that are socially and environmentally engaged. In order to develop a loyal community of clients, companies must thus have a "raison d'être" linked to their actions, as AFTM president Michel Dieleman puts it.

This is why sharing your organization's work towards a better society plays an important role in shaping your brand's image, especially in business-to-consumer industries, where customers are more CSR-sensitive, as found by Boston University professor Caroline Flammer. As a cherry on top, communication about CSR results not only attracts clients, it also gives more responsibility to your team in achieving its set goals, as well as helps attract and retain talent.

CSR, beyond environmental responsibility

While environmental responsibility is a large sub-category of CSR, it is essential to keep in mind that the latter is not solely limited to these actions. As society evolves, so does corporate responsibility towards it. Diversity of gender, race, and capacities is another factor to keep in mind in your CSR approach, for example.

Recent events, for example, have shifted much of companies' CSR efforts toward Covid-related causes. CSR teams, including office managers are thus juggling multiple initiatives at once, having to distribute their company's attributed budget on multiple projects.

That said, CSR initiatives should, just as companies would, adapt swiftly to the changes in their environment. An organization's CSR strategy must thus remain agile, ensuring business and responsibility go hand in hand, and grow with the world's changes.  

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