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  • Writer's pictureThe Just Audit team

Part 5: The role of a sustainability ambassador



Can I justify having someone in this role?

The role of a sustainability ambassador is likely (unless your organisation is large) to take up an agreed amount of time within an existing role. There are some very strong reasons to allocate part of someone’s time to promoting sustainability in the workplace: personal development, business cost savings and for your company’s own contribution to looking after the environment.

 

Having people within your organisation who contribute in other ways is an interesting concept. Their recruited job function is the main priority of course but to encourage other interests or skills alongside it has lots of benefits. Getting the balance of time is important but it can work if it suits everyone.

 

What might they actually do?

Part 2 of this series “Creating a sustainability culture” highlights many of the practical aspects of being a sustainability ambassador and is a good place to start.

 

The role is twofold: raising awareness and encouraging buy-in from everyone in the business; through to introducing practical schemes to help everyone operate in a more mindful way, reducing waste and saving money.

 

Raising awareness can be done through posters, internal newsletters, lunchtime events, charity support and helpful notices at strategic ‘stop and think’ places such as bins, light switches and exit points. Staff awareness events and initiatives can be fun with an element of competitiveness included to drive energy and create team spirit.

 

For practical change, some research and simple cost-savings analysis is a good place to start – from simple lightbulb swaps to more sophisticated policy updates such as using electric vehicle company cars and other cultural shifts. Being mindful about where products are sourced can also play an important part – from canteen teabags to key suppliers to your organisation.

 

How does the business benefit?

There is a cost savings aspect to sustainability. By working towards reducing waste and resources there is a focus on saving. This could mean mending, not throwing away; turning lights off when they’re not needed; reducing the heat by just a few degrees to save electricity; starting a scrap paper pile next to the photocopier; reducing food waste, introducing a recycling scheme for office stationery and furniture and similar.

 

The initiatives don’t have to be work-related. You could start a book-swap or add a buy/sell section to your staff newsletter to encourage recycling and an ‘avoid the bin’ mindset.

 

If you are a business with an interest in corporate social responsibility your sustainability ambassador might take working parties outside to help in the community as part of the agenda. Such community days are increasingly being seen on the calendars of businesses of all sizes, usually where the teams create themselves and go to help where they know it’s needed. It’s a powerful way to show the caring, nurturing side to your company – this helps with recruitment and marketing of course.

 

Bringing in the angle of sustainability unites everyone. It’s not just relevant to one set of people. It can be an important focus for everyone, whatever their role.

 

Personal development

Case study (slightly off topic but highly relevant!): At Just Audit we have the wonderful Karen Lewchenko who has been with us for over ten years. She is an experienced and focused senior manager. However she is also our mental health and well-being first-aider. By encouraging and supporting Karen’s passion for mental well-being, she has another dimension at work that plays to her strengths, builds bonds with the team and allows us, as an organisation, to introduce an aspect of care that is valued and important to us all. The same also works for managing sustainability at work.

 

What next?

We’d recommend your ambassador starts with an assessment of where the business is now and what change you’d like to see, and by when. Asking for company-wide input for the longer-term goals as well as quick-win ideas is a key part of attracting buy-in and engagement. Putting a timeline against a large, ongoing project like this helps to break it down into manageable tasks.

 

Depending on the size of your business, your ambassador might like to recruit additional team members to help filter the message through every department and to assist with the work involved.

 

We’d love to know if you do this already or are thinking about it. A case study would be so useful for us and others to read about. Let us know!

 

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