What is a sustainable workplace culture: How it impacts your workplace engagement in 2024

15 min read
Employees are nurturing a giant plant
What is a sustainable workplace culture: How it impacts your workplace engagement in 2024

What if there was a company culture where every decision—from the coffee cups in the breakroom to the energy sources powering your office—is made with sustainability in mind?

That's the essence of sustainable workplace culture—a mindset prioritizing social equity, and economic viability in all business operations.

But it's more than just compost bin and green initiatives; it's about fostering a holistic company's culture where employees feel empowered to make a difference, both within the business and beyond its walls, as most business leaders.

It's about creating a sense of purpose and belonging beyond the nine-to-five grind. A lifecycle survey, paired with the 1:1 conversations you've been having with your team can definitely guide you in workplace sustainability initiatives, and strategic thinking for the good of your business.

This blog will take you through A-Z of workplace sustainability, so you just have to choose what works for you and get started.

What is a sustainable workplace culture?

Employees are watering a plant that's inside a globe shaped pot
What is a sustainable workplace culture?

At its core, it is about fostering a culture where employees feel empowered to make a difference, both within the business and in the broader community.

From reducing carbon emissions and conserving resources to promoting diversity and inclusion, sustainability is integrated into everyday operations, shaping everything from corporate policies to employee behaviors.

It's a mindset that permeates every aspect of organizational life, and creating a work environment where employees are encouraged to think creatively, collaborate effectively, and act with integrity. As a people leader, you're here to lead the charge, to drive change, and to inspire others to follow suit. Sure, there will be challenges along the way. Limited budgets, skeptical colleagues, competing priorities—you name it.

Why should you care about a sustainable workplace?

Employees are being green in the workplace
Why should you care about a sustainable workplace?

Putting off creating a sustainable culture as one of your last priorities in your people strategy, as decision makers will have several negative consequences impacting both your business and the broader community.

  • Expenses skyrocket: Inefficient energy use, excessive water consumption, and improper waste management can all lead to increased expenses for utilities, materials, and fines.
  • Organization image takes a hit: A lack of commitment can damage your organization's reputation and brand image. Consumers, investors, and employees expect companies to demonstrate ethical responsibility.
  • No purpose at work: Failing to prioritize sustainability can lead to disengagement and dissatisfaction among your workforce, particularly among younger and future generations who are more likely to prioritize environmental and social issues. You can clearly see the impact when you measure employee engagement.

Sustainable workplace: 4 Benefits to know

Employees are working effectively in a green workplace
Sustainable workplace: 4 Benefits to know

To give you a micro level picture of how sustainable workplaces benefit your morale, bottom line and employee delight, let's go over some tangible benefits you will start seeing once you adopt workplace sustainability.

1. Increased cost savings

As business leaders, consider the profound impact of installing energy-efficient lighting consuming less energy. Traditional incandescent bulbs are notorious for their high energy consumption and frequent replacement needs. Energy-efficient LED lights, on the other hand, consume a fraction of the electricity and have a much longer lifespan.

This switch can drastically cut down on energy bills and maintenance costs. For example, companies that have transitioned to LEDs often see a reduction in lighting costs significantly. Over time, these savings accumulate, providing a considerable boost to the organization's financial health.

Recycling programs also offer substantial financial benefits. Offices typically generate a significant amount of waste, from paper and packaging to electronics and furniture. Implementing a comprehensive recycling program reduces the costs associated with waste disposal.

Beyond the direct benefits, there are additional financial incentives to consider. Many governments and local authorities offer grants, tax breaks, and subsidies to businesses that implement these practices.

2. Improved company culture

Employees today are increasingly seeking purpose and meaning in their work, looking for opportunities to contribute to something larger than themselves. They want to know that their efforts make a positive impact on the world around them.

This shift in employee expectations presents a significant opportunity for business. By fostering a sustainable organizational culture in the workplace, businesses can greatly enhance employee morale, and retention.

A sustainable organizational culture aligns the values of the organization with those of its employees. When employees see that their company is committed to reducing its environmental footprint, promoting social responsibility, and driving positive change, they feel proud to be part of that business.

This sense of alignment and shared purpose can lead to higher levels of engagement and commitment. It'll be evident in the answers you get for your employee engagement survey questions. Employees are more likely to go above and beyond in their roles when they believe their work is contributing to a greater good.

3. Attraction and retention of talent

When businesses demonstrate a commitment to reducing their environmental footprint, supporting social justice initiatives, and fostering inclusive workplaces, they become more attractive to millennial and Gen Z job seekers.

A strong ethos can be a compelling aspect of an employer brand. Companies can highlight their sustainability efforts in job postings, career pages, and during interviews to capture the interest of environmentally and socially conscious candidates.

By sharing stories of successful sustainability projects, employee volunteerism, and corporate social responsibility achievements, businesses can create a powerful narrative, and a organizational culture that resonates with these values-driven individuals.

Reducing turnover is another significant benefit of a strong sustainable organizational culture. High employee turnover can be costly, both in terms of direct expenses like recruitment and training and indirect costs such as lost productivity and institutional knowledge.

4. Improved health and well-being

Implementing wellness programs, providing access to healthy food options, and promoting active transportation are powerful strategies that encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. These initiatives not only support the physical well-being of employees but also contribute to employee satisfaction and engagement at work, and show you as a sustainable business.

Moreover, the integration of green building features, such as natural light, indoor plants, and ergonomic workstations, can significantly enhance employee comfort, concentration, and satisfaction. These changes can have a profound impact on organizational culture and employee performance, as evidenced by regular performance reviews and employee feedback.

17 Sustainable practices for business leaders to implement in 2024

Employer standing next to a solar panel
17 Sustainable practices for business leaders to implement in 2024

1. Implement green office policies

Green office policies are essential guidelines that outline best practices for the workplace. These policies encompass a range of initiatives aimed at conserving resources, minimizing waste, promoting recycling, and adopting sustainable procurement practices.

By implementing green office policies, organizations demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability while also reaping benefits such as improved employee morale, and enhanced corporate reputation.

2. Introduce eco-friendly office design

Water conservation is an important consideration in having to embed sustainability in workplace design. Installing low-flow faucets, toilets, and showerheads can significantly reduce water usage without compromising functionality or comfort.

These fixtures limit water flow rates while still providing adequate pressure and performance, leading to substantial water savings over time. Moreover, implementing water-efficient landscaping practices, such as using native plants and drip irrigation systems, can further reduce outdoor water consumption and minimize the landscaping maintenance.

Indoor plants not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the workplace but also provide numerous benefits for environmental sustainability and employee well-being. Plants help improve indoor air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, as well as filtering out pollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air.

3. Encourage remote work and flexible scheduling

Commuting to and from the office accounts for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in many urban areas.

By allowing employees to work remotely, organizations can eliminate or reduce the need for daily commuting, thereby decreasing carbon emissions from cars, buses, and trains. Telecommuting also reduces traffic congestion and alleviates strain on transportation infrastructure, leading to smoother traffic flow and shorter commute times for those who do need to travel.

Contrary to conventional concerns, remote work arrangements often result in increased productivity and efficiency. Without the distractions and interruptions commonly found in office environments, employees can focus more deeply on their tasks and complete them in less time.

Want to strike a balance between onsite and remote working? Put employee feedback tools to use and let the responses direct you.

4. Promote sustainable transportation options

Carpooling programs encourage employees to share rides to work, reducing the number of vehicles on the road and decreasing carbon emissions. Organizations can facilitate carpooling arrangements by providing designated carpool parking spaces, coordinating ride-matching services, and offering incentives such as preferred parking spots or discounted parking fees for carpool participants.

Promoting biking and walking as viable commuting options also improves employee health and well-being. Organizations can support biking and walking initiatives by installing bike racks, shower facilities, and secure bike storage areas on-site.

Providing incentives such as bike maintenance workshops, reimbursement for bike purchases or repairs, and flexible arrival times for cyclists encourages more employees to choose active transportation modes.

Promoting the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) for commuting contributes to the transition to a low-carbon transportation system and supports renewable energy goals.

5. Embrace paperless processes

Transitioning to paperless processes in HR involves digitizing various administrative tasks and communication channels traditionally reliant on paper. For example, payroll systems can be shifted to digital platforms, allowing for direct deposits and online pay stubs instead of printed checks and paper records.

Similarly, benefits administration can be managed through digital portals, where employees can enroll, access plan information, and submit claims electronically.

Performance reviews can be conducted using online tools or software, enabling managers and employees to track progress, set goals, and provide feedback digitally. This not only streamlines the review process but also allows for easier documentation and tracking of performance metrics over time.

Additionally, employee communications, such as memos, newsletters, and announcements, can be delivered electronically via email, intranet portals, or messaging platforms, reducing the need for printed materials and postal services.

6. Launch green team initiatives

Green teams are groups of employees who are passionate about sustainability and dedicated to driving positive change within their organizations. You can facilitate the formation of green teams and support their efforts to implement these initiatives, such as waste reduction programs, energy conservation campaigns, and community outreach activities.

Forming these cross functional teams comes with a twofold benefit. Not only will it give them a higher purpose to work for, it'll bring them closer than before, which will come in handy for resolving conflicts and working together. You'll notice a shift in morale when you administer pulse survey tools to gauge your employee pulse.

7. Implement waste reduction and recycling programs

Implementing recycling bins and sorting stations throughout the workplace encourages employees to segregate recyclable materials from general waste. Providing clearly labeled bins for paper, plastic, glass, and metal ensures proper sorting and prevents contamination of recyclables.

Placing bins in strategic locations, such as near desks, break areas, and copy rooms, makes it convenient for employees to dispose of recyclable items and reduces the likelihood of recyclables ending up in the trash.

8. Support employee volunteerism and community engagement

Organizing volunteer events and service projects allows employees to donate their time and skills to support environmental initiatives and community organizations. These activities may include tree planting events, park cleanups, beach or river cleanups, habitat restoration projects, or community garden maintenance.

Launching fundraising campaigns for environmental causes and community organizations provides another avenue for employee involvement and support. Organizations can organize events such as charity walks, runs, bike rides, or bake sales to raise funds for environmental conservation projects, wildlife protection initiatives, or local community programs.

9. Integrate sustainability into performance management

Working collaboratively with managers, organizations can establish sustainability-related Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), incorporate sustainability criteria into performance evaluations, and recognize and reward employees who demonstrate environmental leadership and innovation.

Setting clear and measurable sustainability KPIs provides employees with specific targets and benchmarks to guide their efforts towards achieving environmental objectives. These KPIs may include metrics such as energy consumption reduction, waste diversion rates, carbon emissions reduction, water conservation in daily operations.

Managers can assess employees based on alignment with organizational sustainability values. Evaluating performance in areas such as eco-friendly behavior, resource efficiency, innovation in sustainability solutions, and participation in environmental projects or committees provides a holistic view of employees' contributions to environmental stewardship.

Integrate your employee engagement software with your PMS system and get one-shot results you can use in your performance discussion.

10. Create green employee benefits programs

Green employee benefits programs not only serve as mechanisms for incentivizing eco-friendly behaviors but also play a pivotal role in shaping corporate culture and identity. By actively partnering with insurance providers, wellness vendors, and other service providers, organizations signal their commitment to corporate social environmental responsibility.

This demonstration of dedication to sustainability not only fosters employee engagement and loyalty but also enhances the employer brand, show your value creation chain rooted in a nature-centered worldview, making the organization more attractive to prospective talent.

11. Engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives

Leading CSR efforts involves a multifaceted approach, beginning with the identification of priority environmental issues relevant to the organization and its stakeholders. This may include areas such as environmental conservation, social equity, employee well-being, and community development.

Once priority issues are identified, organizations set ambitious goals and targets for CSR performance, aligning these objectives with their broader mission, vision, and values.

Implementation of CSR programs and projects requires collaboration across departments and engagement with internal and external stakeholders. This may involve initiatives such as reducing carbon emissions, promoting diversity and inclusion, supporting local communities through philanthropy or volunteering, and ensuring ethical supply chain practices.

Effective CSR initiatives are characterized by transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement, with organizations regularly monitoring and reporting on their progress toward sustainability strategy.

12. Create a sustainability committee

Comprising representatives from various departments and levels of the organization, this green team brings together diverse perspectives, expertise, and insights to develop and implement effective sustainability strategies.

The sustainability committee serves as a central hub for brainstorming ideas, setting priorities, and identifying opportunities to improve sustainability performance across different sustainable business activities. By regularly assessing the organization's environmental, social, and economic impacts, the committee can identify priority sustainability issues and develop actionable plans to address them.

Moreover, the committee tracks progress toward sustainability goals, monitors key performance indicators (KPIs), and evaluates the effectiveness of implemented initiatives.

13. Celebrate Earth Day and other environmental holidays

Utilizing occasions such as World Environment Day, Earth Day, or Social Justice Day presents opportunities to raise awareness about sustainability issues and inspire action among employees. Organizing educational workshops, volunteer activities, or eco-friendly events to commemorate these important days fosters an organizational culture of environmental consciousness and collective responsibility.

14. Offer environmental training and workshops

Organizations can enhance their CSR initiatives by collaborating with experts to deliver workshops and training sessions on critical topics such as energy conservation, waste reduction, and a strong sustainable culture. These workshops empower employees with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to integrate sustainability into their daily work routines and personal lives.

By bringing in experts in environmental conservation, waste management, and sustainable development, organizations can provide valuable insights, best practices, and practical strategies for addressing sustainability challenges. These workshops not only educate employees about the importance of CSR but also inspire them to take proactive steps toward positive environmental and social impact.

15. Create a sustainable fashion policy

Organizations can establish guidelines outlining criteria for sustainable clothing, such as using organic or recycled materials and supporting fair labor practices.

Additionally, offering educational resources, workshops, or webinars on sustainable fashion trends, ethical brands, and eco-friendly clothing alternatives empowers employees to make informed decisions when purchasing apparel.

Collaborating with sustainable fashion brands, local artisans, or ethical clothing retailers allows organizations to showcase and promote eco-friendly clothing options to employees. Providing discounts, vouchers, or incentives for purchasing sustainable clothing encourages employees to prioritize sustainability in their fashion choices.

16. Encourage BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup)

Discouraging the use of single-use disposable cups by incentivizing employees to bring their own reusable mugs for coffee and other beverages. Implementing this policy not only reduces waste but also promotes your sustainability strategy and encourages responsible consumption habits among employees.

Organizations can enhance employee engagement by conducting competitions on cup designing, allowing employees to showcase their creativity and personalization while contributing to the sustainability effort. By incorporating a participatory element into the initiative, such as using the cups designed by employees, organizations foster a sense of ownership and pride in the sustainability program.

17. Host lunch-and-learn sessions

One effective sustainability strategy is organizing regular lunchtime sessions dedicated to sustainability education and discussion. These sessions provide a platform for employees to deepen their understanding of sustainability issues, from environmental conservation to social equity, and explore practical ways to integrate sustainable practices into both their professional roles and personal lives.

These lunchtime sessions can cover a wide range of topics, including energy conservation, waste reduction, sustainable transportation, ethical sourcing, and community engagement. Guest speakers, experts, or internal sustainability champions can lead discussions, share insights, and inspire participants to take meaningful action.

7 Sustainability culture examples to get inspired from

Employees are having a conversation in a green workplace
Sustainability culture examples to get inspired from

Here are seven good examples of sustainable workplace culture initiatives implemented by real-world companies to inspire you. Take a pulse survey, see what your people would love the most, and implement those initiatives that you know would be a certain hit.

1. Google's renewable energy commitment

Google has made a significant commitment to sustainability by aiming to operate on 100% renewable energy. They have invested in renewable energy projects for a better world, including wind and solar farms, to offset their carbon footprint.

Google's dedication to renewable energy also sets an example for other companies to follow.

2. Patagonia's worn wear program

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia promotes sustainability through its Worn Wear program, which encourages customers to repair, reuse, and recycle their clothing. Patagonia offers free repairs for their products, operates a resale platform for used gear, and recycles worn-out garments into new materials.

3. Salesforce's 1-1-1 model

Salesforce, a leading cloud-based software company, operates on a unique philanthropic model known as the 1-1-1 model. This model involves donating 1% of the company's product, 1% of equity, and 1% of employee time to charitable causes. Through this initiative, Salesforce supports environmental nonprofits and encourages employee volunteerism.

4. Interface's mission zero initiative

Interface, a global flooring company, has set a bold goal of achieving zero environmental footprint by 2020 through its Mission Zero initiative. Interface focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water, and eliminating waste throughout its operations.

The company has implemented innovative technologies such as closed-loop manufacturing processes and sustainable sourcing practices to achieve its ambitious sustainability goals.

5. IKEA's sustainable product design

IKEA, the Swedish furniture retailer, is known for its commitment to sustainable product design and innovation. IKEA incorporates eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient technologies, and circular design principles into its products.

For example, IKEA offers furniture made from sustainably sourced wood, LED lighting solutions, and modular designs that facilitate repair and reuse.

6. Unilever's sustainable living plan

Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company, has developed a Sustainable Living Plan with the goal of improving the health and wellbeing of people while reducing environmental impact. The plan outlines ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing water efficiency, and sourcing raw materials sustainably across Unilever's global operations.

Additionally, Unilever is committed to promoting sustainable lifestyles through its brands by encouraging responsible consumption and behavior change among consumers.

7. Microsoft's carbon negative commitment

Microsoft has made headlines with its ambitious commitment to become carbon negative by 2030, meaning the company will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits. Microsoft plans to achieve this goal by investing in carbon removal technologies, transitioning to renewable energy sources, and reducing emissions from its operations and supply chain.

Additionally, Microsoft aims to offset all carbon emissions generated throughout its history by 2050, effectively becoming carbon neutral.


As we've seen from the inspiring examples of real-world companies, the journey towards workplace sustainability is both challenging and rewarding.

But, by setting clear goals, investing in innovative solutions, and encouraging employees to take action, you can create workplaces that not only thrive in the present but also pave the way for a more sustainable for future generations.

Any sustainability initiative is a huge investment in terms of money, efforts, time and energy. You need to know exactly what will work for your demographics, work context and cultural set-up. The initiatives will be meaningless if they don't appeal to your employees, or take interest.

So, before you invest in any initiative, it's wise to check your employee pulse with an employee feedback tool like CultureMonkey, take stock of the ideas your people have, and then take a step forward, so you earn your ROI in no time.

Give your employees a hyper-personalized survey using CultureMonkey’s feedback tool. Hop on here to book a free demo today!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a sustainable service culture?

A sustainable service culture is characterized by a commitment to integrating environmentally responsible and socially conscious practices into service delivery processes. It prioritizes not only meeting customer needs but also ensuring that those needs are met in a way that minimizes negative environmental and social impacts, thus fostering a holistic approach to service excellence.

2. What are the four types of workplace culture?

The four types of workplace culture are clan culture, adhocracy culture, market culture, and hierarchy culture. Clan culture emphasizes collaboration and teamwork, adhocracy culture fosters innovation and flexibility, market culture focuses on competition and results, while hierarchy culture values stability and control in organizational structures and processes.

3. What are some sustainable culture examples?

Sustainable culture examples abound, including the implementation of recycling programs to reduce waste, promoting energy conservation through efficient practices and technologies, supporting employee volunteerism for community engagement, and sourcing ethically produced goods to minimize environmental harm and promote fair labor practices, all contributing to a more responsible and sustainable organizational ethos.

4. What are the benefits of sustainability in the workplace?

Sustainability in the workplace offers a myriad of benefits. Apart from tangible advantages like cost savings from energy-efficient measures, it also fosters intangible benefits such as heightened employee morale and engagement through shared values and a sense of purpose. Moreover, sustainability initiatives reduce the organization's environmental footprint while enhancing brand reputation and competitiveness in a socially conscious market landscape.



Abhinaya is a Content Marketing Intern with a passion for creative writing and literature. She immerses herself in books and enjoys binge-watching her favourite sitcoms.