Cayman businesses do their bit for the environment. Greening your business is not hard, but it requires a structured approach reports Journalist Michael Klein.
Businesses need to understand how they affect the environment through simple every day actions and the products they buy. While some businesses have launched internal green teams to figure out what can be done to make the office a place that is less harmful to the environment, other companies rely on the commitment and passion of a fair few.
Deloitte started a green initiative in 2007, initiated by a tax manager passionate about how Deloitte could become more green, says Deloitte Marketing Manager Martha Connolly. It turned into the first corporate green team in Cayman.
At CIBC the idea of a green team was born after the Earth Day clean-up in 2009, when some of CIBC’s participants thought that perhaps more could be done within the company, says Aline Koitzsch.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
When looking at the potential for greening a business environment all employees should be encouraged to consider their workplace in the context of the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Many companies in Cayman that have looked at sustainability issues internally have started with a recycling programme.
CIBC began recycling aluminium and paper. All businesses can contact the Department of Environmental Health for a receptacle and have their aluminium cans collected when the receptacle is full. Alternatively there are recycle containers for aluminium cans at some of Cayman’s supermarkets.
“We have placed bins on each floor marked with the recycling sign and collect the cans,” says Koitzsch. Some people even bring cans from home to drop in the recycling bins.
“Every time we have enough cans, we call the Department of Environmental Health or I email them and they come within a couple of hours to pick them up.”
The DoEH crushes the collected cans and bails them for later recycling.
There is however no recycling facility on the Island. For paper there is not even a collection scheme. Some businesses, such as CIBC and Islands Heritage, give their old newspapers to the Humane Society, where they are used to line the kennels.
It is not possible for all companies to donate used documents for example to kindergartens and schools, where they could be used for drawing and scribbling, as many of the documents are confidential or contain sensitive information.
Most companies therefore proceed to shred their documents. A composting method for shredded paper is currently in development by a local shredding company.
Island Heritage collects used toner cartridges and drops them off at Alphasoft. The IT service provider has set up a toner recycling programme. The toner cartridges are shipped to Miami, where they are collected by HP USA for recycling. Currently, the programme is limited to HP laser toner cartridges.
Lack of recycling facilities
Deloitte started with an internal recycling programme for aluminium, glass and plastics that are collected in different recycling bins in each of the buildings. The recycled goods are then delivered to the DoEH.
However, the lack of local recycling facilities is apparent. “This is the thing,” says Connolly. “It is kind of frustrating to see that we are doing our part, but government does not have a recycling programme.”
At least the garbage is collected, sorted and stored separately to be recycled, if and when a recycling programme is introduced.
However, “we are not sure when such a programme will come in”, says Connolly.
Reduce solid waste
Until then, the reduction of solid waste should have priority. Many everyday single use items such as foam, plastic and paper cups, plates and cutlery can often be replaced with longer lasting reusable items made of glass, ceramics, hard plastics or stainless steel.
“Our first big project was to encourage people to bring their own cups to work to get rid of the old Styrofoam or paper cups that we had. And people are definitely doing that and it makes a big difference,” says Mariska Groenewald another member of CIBC’s green team.
Instead of buying disposable bio-degradable cups, containers and plates the company now decided to buy durable, dishwasher safe plastic plates and mugs. “Basically we used to use plastic spoons, which is crazy, because every time someone stirs their coffee or tea it goes right into the garbage,” says Groenewald.
“Yet, it did not even cost us $200 to buy all of the stainless steel cutlery,” adds Koitzsch.
At Deloitte and Island Heritage plastic plates, cups and cutlery are also a thing of the past. Deloitte supplied its staff with corn-based utensils, cups and bamboo-based plates. Lunch rooms and kitchenettes at the companies are now equipped with reusable ceramic dishes, glasses and cutlery.
The result is not only a cut-down in waste, but also a significant reduction in costs.
The same applies to paper. Using outdated forms or letterheads for internal correspondence or as note paper is one solution. The digitalisation of documents, the printing on both sides of a sheet and the practice to print documents and emails only when absolutely necessary also reduces the use of paper, toner and overall costs.
An area where cost benefits are immediately felt is the reduction of energy use.
Deloitte installed energy saving lights in the offices and the boardroom. At Island Heritage attempts are made to regulate to the temperature of the air condition at comfortable but moderate temperatures. On week-ends the air condition is turned off.
Deloitte also installed blinds to deflect the sunlight and better manage temperatures in the offices.
CIBC plans to get the temperature one or two degrees lower. “We see a lot of people in the office that wear jackets,” says Koitzsch. However, factors such as humidity and different personal preferences for room temperature will have to be considered.
Motion sensors in rooms that are not in permanent use, such as bathrooms, may also be able to cut down energy use. And all three companies encourage staff through emails, posters or stickers to turn off computers and lights at the end of the day.
Opportunities to create a more environmentally friendly business do not end there. Everything from bio-degradable cleaning products and bin bags to reduced travel can be assessed in terms of its impact on the environment and potential for change.
All three companies had similar experiences with regard to the acceptance of the greening efforts. While the general response by colleagues was positive, there is always the need to manage change and a few people need to be convinced.
“We are a big company and you cannot please everybody, but over time everybody gets used to it,” says CIBC’s Koitzsch.
“We see that the majority of people are really up for that.”
Deloitte’s Connolly agrees: “You always have one or two people who don’t understand why we are doing this. But overall it had a very positive effective.”
It helps to get management support for projects to gain traction and to implement change. “We are really happy that our management, our CEO, is standing behind all of this,” says Koitzsch.
At Deloitte the partners are equally supportive of the internal greening measures and wider community efforts, says Connolly. Deloitte has also gone beyond the office environment and bought reusable grocery shopping bags for all staff.
While all projects are relatively small, targeting little every day actions is what will ultimately make the difference.
“It is baby steps,” says Groenewald. “We just want to get a positive attitude in the company. Basically if you start doing things like that at work, you will think twice about what you do at home, too. It is about changing attitudes.”