Becoming clean and green benefits all organisations
19 Feb 2020
The Catholic Church has recognised the importance of caring for the planet, and over the last decade developed initiatives to mitigate damage to the natural environment. The Pope’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, remains the principal call to action by the Church to preserve the earth and its most vulnerable people. Parishes, schools, and other Catholic organisations around the world have taken its message and created sustainability programs tailored for their communities.
“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”
Kaushik Sridhar is National Sustainability Manager for Regis Aged Care that operates 65 homes nationally. He has been inducted into the CitySwitch Hall of Fame for his commitment to driving sustainability through his work. He described the importance of laying foundations for what he calls ‘taking a pragmatically passionate approach to making change’.
“What does sustainability mean for us? That’s the first question that needs to be asked,” he says. “It requires stakeholder consultation to define. Is it environmental, social, or economic, for example? For Regis Aged Care it’s about energy, our environment, and reducing our environmental footprint.”
He says moving an organisation towards clean and green work routines takes a few steps.
“It’s like building a start-up within a company and seeing if it has legs. It’s a good idea to analyse data, look at what the picture is like and share the data results. Once you know what sustainability means to your organisation and you’ve got a clear picture of what that looks like, then you can formulate a strategy and develop a roadmap.”
He notes that how a campaign is implemented depends on the organisation.
“You need a governance group that acts as a steering committee and that holds those leading the campaign accountable. Good governance, good risk management, and buy-in are basic principles that apply to a range of organisations of all sizes.”
CCI staff share the same passion and have promoted green campaigns within their organisation. Giving back to the community and reducing CCI’s carbon footprint has been high on their agenda and has aligned their goal with the vision of the Australian Catholic Bishops Social Justice Statement, A New earth: The Environmental Challenge. Ellie Sunshine is a member of CCI’s Green Team, a group that is a driving force for a cleaner and greener workplace.
“Implementing environmentally thoughtful practices is something that can be done in small, medium or large workplaces,” she explains.
“There are many free resources available to help schools, aged care providers, welfare organisations and parishes. Making the most of the range of available practical help to drive green initiatives supports compliance and overall corporate social responsibility. We should all participate in caring for the earth.”
CCI’s efforts have achieved a printing reduction of 31% for the last financial year (425,000 pages), a recycling rate increase from 44% to 63%, and landfill waste reduction by 19% since its initial waste audit, in 2018. The recycling contamination rate is down from 40% to 22% and single use coffee cup consumption has dropped by almost 8,000 cups for the year. The 2018 and 2019 CitySwitch Awards recognised the effort. The Awards honour environmental leadership in organisations who are cutting energy use, lowering carbon emissions, and reducing waste to landfill.
“CitySwitch offers free programs nationally, to help commercial office spaces enhance energy efficiency and reduce costs” says Ellie.
Toby Lawrenson is a CitySwitch Program Manager who sees more companies getting on board with green programs.
“CitySwitch has had increasing membership year-on-year, since it began in 2008. We include over 5 million square meters of office space, over 600 organisations Australia-wide. There has been a lot of media focus this year on global warming, so this is changing some of the conversations I’m having with signatories.”
For sustainability efforts to be successful and long-lasting, he emphasises that everyone has to be involved and recognises the challenge in getting employees to take up the green initiative.
“Making infrastructure changes is important, but behavioural and cultural change is vital. Creating competitions incentivises groups and individuals to be active with green campaigns,” he says.
“Embedding improved behaviours means you can make better habits become part and parcel of daily work routines. Green teams and champions for environmental change are there for a reason, so that when campaigns are put in place they are well managed. It means that people in the organisation take ownership of their part in the overall campaign’s success. CCI is a good example of embedding behaviour across the organisation through a green team-led campaign.”
In 2019, young people were more visible in the mainstream media as they stepped up their protests against governments around the world who they believed were not doing enough. School-aged children joined public protests as Swedish environmental activist and teenager Greta Thundberg gained international recognition for her voice and activism on climate change. More schools are using detailed resources to develop better environmental practices, as a response to growing concerns among young people about the human impact on the climate. Educational material, such as Catholic Education Melbourne’s Education for Sustainability in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, is more widely accessible and free of charge for teachers.
“We need to reduce emissions because we know the science and the urgency to take action is real,” says Toby Lawrenson.
“These CitySwitch campaigns are about reducing energy consumption, reducing water consumption, and reducing waste production in office environments. It can help improve the indoor environment of the building and is better for staff wellbeing.”
He points to other benefits for organisations focused on green initiatives.
“Taking sustainability measures has been shown to reduce costs and improve productivity. A more efficient building has plants to improve staff experience, often they have better managed temperatures and lower carbon dioxide levels. If you’re managing the building better, you’re more likely to be improving work productivity.”
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) mandates Catholic Earthcare Australia to act as an advisor for ecological matters; raising discussion through ecological programs for their National Youth Program which engages Diocese, schools and universities.
CCI’s Ellie Sunshine says that becoming active is easier than most people realise.
“Once you start the campaign, with careful change management and clear communication people will adopt new practices,” she says.
“It’s simply a matter of laying the ground work for them.”
Earthcare Director Bernard Holland agrees.
“Youth are well informed and self-informed,” he says.
“The bigger issue is ensuring youth know how to engage effectively without suffering stress and anxiety. Earthcare directs our audience to engage with things they can do that are within their control. We encourage people to engage with those in their circle of influence so they may become green ambassadors. Spending too much time in an area of concern but without control or influence can be demoralising, frustrating, and perhaps depressing. Catholic Earthcare suggests a balance in favour of doing things in ways that mean our youth have some control over their impact while at the same time linking with like-minded people and ideas. If they have companions on their journey promoting environmentally sustainable practices they have greater influence to make positive change.”