Ethical office practices have multiple benefits for companies. In recent years, they have become an integral part of corporate social responsibility, a group of business practices that set some companies apart from the majority. Implementing ethical practices can help you office have a better corporate image, more accurate risk management, better staff retention, and enhanced brand awareness.

This guide aims to help you to implement a wide range of ethical practices in your London office.

Recycling in the office

One of the best ways of including ethical office practices in your company is to implement sustainable policies, such as recycling.

The basic approach to recycling in the office can be summed up as follows:

Reduce waste

The average office employee wastes almost 7,000 paper sheets per year. Some solutions that could help reduce paper waste include two-sided printing, setting up individual printer passwords or printing allowances, removing fax cover sheets, circulating internal messages or memos instead of printing individual copies, and working on internal drafts electronically using features like "edit" or "comment". Staff kitchens and coffee machines should be stocked with reusable cups, mugs, and plates.

Reuse materials

Used paper can be cut into scratch pads or reused to feed faxes and copy machines. Reuse envelopes by sticking a label over the the old address. Collect those old magazines and newspapers that are lying around the waiting room and donate them to libraries or schools. Even electronics can be reused and you can also consider buying refurbished computers or reusing toner.

Recycle materials that are no longer reusable

You can contact a London-based collection company and arrange for them to pick up waste paper that will later be recycled. When you buy paper, ensure that it contains at least 20 per cent of recycled materials.

Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive, companies are required to recycle electronic waste. This includes computers, monitors, CDs, cables, copy machines, and fax machines, among others. It is also important that you place clearly labelled recycling bins in public areas around the office and limit the use of individual bins.

Environmentally-friendly office practices

Update your purchasing policies so that your office supplies and stationery are sourced from green suppliers. Another option is to buy biodegradable office supplies and products that meet fair trade standards. Also, avoid placing several small orders so that the delivery company does not make unnecessary trips. Whenever possible, opt for products that use little or no packaging at all.

Consider switching to green energy tariffs and using low-energy lighting. This could reduce your office energy bills by 10-20 per cent. You should also review the use of air conditioning and central heating in the office.

Other tips include providing filtered tap water and encouraging staff to commute by bike, public transport, or by making use of car sharing schemes.

How to reduce an office's carbon footprint

Some ways of reducing the amount of greenhouse emissions generated by an office include switching off electronic equipment at the end of the working day, reducing the amount of junk mail received, insulating walls and floors, favouring teleconferences over face-to-face meetings, and implementing flexi-time or telecommuting policies.

Where to look for help and advice

Turning your office into an ethical and environmentally-friendly space cannot be achieved overnight. If you feel that you need guidance, you can benefit from government-sponsored schemes that are in place in the London area. The Department for Transport has an online guide that can help you design greener transport policies. The Waste and Resources Action Programme can provide advice on corporate recycling. Advice can also be obtained from your local council.

There are voluntary organisations and charities that offer advice and support to companies interested in promoting ethical office practices. Some names worth mentioning include Greener Now, Wastewatch, the Carbon Trust, the London Sustainability Exchange, the National Recycling Directory, and the Wastebook London.