INSIGHTS, RESOURCES & EVENTS

ESG – What is ESG and how does it impact office design?

The term ESG is fast becoming a key influence on design in the workplace, as organisations divert their focus towards investing in making their workspace more environmentally friendly, increasing the use of sustainable methods and materials throughout the office.

The three pillars of ESG are made up of Environment, Social and Governance and have become some of the core principles in which companies are building their long-term growth strategies. Embedding ESG into the heart of organisations has put a clear focus on aiming to reduce any negative impact the organisation may have on the community in which it operates, such as lowering pollution levels, reducing carbon emissions and increasing recycling.

These principles also work to enhance the internal working practices of organisations, aiming to enhance employee wellbeing, ensuring inclusivity and diversity for employees in the workplace, and enhancing transparency throughout all levels of the business.

Not only has ESG become increasingly important to ensure decision-makers comply with required industry standards and reach targets, but it has become a benchmark for businesses across the globe to showcase their USPs and differentiate their brand culture. It has also assisted with raising the standard for workplace recycling, encouraged the application of sustainable policies and practices, and has become a showcase for organisations around the world to set themselves apart from their competitors.

Let’s take a closer look at how the three EGS pillars impact workplace design…

Environmental

The environmental aspect of ESG focuses on how a business can minimise its impact on the environment and this is one of the most important elements when it comes to office design and fitout.  The environment pillar of ESG can cover many areas within a business from its design and location, right through to its supply chain, operations, the products it produces, or services it provides.

This increased focus on the environment, aiming to reduce carbon emissions and move towards net zero emissions, has been accelerated by the signing of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement which has committed the UK Government to net zero emissions by 2050.  Along with this agreement came the 2020 intermediary commitment which is focused on reducing the UK’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030.

At present approx. 40% of the UK carbon comes from buildings and therefore a huge change is required during the building process to help move towards net zero emissions.  This journey towards achieving net zero emissions simply cannot be achieved solely through new build green credentials and therefore organisations must review and invest in upgrading the existing buildings in which they currently reside.

There are two types of carbon which relate to buildings and these are Operational carbon and Embodied carbon.

Operational carbon relates to the energy used to keep the business operating such as lighting and heating.  Most new builds are focused on energy efficiency and low operation carbon.  Reducing carbon emissions in an existing building can be easily achieved through refurbishment and upgrade and even small changes can have a solid positive impact on carbon ratings.

Embodied carbon refers to the carbon required to produce the organisation’s product or service, this includes everything from manufacturing transportation of products or services etc.  Embodied carbon can be more difficult to measure than operational carbon and therefore it is essential that organisations really focus on and set up measurement systems to truly understand their embodied carbon emissions.

During the design and fitout stage of an office workspace, there are a number of ways in which Calibro focus on

reducing emissions for our clients. For example, we work with a range of suppliers who use sustainable manufacturing processes and materials such as Dutch company Vepa.  Vepa is the only manufacturer of office and project furniture whose products are 100% made in their own factories, meaning they have full control over the quality, ensuring good working conditions and resulting in a CO2 reduction of up to 70% and they are actively working towards becoming a waste-free factory. We recently used some of Vepa’s products in a client’s office refurbishment project in Dublin and incorporated this unique whale tail chair into the design.  This uniquely designed chair is known as the Whale Chair and the back of the chair is made from 67 recycled PET bottles, which were fished out of the Amsterdam canals by the organisation Plastic Whale.  The cast iron base of the chair is also made from recycled materials, namely pressed steel waste from our Vepa’s own factory.

   

We also work with a forward-thinking and innovative flooring supplier Miliken who has developed a range of carbon-neutral flooring as part of their M/PACT carbon-neutral programme.  Available in a range of designs and materials including carpet, LVT and flooring titles, we have used this carbon-neutral flooring in a range of our fitout and refurbishment projects.

With more awareness of the potentially negative impact, businesses can have on the environment, organisations are now focusing on setting targets to reduce their carbon emissions and become more sustainable in their practices and production.  Organizations are also giving more consideration to the environment when it comes to their office space and the design and upgrade of their buildings and offices.  With a building and office space often being one of an organisation’s largest assets it is becoming more common for organizations to address upgrading office space to make it more economical and environmentally friending during the build or refurbishment stages.  Key decision-makers are considering options for recycling and upgrading along with the use of more sustainable materials and practices.

There are a number of ways in which businesses can adapt to become more environmentally friendly within the workplace.  For example, using renewable energy sources such as solar, switching to more sustainable materials and opting for the refurbishment of seating and office furniture where possible, encouraging recycling and the use of recycled products in office design, installing carbon-neutral flooring, improving insulation, monitoring heating via smart technology and reviewing lighting to switch to LED lighting to reduce carbon emissions.

Social

The social pillar of ESG focuses on how a business’s overall workplace culture and how the business impacts with wider society in which it operates.

Workplace culture is carefully crafted over a period of time with the aim of creating a culture which is unique to that organisation and which supports, reflects and nurtures the wellbeing of its employees.  From a design point of view, the positive impact a well-designed office space can have on the employee’s culture to encourage socialising, encourage time-out and provide the opportunity for collaboration and community is hugely beneficial and impactful.

New office fitouts and refurbishments are encompassing a variety of collaborative spaces and workspace settings to suit the individual work styles of employees; for example, a townhall space for training and events, breakout areas, meeting and conference rooms, pods for confidential conversations, video/ podcast rooms, wellness rooms, personal lockers, and shower and changing facilities. Consideration is also given to how employees commute, and organisations are increasingly providing electric vehicle charging stations and spots for parking bikes.

Outside of the workplace, organisations can positively impact the communities in which they operate and reflect and instil their company culture through a variety of schemes and incentives to support and enhance the local areas.  Businesses can invest in local communities, drive innovation and jobs and enhance working conditions whilst focusing on helping enhance the environment and the wellbeing of local communities.

Governance

The final pillar of ESG relates to the ethical and responsible management practices of an organisation. Governance ensures that a business is operating within the best interests of all stakeholders, including employees.

In terms of how this impacts office design, a workplace can promote good governance by encouraging transparency, accountability, ethical behaviour, and reflecting the values and mission of the organisation. You can foster collaboration and open communication by providing areas for employees to get together and share ideas, input, and feedback.
Consideration should also be given to the security of employees, the protection of sensitive information and what additional features this may require such as lockable storage, and restricted access to IT servers.

In summary, ESG impacts a lot of aspects of the office design and fitout process, and should form part of those early discussions relating to your workspace to ensure the result truly reflects your values, and works towards meeting ESG targets.

Here at Calibro, we are focused on incorporating ESG into the design process from inception and work closely with clients to design workspaces which fit their ESG targets.  We work with a variety of global suppliers who offer sustainable and environmentally friendly furniture and equipment to ensure ESG is considered at each stage throughout the design and fitout process. To discuss your ESG-focused design project, get in touch today

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