Tips for Communicating Workplace Sustainability Policies Questions and Answers

When communicating workplace sustainability policies, there are two things you need to ensure

you do. List them in the table below, then give a brief description of what they involve.

Implementing Workplace Sustainability Policy

Developing and communicating procedures to help implement workplace sustainability policy

Once a sustainability policy has been formulated, you need to determine the best approach to implementation. Are there to be radical chanced made in a short time frame, or will policies be implemented more gradually using a staged approach? You also need to consider the issues and constraints that affect your business, for example:

  • How much change can your business accept?
  • Do you have the necessary resources available? (People, equipment, money)?
  • Will you need to engage outside contractors to assist you with information and training sessions?
  • Are there any time constraints within which you must work e.g. don’t make substantial changes during busy periods?
  • Are there any environmental constraints (seasonal variations) within which you must work? “Planning a staged approach to implementation allows you to:
  • Break the implementation down into ‘bite size chunks’ or stages. For each stage:
    • Item is the resources required (people, equipment, tools, training, machinery, expertise, modifications to equipment )
    • Cost each item
    • Confirm resource availability or when the resource will be available (lead time)
    • Identify potential benefits. Where possible, provide a potential cost saving for the benefit (e.g. avoided costs, increased production/profit)
    • Determine the tasks to be completed, who will complete the task, duration of each task and any dependencies between tasks
    • Prepare an implementation plan based on the above to determine the overall duration of the stage
  • Assess the costs and benefits of each stage and determine which ones will give you the ‘most bang for your buck’
  • Implement the stages in a logical sequence so that you are gradually building your skills and capabilities
  • Monitor progress and decide whether the program is working and fine tune along the ”

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Developing procedures to help implement your ESP is a real challenge and may involve some hard work and serious commitment.

Everyone in the organisation will need to have a clear understanding of what is being worked towards, why and how. Policies, procedures and practices all need to be adjusted and committed to.

Develop Procedures

The following information provides you with some example of the types of procedures that have been shown to be effective when implementing an ESP:

  • Appoint sustainability representatives – staff who volunteer to promote and champion sustainability initiatives and work among their colleagues to promote and implement
  • Use prompts – a prompt is a reminder to act. A note attached above light switches that reads ‘Please turn off the light when not in use’ is a prompt. A bar graph on a water bill showing energy use is a prompt.
  • Host an annual sustainability
  • Incorporate sustainability into building
  • Choose an appropriate energy
  • Develop a ‘preferred suppliers’
  • Train and educate staff and other
  • Develop an environmentally sustainable purchasing


Environmentally sustainable purchasing policy

Aim: to continuously reduce demand for materials and resources


Evaluate existing inputs using a life cycle management approach Procure goods and services from environmentally sustainable suppliers (e.g. goods and services that are reusable, recyclable and use renewable forms of energy during production, transport, delivery and use)


Communicate Procedures

A range of means can be used to communicate implementation procedures, such as information sessions or discussions during meetings. Training should be held for those stakeholders who will be responsible for delivering the environmental outcomes. These stakeholders will usually be team leaders, executives and staff.

The communication methods, whether formal or informal, aim to provide a clear message about implementing sustainability initiatives. Developing a communication plan that reflects the nature of the organisation, particularly factors such as size, structure and culture, will be important. Consider matters such as:

  • what you aim to achieve from the communication
  • general principles (matters the organisation regards as important with respect to communication, including ethics and values)
  • the most appropriate communication

The type of information you communicate may include:

  • what is required of people in relation to implementing sustainability initiatives
  • the roles of individuals within the organisation with respect to sustainability policy
  • procedures and practices for how sustainability initiatives can be implemented
  • organisational culture and organisational

Implementing strategies for continuous improvement in resource efficiency

Now let’s assume that you have implemented your sustainability program. What now? Can you take the approach of ‘set and forget’?

To some extent, sustainability programs are in a constant state of implementation. Practices need to be constantly monitored and reviewed to ensure that the program is meeting your objectives.

Remember too that new ideas and technologies are constantly emerging that may be of benefit to your center.

This is a cycle of continuous improvement. Monitoring is the regular gathering and analysis of information needed for your day-to-day management, to ensure a system is being implemented and expected outcomes/objectives are being achieved.

Without good record keeping and monitoring, it is difficult for a business to accurately determine if system requirements are being met. This is especially important when there are multiple participants/staff. Monitoring needs to be based on a realistic but effective system suited to your business needs. Firstly you must be clear about:

  • What it is you are monitoring
  • The decisions you want to be able to make using the monitoring results
  • The information you need to collect to make these decisions Then you need a system that enables you to:
  • Collect the information easily that you need
  • Use it to make decisions You must also decide if:
  • You will manage all of this yourself, include staff, or use a consultant

Over the years there has been criticism leveled at environmental sustainability systems. Critics have pointed out that the systems do not ensure an organisation improves its performance. This may be the case for certain types of environmental sustainability systems, but not all. An environmental sustainability system that does not incorporate continuous improvement will not be effective.

ISO 14001 requires an organisation to engage in continuous improvement.

Throughout the Standard there are repeated references to the need for regular updating, reviewing, monitoring and checking of the system.

Implementing continuous improvement

One of the most practicable methods of achieving continuous environmental improvement is the setting of targets. The targets should be worded in a manner that ensures improvement. If the target does not require improvement, it is unlikely to be an effective or worthwhile target. The delivery of targets should occur within a given timeframe; responsibility should be allocated to ensure that the target is delivered and the targets should be reviewed at least annually to ensure they are being met. If necessary, targets should be re-set to achieve a higher level of environmental performance. This is the essence of continual improvement that can be found in nearly all environmental sustainability systems. If the targets are weak (that is, not designed well enough to achieve improvement), little improvement will occur.

Establishing and assigning responsibility to use recording systems for tracking continuous improvements in sustainability approaches

You will not know the results of your sustainability policy and procedures without being able to track the actual results of those changes. You’ve already established a baseline for how effective your business’s sustainability was before implementation of sustainability policies and procedures. Now you want to know the results of those policies and procedures. That can only be accomplished by comparing your ongoing activities with the baseline.

It is critically important that your methods of recording are accurate and consistent. A change of personnel recording the data can throw off your results, as people don’t all record things in the same way or to the same level of accuracy. Therefore, it is important that specific personnel be assigned the task of recording sustainability data.

If possible, arrange for the data on your measurements to be computerized. This can either be computerized in the method of gathering or in the method of reporting. Some things, like the amount of money your company pays for copier paper or electricity bills, are best accomplished by checking the results of accounting’s records. Others, like the amount of recyclables collected in the lunch room, will have to be manually recorded. Even so, by having that data online, you simplify the process of getting that data from the person who gathers it to your desktop.

What you are looking for in this data is continuous improvement, not a quick jump in statistics. That quick jump would probably indicate an error, more than an improvement. On the other hand, a steady continuous improvement would indicate that company personnel are accepting and implementing the sustainability policy and procedures.

Be open to the idea of changing your procedures mid-stream. While having a plan is important and it is also important to follow that plan; it is also important to be able to recognize when it is time to leave that plan behind and go on to better things.

It is quite possible that through the course of implementing your sustainability plan and procedures that you will encounter ways that you can improve on the plan. Don’t be surprised by this, and certainly don’t dismiss those ideas out of hand.

The trick is more in determining when would be the appropriate time to implement those additional changes. Some can be implemented immediately, especially simple changes. Others will require testing and preparation before making another change.

Systems for tracking environmental information are necessary because they help ensure that continuous improvement is achieved. This information can then be used for reporting to managers and other stakeholders. For example, tracking energy consumption by recording energy use information from an energy account will provide a picture of energy use patterns. A tracking system can be very simple, using organisation-wide data and basic formulas, and then entering this information into a spreadsheet. A variety of charts can be embedded into spreadsheets to provide a visual tracking mechanism.

Your tracking system can also be more detailed, with separate spreadsheets for different departments within the organisation.

Sustainability Victoria have developed an ‘Energy and greenhouse management toolkit’ that is free to download and use. This toolkit contains software to assist organisations to track and monitor energy consumption, greenhouse gases and minimise energy costs. The software is called ‘Energy Smart Tracker’ and is available at the following web site:

Your ESP should stipulate who will be responsible for using recording systems to track continuous improvements in sustainability approaches, and this responsibility must be clearly communicated to the relevant person/s, to ensure they are fully aware of what is required, and any reporting timelines.

Case study: Implement policy Mei

Once things are underway, how do you go about getting feedback? Peter at OI Glass says it’s easy.



The simple answer to that is that the door was always open to guys. It didn’t mean necessarily the office, it meant, stop talk to me, feed it back through whichever way you want. No idea is too silly or too left field. Let’s talk about your thoughts. All we ask of the people was ‘give it some thought, don’t come with a problem, come with an opportunity’ – the difference between the two is one says you’ve given it some thought of how we can address the issue, second one and probably more important, the fact you’re raising it says to me that you want to be involved in the process.



Tania, at Thales, a small arms manufacturer in Lithgow, also encouraged people to talk.



We encouraged feedback by trying to put a positive spin on sustainability and what it meant to people and how important it was to consider the environment. It’s very hard when you’re working with a factory that has people who have worked there 20, 30 plus years, and that are used to doing


things the same way and they don’t understand why they should need to change, so you really need to put the positive spin on what the benefits are to them and to the organisation and to the environment, but especially to them as employees, because they need to see the need to be able to change, why they should change.



Trish, at a PVC manufacturer in Melbourne, wanted people living nearby to have a voice in policy.



The way we tried to encourage feedback, was basically by providing the information to the community group in particular and then by providing the information to the SHE committee and asking for their feedback and comments, prior to actually publishing the documents. Sometimes we received feedback on various different aspects, sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes we don’t get a lot of interest in some of these areas. One of the things we did to try and understand exactly where people were about a year ago now, was to actually ask the business to complete a survey on sustainability – and that focused on what people thought sustainability was, what particular items were worrying them going forward – either where they were living, where they were working, in society in general – what their level of understanding was.



While Michael tried to get feedback on a personal level.



A lot of communication was done. Part of that communication was getting feedback and questions – how is it going to affect me, what are we going to do, how is it going to change my job – a lot of questions on that came up and had to be answered. We continue that process – part of sustainability is having a very open culture, so every quarter we have a formal feedback session to our employees and we also take questions back from them, making sure they have a way to express what they think, whether we’re doing enough or not enough in some aspects of our business. That works very well with staff.


On the shop floor we do it more through a toolbox type meeting, more or less every week where we communicate what we’re doing with sustainability, get feedback and suggestions from them because we feel that on the shop floor it’s easier to have a shorter cycle – people respond better if they have an idea they can express that idea almost immediately rather than thinking about it for the future.


So yes, that two-way engagement is very, very important – measuring engagement of our  employees as well is part of the process.



You also should make records of any improvements.



Continuous improvement by using Lean 6 Sigma tools for cost reduction, optimisation of resources, those sorts of things and linking them with reduction of waste under the lean process.

The tool is basically used to save costs, simple as that, optimise your costs. The lean side of it is


about waste. That can be processed waste, physical waste, it can be time, any of those elements. When you combine both of them, you have the best of both worlds. You look at the process, look at the waste you can remove, that normally will have an advantage. Whilst you’re looking at the Lean 6 Sigma tools side of it, you’re also looking to improve the process and streamline it at the same time. This site is committed to $3.4 million in savings this year from Lean 6 Sigma tools and we’ll achieve them.



Trish, also documents improvements.



There’s one section within the sustainability plan, and it’s actually the final of the eleven priority areas from the PACIA sustainability leadership framework – and it is the accountability section. So it’s all about making sure that we report information, we constantly set targets, and that those targets improve, and we constantly then report on the new targets going forward, and we report that information publicly through our sustainability reports, and we also commit to providing feedback to PACIA as well about how we’re doing. So that element in itself is really all about the continuous improvement aspects. It’s all about being accountable to the community.



At Michael’s workplace – they have a very clear system of charts that tell everyone about improvements.



When you go around our factories you see a lot of visual management around the place, how production is going and the next products coming onto the machine, whether the five S’s has been conducted on that specific piece of equipment and been signed off by the operator. Feedback about how much material is used compared to what we should have used. All that is visual. Our safety record is very visual as well. We have what we call the safety cross which means that every month we try to get a cross made out of 30 or 31 squares and every day, if we have an accident-free day a green square goes in there, if we have an accident a red square goes in there. The objective of course for everybody, very visual again, is to finish the month with a green cross.



And health, safety and environment are all important parts of sustainability. You want to record all the improvements you make – even if they aren’t improvements all the time. That way you can work out what is an improvement and what isn’t. So make sure you record this information in a clearly readable form.



The safety, health, environment and property protection tool – a number of the questions are: ‘What are the targets you have set?’; ‘What is the mechanism you have in place to achieve it?’; ‘How do we know that it’s working?’; ‘Where is it documented?’; ‘Show me the results’.

Environment – we have an environmental management system database, where we track issues, opportunities, periodic actions, or agreed improvements that we’re going to work through.



We use a variety of record systems on site, including corrective and preventative action forms, which are then put into a database, so that we can then analyse and track progress and performance.

We have several different types of reporting which are used to track continuous improvement, including annual management review meetings with our executive level management, we have monthly business group meetings and a quarterly national HSE national plan review.

We also use internal and external auditing to track continuous improvement.



We record a number of different measures within our business, and a lot of those measures are associated with the collection of some raw data, so things like the amount of water we use to make a tonne of PVC, the amount of greenhouse gas we generate to make a tonne of PVC, we track all of those different inputs into our business.



Michael has an interesting way of choosing who drives improvements on the factory floor.



Some were volunteers. People who are interested in it and take more initiative than others. But also we have some clear responsibility, some whose role is about continuous improvement. Like on the factory floor we have two people who are trained in lean technology, lean principles and lean tools and who support all those initiatives with the methodology and the tools. So all our managers are trained and well aware of the lean philosophy and the lean tools and continuous improvement – it’s very much part of the way we operate on a daily basis.



It’s also really important for staff to know what their responsibilities are with your policy. They have to know what you expect them to do.



Within peoples’ job description, they have individual responsibility for their job, but they also have site responsibilities and corporate responsibilities – within those sustainability is one area, continuous improvement is another area, quality is another area, financial viability is another area – so everybody has them within their job description at certain levels. Quality is an example – everybody has that. The argument is ‘how do I affect quality here?’ – ‘I don’t produce bottles’ – true statement, but if I put the culture right in place, the quality will improve. We’ll have attendance there, we won’t be repeating mistakes, we will have the waste right, we will have the process right.



We assigned responsibilities to the HSE representatives. It’s important for them to be able to gain assistance in putting in those continuous improvement initiatives within those areas and to keep the momentum going.


We also invite assistance from anyone who might be interested, we hold toolbox talks once a week. I often go along to them and we use them as a conversational forum and invite people’s feedback, and if people are particularly excited about a particular project, we invite them to come along.

So there’s a mix of formal and informal support for continuous improvement on site.




So you see, if you treat your staff well, they’ll really make your life a lot easier. Your policy will turn into real action on the factory floor. Are you a good manager of people?

Think about it.