Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to

Q: After the G8 summit, is there anything our organisation can do to promote 'sustainability'?

Yes. Plenty.

I doubt sustainability is something that appears in many staff handbooks or HR policies, but it should. Just as all third sector bodies have policies on diversity, we now need to be developing our own policies and strategies on sustainability.

If you have a staff forum or meetings where you get together with your volunteers, it is worth asking them about how the organisation can contribute to a more sustainable environment.

You might think this is nothing to do with HR, but your office environment must be conducive to healthy working relationships, so it needs to be sustainable. If you work in an office with air conditioning, do you actually need it on all the time? Does it have to be on full-force?

Do you turn off all your photocopiers, printers and computers, or are they left overnight on 'stand-by'? Do you have policies to encourage recycling or efficient use of paper? When you are producing materials, do you think about the number of copies you need?

Do you encourage staff and volunteers to use public transport? For example, it doesn't cost much to have a season ticket loan system, which will encourage people to use public transport.

Encourage staff to look into healthier lifestyles. Have you ever thought of encouraging those with disgusting, anti-social habits such as smoking to give up? I certainly hope you don't allow staff to lurk around the entrance with fags in their mouths (this should be a disciplinary offence, in my opinion). And think about supporting gym membership.

There are other ways in which our office services can promote sustainability. When Acevo recently moved its offices, we decided to move entirely to fair trade tea and coffee products.

We have also engaged a cleaning company that pays its staff a living wage, not just the minimum wage. In other words, the cleaners' pay and conditions are not just at the basic subsistence level.

Do have a look at your bureaucratic systems and see whether these waste paper as well as effort. I am always amazed at organisations that still produce printed application forms, which they send out in response to enquiries for jobs. We all know that less than 50 per cent of people who receive a form actually apply for the post, so it's a waste.

Why do you need an application form at all? If you set out a detailed job specification and duties of the post, why not ask people to reply, telling you how they meet the specification and attaching a CV? Do we really have to ape public sector bureaucracy?

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