Implementing the WIG Green Charter

The Whitehall and Industry Group takes prides in its charitable purpose of bringing sectors together to learn and collaborate. For over 35 years, we have seen the different processes that organisations in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors have put in place to improve their practices, and have learned lessons along the way. Thus, when coming up with ways that WIG could be more environmentally friendly, it was natural for us to take inspiration from a Charity Next secondee.

The Green Charter was born out of a conversation our colleague Lydia Garrett, WIG’s Charity Next Director & Talent Manager had  with a WIG secondee looking to set up an environmental network upon her return to government following a secondment to the charity sector. The plan for the network was for it to act as a hub to raise awareness of environmental issues spanning beyond DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) into all departments of government with the ultimate objective of seeing sustainability and environmental awareness underpin all areas of government policy and decision-making.

By discussing how to support the secondee’s initiative, Lydia began thinking about ways WIG could implement some of its own environmental mindfulness at an organizational level. As a small team, we have flexibility to put ideas into practice, and so Lydia set about developing WIG’s Green Charter for colleagues to voluntarily sign. Outlining clear principles and guidelines was straightforward enough, but getting employees on board was going to take some strategic thinking, with quick wins and long-term aims ingrained every step of the way.

The initial step was to anchor the initiative with employees, and so Lydia drafted the Green Charter that people could put their name to and pledge, encouraging collective support. Green-thinking wasn’t ingrained in the culture at WIG much before this, which meant the Charter had room to grow and develop. The issue of the climate emergency was dominating the news at the time, bringing further recognition about the importance of group efforts to catalyse change. Part of this change has to come from the mindset and ethos of workplace culture, so putting this together with the aim to get all employees involved was paramount.

In the following weeks, Lydia organized a workshop to galvanize energy and enthusiasm, with the aim of motivating people by showcasing the contributions they were already making and may have been unaware of. It was important for staff to identify how they were already contributing, both individually and as part of the organisation, before getting buy-in for what we could do collectively to further enhance WIG’s green efforts.

The charter was tweaked with staff input, and Lydia ensured that people knew that there was no obligation to sign it, using inclusive and non-judgmental language. The workshop raised awareness and provided learning in a friendly and engaging environment. The Charter was well-received by employees, with the majority of them signing it.

Once the workshop was complete, the quick wins were soon implemented – involving ways to reduce waste (recycling, keeping reusable bags by the door for staff to collect lunch in, reducing the amount of printing where possible etc.) amongst other things. To maintain momentum and encourage people to continue their contributions, a steering group was set up with representatives from across WIG, coming together for regular meetings.

A health and wellbeing agenda has been developed since, alongside the Green Charter. This includes regular deliveries of oat milk alongside dairy milk as a more environmentally friendly option, fresh fruit and vegetables every Monday from environmentally friendly companies such as OddBox (which delivers ‘ugly’ fruit that won’t sell in supermarkets), as well the addition of a Nutribullet in the staff kitchen (to encourage using up leftover fruit and veg in smoothies) and a session with a nutritionist.

This project is credit to what can be achieved when inspired by working in a cross-sector environment. WIG was successful in what it had set out to do: being more environmentally aware, encouraging more fruit and veg consumption from sustainable and ethical sources, increasing the amount of recycling which extends beyond plastic but also recycling and reducing office waste by recycling printer cartridges and signage. It is an ongoing process to maintain momentum and keep staff motivated to continue being mindful of their eco-footprint, and we hope to implement more ways to care for our planet in the future.