With rising pressure to meet environmental targets across all business functions, Rob Bright, CEO and Founder of Cloud Assess, offers his advice on making training and development more sustainable and explores the technology that is making this possible for UK businesses.
Companies are coming under increasing pressure from their customers, their suppliers, and their employees to become more sustainable in all aspects of business. With the mounting climate emergency and new 2023 business objectives set out, UK companies of all sizes, across all industries are continuing to address their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability goals with rapid, and pressured, haste.
It is no surprise, therefore, that 65% of CEOs have already implemented, or are in the process of implementing, initiatives to reduce their companies’ footprint in 2023, according to PWC. However, many face challenges when it comes to introducing new business-wide processes that contribute towards sustainability in the immediate short-term, as well as establishing long-term gains. CSR initiatives often require a lot of investment and take time to effectively embed into a business’ workflow, meaning environmental results can often be slow and hard to measure.
However, that’s not to say more immediate solutions are not available to those looking to develop their CSR strategy. There are quick wins to be had across various aspects of a business that can dramatically bolster an organisation’s CSR targets without the need for huge time or financial investment. A great example of this is training. Impacting all staff across all business functions, training improves practices and has the potential to make a big difference.
The CSR benefits of a digital approach to training
Opting for a digital approach to training offers a range of environmental benefits, many of which are evident instantly.
For example, cutting down reliance on paper. As we all know, paper is naturally a carbon-intensive product. In fact, every 100,000 sheets of paper used by businesses results in 6,000kg of carbon being released into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of 55,000 miles in an average petrol car, 2.8 homes’ energy for one year, or charging 2,676,000 smartphones.
Training has traditionally been a paper-intensive process, with significant amounts used for learning, assessment, and the consequent reporting, especially within ‘deskless’ industries where there’s a high proportion of vocational, hands-on roles. For high-risk industries that require intensive compliance training, such as manufacturing and construction, this issue is further exacerbated. Training material must routinely be updated which causes excessive paper waste, increasing a company’s carbon footprint. For businesses working towards increasingly ambitious environmental targets, this is a major issue.
There are ways to reduce the impact on the environment, such as using alternative material sources like bamboo or recycled paper, but these all still have an unavoidable impact on the environment during sourcing, transport, and processing. Even carbon offsetting projects have been criticised in recent years, with many forestry-related projects accused of ruining natural biodiversity. Looking ahead, it will be crucial for companies to reduce their reliance on paper across the board and digital training solutions can go a long way in achieving this.
In addition to reducing the reliance on physical resources, digital training solutions can be effective in limiting the amount of travel required for businesses to effectively conduct and assess employee training. Whilst some face-to-face delivery remains essential for good learning outcomes, utilising technology that minimises unnecessary travel can have a sizeable impact on a company’s environmental targets, by reducing the carbon emissions produced by travelling. This is especially the case for larger companies with sites across the UK or the world.
How this works in practice
Thankfully, due to the emergence of new technology, there are a range of training solutions that can help businesses reduce their emissions and better reach their CSR targets.
For example, we are starting to see smart glasses, which feature a camera in the frame, being used by assessors to conduct a live evaluation of an employee’s work without the need for transportation. Companies, particularly those looking to routinely prove compliance, can stream, record, and playback visual in-person assessments without needing to travel to the site. Not only does this save the assessor time and improve business efficiency, but the technology enables a quick and easy way to reduce the business’ net carbon footprint.
Similarly, virtual reality (VR) headsets have been adopted by businesses in recent years with increasing uptake, enabling organisations to train employees in an engaging, realistic, and highly customisable environment. This is extremely useful to organisations looking to improve their environmental goals, reducing the reliance on in-person training through virtual training environments and lowering a company’s total mileage and consequent carbon emissions. Not only this, but the virtually constructed environment allows training providers to host practical training sessions with considerably less risk than their physical equivalent, a great benefit to those industries where health and safety is critical, such as engineering.
However, these emerging trends are still costly and not accessible to all businesses yet. For those looking for a lower-cost solution, digital training and assessment platforms can offer significant environmental benefits and are replacing ‘traditional’ training systems at an increasing rate. Offering a seamless transition away from paper-reliant systems, the centralised solution allows businesses to host training, assessment, and reporting online.
It’s worth noting that digital training platforms are not a direct replacement for in-person training. Practical hands-on experience will always be essential for long-term learning and development benefits. However, by combining the efficiency and environmental benefits of digital training, assessment, and planning with essential face-to-face sessions, businesses can dramatically reduce the amount of paper and transport needed to conduct effective training, without compromising on quality. In fact, in 2021 alone, 21,252,189 sheets of paper were saved through the integration of Cloud Assess’ digital training platform.
A promising outlook for 2023 and beyond
Businesses are increasingly under the microscope when it comes to their impact on the environment. However, in today’s challenging climate, demonstrating a real commitment to training staff sustainably will not only help organisations stand out in the fight for talent, but also better appeal to customers and future-proof their business against increasingly stringent environmental requirements in the coming years.