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Culture is key to create sustainable offices

Discussions about sustainability in the workplace often stay in the meeting room, which means ideas and suggestions quickly become forgotten. At Coor, we believe it is critical to provide sustainable options that support your colleagues to build a culture that really makes a difference to the offices of the future.

Coor continuously works alongside its collaboration partners to develop new working methods and introduce innovations that increase sustainability on a broad front. However, introducing changes in the workplace means that employees need to be offered alternative solutions in an appropriate manner. 

“Involving your employees in the journey is key. This needs to be done with a positive twist that increases employee understanding of why it is important to contribute to the sustainability work. This is what creates a real change,” Trine Hagfors, Head of Advisory at Coor Norway, explains. 

New lease of life for office furniture  

Many workplaces frequently replace the office furniture, following renovations or just to update the interior. However, it is relatively simple to give the office a facelift using existing furniture. This also leaves room for discussion with your colleagues to find out about their needs and wishes relating to office furniture. From a sustainability perspective, there are many advantages associated with considering the specific conditions that you’re working with. 

“We try to ask ourselves whether it is possible to move existing furniture around the office to give it new functionality. The aim is not to discard any furniture at all if it is still usable. A worn-out office chair can be reupholstered to give it a new lease on life,” Trine Hagfors continues. 

However, some office materials are more difficult to refurbish or give a new lease on life. For example, technical equipment such as computers can become outdated quickly. Systems upgrades mean that hardware needs to be replaced frequently. This can make tech waste management less than straightforward.  

“It is possible to recycle a great deal of tech, but you’re not always in control of what happens to this type of equipment. It is important to work alongside local operators who know how to recycle old technology. This is an area where we intend to improve. 

Plant-based alternatives 

Staff restaurants and canteens provide some clear examples of areas where the sustainability work can yield results quickly. Offering plant-based meals provides an alternative that reduces the volume of red meat consumed—well known for its substantial climate footprint.    

“If you suddenly stop serving traditional home-cooked meals this can be perceived as negative. Plant-based alternatives that resemble meat tell a story and involve the guests in the sustainability work,” Trine Hagfors explains. 

Within the framework of the project Food Revolution, Coor seeks to capture the guests’ experiences of the food being served. When new dishes are introduced, it is important to find out how they are perceived. 

“The “Foodback” system allows guests to leave feedback about the food they just had. You scan a QR code with your mobile and answer five questions about the food,” Trine Hagfors explains. 

Food waste has been a challenging problem for some time. Staff restaurants throw away large volumes of food left on plates. Information about the volume of food thrown away has become a way of increasing guest awareness of the problem. 

“Guests and kitchen staff can all contribute to reducing food waste. This is about not taking more than you intend to eat from the buffet, but also about making sure all parts of the raw materials are used during food preparation. 

“We have a reasonably good understanding of our food waste and have worked to reduce it for several years. This means that we can inform guests of the exact quantities of food thrown away and seeing the change over time is helpful. You can involve guests by keeping them continuously updated about food waste via screens in the restaurant. This allows guests to take more responsibility themselves and become more engaged in minimizing waste,” Trine continues. 

Culture increases sustainability  

Making sustainability part of the corporate culture helps to involve employees in the work and creates a shared understanding about why it is important to consider the environment, Trine explains. According to her, one way of introducing this culture in the workplace is to increase the visibility of your corporate sustainability work in a way that invites employees to join in. 

“Naturally, managers and leaders need to participate in this work and inspire their colleagues, but the employees also need to be invited to come along on the journey. What we actually encounter in our daily lives is what creates a genuine change in corporate culture. Everyone that works at Coor needs to be an ambassador for sustainability,” Trine Hagfors concludes.