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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

JUST. The Social Justice Label

A new tool for internal evaluation and sharing achievements in social responsibility

Our sustainability advisors know that Portland businesses take pride in supporting our local community and their employees, and that you’re hungry for more ways to contribute. Sustainability at Work invited Sam Wright with the International Living Future Institute to share information about the JUST label – an exciting new tool for internal evaluation and sharing achievements in social responsibility.

What is a socially responsible business?
Businesses and other organizations are uniquely positioned to influence and advance social justice within their communities, but it is difficult to develop and communicate a comprehensive social responsibility program. How should organizations define the scope of their engagement? What exactly does a socially just organization look like?

Just. social justice label exampleTo help answer these questions, the International Living Future Institute has launched the JUST program, an innovative transparency platform for organizations to reveal their commitment to social justice in these six areas:

  • Diversity
  • Safety
  • Worker benefit
  • Local benefit
  • Stewardship

Measure your impacts, and learn where to take action
JUST is a social justice evaluation tool and voluntary disclosure program for all types and sizes of organizations. It is not a verification or certification; rather, the program provides a detailed framework for organizations to evaluate themselves and inform the public of the results.

The six JUST categories are subdivided into twenty-two indicator metrics, each with their own simple yet specific and measurable actions. Organizations can earn up to three stars for each metric. Scores for each indicator are summarized elegantly on a label, which is publicized through the JUST online database.

How to get started
There is no minimum threshold for participation. All that is required is that participating organizations have employees. Engaging is easy; the JUST site provides a simple webform for organizations to enter all required information and upload documentation in one place. 

In the spirit of equity and inclusion, it’s free to register for JUST. To support the program, we request an optional tax-deductible donation when your label is published.

As you engage with the program, know that you aren’t alone. Responsive staff members of the International Living Future Institute are waiting to help you move beyond business as usual: join JUST today, and make social justice your business.

Get started.

Make wellness a part of your company’s culture

Small changes add up to big results.

Our sustainability advisors know Portland businesses take pride in supporting our local community and their employees, and that you’re hungry for more ways to contribute. Sustainability at Work invited Elizabeth Barth of Multnomah County’s Community Wellness & Prevention Program to share information about a great local resource that’s free to participate in.

The business case for investing in employee wellness
Most adults spend over half of their waking hours at work, which makes worksites important for encouraging and supporting healthy lifestyles.

  • It’s a great way to attract employees, which can reduce the cost of recruiting and hiring.
  • It helps employees feel their best, which boosts productivity, and reduces sick time.
  • It lets employees know their employer cares about them, which increases job satisfaction.

"Try fruit instead" posterHow to make your work environment the best it can be
Healthy worksites are those that encourage health and wellbeing as part of the organizational culture. Employers can encourage this culture through policies, workplace guidelines, and simply by making is easy to be healthy while at work. Examples include:

  • Set up healthy vending machine and catering policies.
  • Provide healthy snacks.
  • Encourage staff to take the stairs, or get away from their desk for short walk breaks.
  • Provide private space for breastfeeding moms.
  • Set up a tobacco-free workplace policy.

Resources & assistance
The Multnomah County Health Department’s Healthy Worksites Initiative provides free assistance to companies that want to make healthy changes at work, which includes:

  • Tailored guidance based on a company’s strengths, needs, and individual culture.
  • Examples of what works and what other organizations have done.
  • Materials, such as Healthy Meetings and break room supplies.
  • Stairwell signs, breastfeeding signs, and worksite wellness posters.

Even seemingly small worksite changes can add up to big results! Every step in the direction of wellness can make a difference. It takes each of us working together to support healthy workplaces and a healthy workforce.

Organizations that want to start or improve healthy worksite efforts are eligible for free resources, while supplies last.

Interested?
If you’re not sure where to begin, take this online assessment to get started. You’ll be introduced to a variety of policies and programs, and see where your organization might have some critical opportunities.

Is that lightbulb hazardous waste?

Disposing of leftover paint, fluorescent bulbs and other hazardous waste.

At some point, most of us have stood over the garbage can holding a half-empty can of oven cleaner or a burned-out compact fluorescent bulb and wondered, “Is dropping this in here really okay?”

Examples of hazardous wasteSometimes the answer is a strong, “No.” A partially full can of oven cleaner, complete with its many warning messages, might be an obvious no-no, but you may be dismissing many products as harmless when they are, in fact, hazardous.

Two hazardous items our sustainability advisors sometimes see in the trash are fluorescent bulbs (cfls, tube lighting, etc.) and leftover paint. The bulbs likely contain mercury. The paint might be able to be remixed and reused. These are just a few of the reasons that we encourage businesses to identify and develop a safe and consistent way to dispose of hazardous waste in their workplaces.

Taking care with these products not only protects you and your staff, but also all of the people “downstream” from whatever you discard — janitorial and building staff, waste and recycling workers, and the general public. Safely disposing of these items also minimizes the impact they could have on plants, birds, aquatic animals, bees, etc.

Contacting Metro is one of the best ways to identify what is or isn’t hazardous, and to learn how to safely dispose of it. It’s much better to be sure than to guess. Metro recycling staff can be reached at (503) 234-3000 or through their webpage at Metro’s Find A Recycler.

MetroPaintYou’ll learn that some hazardous waste can even be reused. MetroPaint is one of our favorite examples of this. Close the loop by donating leftover paint to Metro and then buying a “new” can of MetroPaint for your next project.


Images courtesy of Metro

What is the energy level of your green team?

CSG staffGreen teams play an important role in an organization’s efforts to operate more sustainably. They identify goals and initiatives, develop campaigns to encourage staff participation, measure and monitor progress and answer many questions about the hows and whys of proposed actions. Our sustainability advisors often hear just how challenging, slow and often times thankless this work can be.

If your green team has accomplished its goals or has picked all the low hanging fruit, it may be time to find a new focus and purpose for the team.

FMS staffHere are a few questions to think about when your green team is feeling challenged:

  • What impact are we having in our organization?
  • What is our purpose and are we meeting that purpose?
  • Are we focused on short-term projects or long-term goals?
  • Are we including all voices and perspectives needed to help us achieve our goals in the best way possible?
  • Are the goals set by this team agreed upon and supported by the entire organization?
  • How are we celebrating our big and small achievements?

Your team’s responses to these questions provide valuable insight and direction. By reflecting periodically and making needed adjustments, the group is kept fresh and relevant.

Need some support to refresh and re-energize your team? Give us a call. Sustainability at Work advisors can meet with your team to help identify new goals and purpose and strategize next steps. 503-823-7037, sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Recycling Q&A

Do your coworkers need a recycling refresher?

Tell me again... can this be recycled?

We hear from a lot of people who say, "My coworkers don't know how to recycle!"

That’s why we offer Recycling Refresher presentations, which are great for staff meetings or lunchtime brown-bag presentations.

Some organizations schedule a yearly refresher, others arrange for a presentation when they start to see more trash showing up in recycling, or recyclables showing up in trash.

Our presentations clarify commonly confused items, such as:

Coffee cups go in the trash

Coffee Cups (trash)

Take-out containers-plastic or paper (trash)

Soda cups-plastic or paper (trash)

 Yogurt containers can go into recyclingPlastic bags go in the trash

Plastic – ignore the numbers! Only plastics shaped like a tub or with a neck (like soda bottles or milk jugs) can be recycled in Portland's city-wide recycling system.

Plastic bags (trash)

If you have “additional recycling” collections – like for plastic bags, rigid plastics – or composting, we’ll customize our presentation to what your staff have available to them.

We also answer common questions like:

  • If grocery stores take plastic bags, why can’t I put them in my home/work recycling?
  • Why can’t lids go in recycling?
  • Why can’t things labeled “compostable” go into my home/work composting?

We encourage you and your coworkers to bring items to the Q&A that most commonly cause confusion in your workplace. We’ll let you know if they’re recyclable, compostable or if it’s best to put it in the trash.

Recycling can be confusing, especially because it varies so widely across the country, and even the state. But recycling right - getting the right things into recycling and keeping the wrong things out – keeps our local recycling systems running smoothly and effectively. We want people to recycle as much as they can, but we also want to keep out items that cause problems at local recycling facilities.

Contact us to schedule a presentation for your workplace.

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