How workplaces can boost the fight against climate change

An employee completing office tasks on her laptop. [Getty Images]

In the face of an ever-worsening climate crisis, it is becoming increasingly evident that we all must take decisive action to address climate change. With global temperatures rising, extreme weather events becoming more frequent, and ecosystems facing irreparable damage, individuals and organisations alike are being called upon to do their part in curbing the adverse effects of human activities on the environment.

The workplace serves as a significant platform for implementing eco-friendly practices that can collectively make a substantial impact on climate change. From small offices to large corporations, embracing sustainability not only lessens a company's ecological footprint but also benefits its bottom line and corporate image.

One of the most impactful steps a workplace can take is to prioritise energy efficiency. In recent times, Kenya has been grappling with a significant challenge - the relentless surge in electricity costs. As households and businesses alike feel the pinch of escalating energy prices, the implications reverberate across various sectors of the economy. Switching to energy-saving lighting, optimising Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, and encouraging the use of natural light are all effective ways to reduce electricity consumption. Additionally, incorporating renewable energy sources like solar panels can help organisations transition towards cleaner power alternatives.

Additionally, embracing the principles of the circular economy is a transformative way for organisations to combat climate change. The traditional linear economic model of "take, make, dispose" is unsustainable, leading to resource depletion, waste generation, and environmental degradation. In contrast, the circular economy model aims to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of products through repair, refurbishment, and recycling.

Workplaces can implement circular economy practices by designing products with longer lifespans, incorporating recycled materials into manufacturing processes, and establishing systems for product take-back and end-of-life recycling. At Jubilee Insurance, we are taking a proactive approach in encouraging the circular economy by simple practices such as doing away with disposable cups and instead opting for use of water bottles.

These simple approaches remind me of Wangari Maathai's parable "Hummingbird." The parable tells of a forest fire and how animals flee in panic, except for a tiny hummingbird who keeps flying to the nearby river, picking up droplets of water in its beak, and dropping them onto the fire. When asked by the other animals why it bothers, the hummingbird responds, "I am doing what I can." This story encapsulates Prof Maathai's philosophy of individual action in the face of overwhelming challenges. She believed that every person could make a difference, no matter how small their actions might seem.

By adopting this approach, workplaces can significantly reduce their environmental impact and contribute to a more sustainable future while fostering innovation and job creation in the circular economy sector. Another noteworthy source of greenhouse gas emissions is transportation. Commuting to work by single-occupancy vehicles contributes to traffic congestion and air pollution. Encouraging employees to use public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk to work not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also fosters a sense of collective responsibility among coworkers.

Workplaces can incentivise sustainable commuting by offering subsidies for public transportation passes, providing secure bike storage and shower facilities for cyclists, or implementing flexible work schedules that allow employees to avoid peak commuting hours. Additionally, adopting remote work options when feasible can reduce the need for daily commutes altogether, leading to significant carbon emissions savings.

Implementing green policies and initiatives within the workplace can also demonstrate a company's commitment to sustainability and inspire positive changes in employees' behaviour. Policies aimed at reducing paper usage, banning single-use plastics, and supporting local, sustainable suppliers can have a meaningful impact on a company's environmental footprint.

Encouraging employees to take part in sustainability initiatives such as tree planting events, or volunteering with environmental organisations, can foster a sense of purpose and pride in the workplace community. Moreover, companies can collaborate with non-profit organisations to support environmental projects and invest in carbon offset programmes to neutralise their remaining emissions.

On a national level, Kenya's determination to combat climate change is evident in its ambitious goals to become carbon neutral by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This dual-pronged strategy underscores the country's commitment not only to offsetting carbon emissions but also to addressing a wider array of greenhouse gases in its net-zero target.

To achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, Kenya is focusing on expanding renewable energy capacities, particularly solar and wind power, and enhancing energy efficiency across sectors. Afforestation and reforestation efforts play a key role in bolstering carbon sinks through reforestation and ecosystem restoration.

Looking toward net-zero emissions by 2050, Kenya recognises the necessity for more aggressive actions, including advanced carbon capture and storage technologies and shifts in land use and industry practices.
In these endeavours, carbon credits play a pivotal role. Carbon credits enable individuals, companies, or countries to invest in emission-reduction projects like renewable energy installations or reforestation initiatives. These projects generate carbon credits that can be sold to entities seeking emission offsets. This system fosters emissions mitigation and sustainable practices.

Climate change is not solely the responsibility of workplaces; individual efforts play a crucial role as well. Employees can actively participate in the fight against climate change by adopting sustainable habits both at work and in their personal lives.

The battle against climate change is complex, but if workplaces and individuals come together to prioritise sustainability, there is hope for a greener future.