Desautels employees take on sustainability challenge

Faculty-wide focus on Sustainable Workplace Certification provides opportunities for Desautels staff to reduce their environmental impact

Over the last year, several units in the McGill Desautels Faculty of Management have implemented quick and enthusiastic action to make their workplaces more sustainable. Given that sustainability is a pillar of the Desautels Strategic Plan, it was a natural step to make environmental responsibility a core part of their office culture. A faculty-wide challenge to receive Gold-level Sustainable Workplace Certification certainly helped build momentum as well.

Five Desautels units have been certified in the last few months alone. The Academic Affairs Office (Silver), the Dean’s Office (Bronze), the Career Management Centre (Silver), the Bensadoun School of Retail Management (Bronze), and the Infrastructure Team (Gold) join the previously certified units of the Bachelor of Commerce Program (Bronze) and the Master’s Program Office (Gold).

Having the entire faculty involved in the challenge encouraged many individual units to get started on their sustainability journey. “We noticed others taking part in this initiative and realized that there was a lot of room for improvement in terms of how sustainable we were,” said Jessica Paduano, the Sustainable Workplace Ambassador for the Desautels Dean’s Office.

Other Desautels staff who participated said they appreciate that the Sustainable Workplace Certification program helped build a sense of community. “We initially decided to seek certification as a way for the team to spend time together and bond,” said Ruchy Khurana, a Sustainable Workplace Ambassador for the Career Management Centre, adding that the exercise revealed “we have similar viewpoints and values as to what role sustainability plays in our daily lives at work and at home.”

For some teams, achieving certification meant rethinking how they do things, such as switching to reusable dishware and making paper documents available digitally. For others, the process was more about reinforcing habits, like turning off the lights, recycling office supplies, and making eco-minded purchases.

“We are extremely happy and proud about the changes and feel that small changes do add up to make a big difference and have a positive impact,” said Ivette Rodrigo, Sustainable Workplace Ambassador for the Desautels Academic Affairs Office.

Rising to the challenge

Many teams within the Faculty of Management have completed multiple levels of certifications within the last year. Since the start of 2023, the Career Management Centre and the Academic Affairs Office moved from Bronze to Silver, and the Infrastructure Team improved from Silver to Gold. Many employees attributed their rapid progress to the accessible nature of the program and how simple it was to get started.

“The Bronze certification changed very little in our day to day, since our team and our faculty already implements many of the strategies,” said Lourdes Machado, another Sustainable Workplace Ambassador at the Career Management Centre. “With Silver, we are stretching ourselves!”

The faculty-wide challenge of achieving Gold-level Sustainable Workplace Certification began in 2022 when Wesley McCoy led the Desautels Master’s Program Office to Gold certification as a Sustainable Workplace Ambassador. The Desautels dean and head of administration then challenged him to work with other units to expand certification throughout the faculty.

“The entire team was excited and on board with pushing to the highest possible level as a way to challenge and motivate the faculty,” said Alexander Aiken, Sustainable Workplace Ambassador for the Desautels Infrastructure Team.

Future ambitions

There’s no doubt that going through the certification process has created more sustainability-minded work environments at McGill. “The certification has had a profound impact on work habits in the office, with everyone becoming hyper-aware of the small things that can be done to create a greater impact,” Aiken said.We have pushed to remove any single-use items from our kitchenette, focused on proper division of waste, recycling, and favoring reusable products when purchasing give-away items for students.”

Other units, such as the Desautels Career Management Centre, have established a system for responsible battery disposal, and many offices are transitioning to entirely digital communications. Desautels staff have also taken advantage of a Sustainable Workplace initiative that allows employees to share furniture or office supplies that might have otherwise been thrown away.

The Sustainable Workplace Certification program has also impacted how employees think about sustainability beyond work. “We have found ourselves being more mindful about sustainability and have included it in our everyday lives,” Rodrigo said.

While positive and impactful changes have already been made at Desautels, its employees are just getting started — and they have every intention of motivating their colleagues to join in. “We plan to work toward achieving Platinum-level certification in 2023,” Aiken said, adding that his team has also taken up the mantle to “challenge other units in our faculty to embark on their own sustainable workplace certifications, and to ultimately have the entire Desautels Faculty of Management maintain a level of sustainable workplace certification.”

To find out how you and your colleagues can work together to make your office more sustainable, visit the McGill Office of Sustainability website.

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