Reimagined Sustainable Workplace Certification empowers McGillians to become ambassadors for sustainable habits

Revamped program includes environmentally, economically and socially aware action items to inspire sustainable changes at work and at home

Since its launch in 2018, the Sustainable Workplace Certification program has become one of the cornerstones of the McGill Office of Sustainability’s programming. Having certified over 30 workplaces across campus, the program serves as a way for staff, faculty and students to kickstart their sustainability journeys through actionable tasks.

Members of McGill’s Staff Sustainability Network enjoyed lunch outside in 2018 as a part of their involvement in the McGill Sustainable Workplace Certification program.

Though our collective vision of a traditional ‘workplace’ has changed drastically over the past year, units across campus have found ways to take elements of the program home with them through remote work. The program itself has recently been revamped to include even more ways in which employees can practice individual and team-wide sustainability from the comfort of their own homes.

“We’re excited to relaunch the program with adjusted actions, a streamlined process, and updated resources corresponding to the actions,” says Shona Watt, Sustainability Manager at the McGill Office of Sustainability, who has facilitated the Sustainable Workplace Certification program since its pilot phase in the fall of 2017. “As there may be a gradual return to campus post-COVID, we have adapted the checklist to include actions that apply to team members who are working remotely, in the office, or a combination of the two.”

Redesigned for a virtual office, the program’s new checklist of criteria incentivizes employees to consider factors such as energy savings and zero-waste initiatives through actions like turning off monitors when not in use or avoiding single-use cutlery when possible.

Building a culture of sustainability at work, from home

Though not in their physical workplace, teams across campus have continued to add sustainable habits into their daily routines. The first to undergo certification through the revamped program, Financial Services at 3465 Durocher has committed to adopting sustainable practices in the workplace, such as using reusable mugs and containers and turning off monitors when not in use, says Associate Vice-Principal, Financial Services Cristiane Tinmouth. All habits, she says, that have extended into her team’s home life.

Financial Services at 3465 Durocher is the first team to attain a bronze-level certification under the revamped Sustainable Workplace Certification program.

“Financial Services is committed to everyday sustainability,” says Tinmouth. “We are honoured to be the first administrative unit certified Bronze under the [new] Sustainable Workplace Certification.”

McGill’s IT Communications team upgraded their certification level while working from home. Having started the process of working towards their Gold certification while still on campus, the team has successfully completed the requirements of the level while working virtually.

Uma Viswanathan, Training and Communications Specialist, mentions that participating in the Sustainable Workplace Certification has not only encouraged employees to make sustainable changes their work routines, but also on their habits as consumers and personal routines.

“The majority of our employees found that it was easy to practice sustainability while working from home,” she says. “Some mentioned that as a result of this certification, they now purchase more sustainable products, travel less by car, and are more conscious of the impact of their decisions on sustainability.”

The program’s revamp has also come with new ways for staff to learn about campus sustainability through Sustainable Workplace Ambassador trainings. After identifying an individual to serve as the unit’s ambassador, these representatives will be able to exchange ideas with other units and be better equipped with strategies to get their team members on board with the program.

With a streamlined process, the new Sustainable Workplace Certification program also creates space for conversations about what it means to be sustainable through social sustainability-related tasks such as encouraging employees to get fresh air and encouraging employees to read McGill’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy.

“Employees have mentioned that they learned more from the sharing of information and discussion that was generated through this initiative,” adds Viswanathan. “They recognize the value of the certification primarily because of the discussion and awareness it promotes concerning sustainability.”

Sustainable Workplace Ambassadors training will be offered by the Office of Sustainability on Tuesday, March 23, from 12 to 1 pm and Tuesday March 30, from 10 to 11 am. Please email Shona Watt, Sustainability Manager to attend or to receive more information about the Sustainable Workplace program. More information available online.