With COP26 fast approaching and climate change high on the agenda, many companies are starting to look at how they can strike a balance between continuing to be competitive in an increasingly difficult marketplace while preserving the environment.
As well as “doing the right thing” for the environment it’s becoming clear that sustainability is emerging as an even bigger consideration for consumers today as climate change is ever more worryingly being openly discussed and seen to be having a bigger and more devastating impact on our environment.
In this article we look at ways that Kent and London business can make a positive impact on the environment including how to plan for their next sustainable office refurbishment.
Consumers Looking To More Eco-Friendly Products and Services
It’s interesting to note that many consumers are now reassessing who they spend money with depending on their “green credentials”.
A survey by Curiosity at Work found that “35% of respondents would buy a product that’s better for the environment over another that’s slightly cheaper and 56% are at least moderately or slightly likely, indicating that a majority of respondents would consider a higher price point for these products.”
According to Forbes a 2017 study showed that 68% of millennials bought a product with a social or environmental benefit in the past 12 months, 87% of consumers will have a more positive image of a company that supports social or environmental issues, 88% will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues, 87% would buy a product with a social and environmental benefit if given the opportunity and 92% will be more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues.
Computer Generated Solutions (CGS), a global provider of business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing services, 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey revealed that sustainability was driving demand and customer loyalty. In the findings over 66% of the respondents considered sustainability when making a purchase and were willing to pay more for a sustainable product. 68% of Gen Z shoppers had made an eco-friendly purchase in the past year.
In the Deloitte “Changes and key finds in sustainability and consumer behaviour in 2021” survey into consumer attitudes to environmental and ethical sustainability they found that “sustainability remained a key consideration for consumers in 2021 with 32% of consumers highly engaged with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.” They also found that 28% of all consumers stopped buying certain products due to ethical or environmental concerns. This was higher when only looking at Gen Z consumers where 50% reduced how much they buy and 45% stopped purchasing certain brands where they had sustainability or ethical considerations. Deloitte goes onto say that the five sustainable practices that consumers look to companies for are reduction of waste, reducing their carbon footprint, providing sustainable packaging, committing to ethical work practices, and respecting human rights.
Do Businesses Contribute to Climate Change?
According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in 2019, 27% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK were estimated to be from the transport sector, 21% from energy supply, 17% from business, 15% from the residential sector and 10% from agriculture.
In the “Reducing UK Emissions Progress Report to Parliament” the UK committee on climate change said “It will be businesses that primarily deliver the net-zero target and provide the vast majority of the required investment. UK business groups have strongly welcomed the setting of the net-zero target and are already acting to reduce emissions. Policy should provide a clear and stable direction and a simple investable set of rules and incentives that leave room for businesses to innovate and find the most effective means of switching to low-carbon solutions.”
How Can My Business Make A Contribution To Tackling Sustainability?
There are many different ways businesses can tackle sustainability to try to have less impact on the planet and the climate. These include using sustainable products and materials, looking at methods of reducing the waste they produce and the energy that they consume, using greenery in the office, conserving water, maximising the use of natural light, ensuring good ventilation, installing sustainable tech, introducing sustainable business travel policies and by using local suppliers where possible. All of these options can be part of your next sustainable office refurbishment.
We’ve put together some ideas on how to design and fit out a sustainable office:
Using Sustainable Materials In Your Office
One of the things that can make a big impact on sustainability is using eco-friendly materials in your office.
Natural materials like wood and stone can have a big impact on a sustainable office refurbishment and the environment when used in flooring, doors, counter tops and office furniture etc. Fabrics like cotton can be used in furniture and furnishings. Natural materials also tend to be more durable, with the right care, so are far more likely to last longer and to retain their look in the longer term.
You should also consider recycled, recyclable or second-hand furniture. Interestingly recycled plastic was at the forefront of the 2018 London Design Festival showing that even some plastic can be 100% recyclable!
Every office uses stationery and this too can be sourced to be sustainable. Everything from paper, notepads, envelopes and folders can be eco friendly. In fact even pen holders, planters, notice boards, speakers (made from recycled textiles and bamboo) and pens (using refillable ink) can all be made from recyclable materials. In fact you’d be surprised by just how many items can be made from natural materials.
Reducing Waste And Energy Used
It’s amazing the amount of waste we generate when it comes to day to day working. However there are some simple steps you can take to reduce office waste.
Get rid of individual waste bins and replace them with centralised waste bins. Use smart plugs and their in-built timers to turn off lights, fans and other appliances when they are not being used. Adjusting your thermostat by a couple of degrees up (in winter) and down (in summer) has been shown to save up to 2000 lbs of CO2 per year. Changing to energy efficient light bulbs can also reduce the amount of electricity used and as they last longer can also save you money in the long run. Eliminating the use of single use cups and encouraging staff to use refillable bottles will not only reduce waste but also decrease the amount of plastic and Styrofoam going to landfill. Double sided printing will use less paper. Making your office paperless where possible will also reduce the amount of paper you need to use and store thereby freeing up office space. You should also look for suppliers who use less packaging so you’ll have less waste to throw away when ordering their products.
You can incorporate plants into the office through living walls (or green walls), floor standing plants and wall partitions. Living walls are exactly as they sound – walls that incorporate plants and foliage. Floor standing (or desk standing plants) are simple but effective at introducing greenery into the office space and can be anything from a simple potted plant to tree. Wall partitions usually combine a cabinet or storage furniture with some sort of trough or planting section that plants can be added to.
Not only are plants sustainable but they help to bring the outside inside and act as office dividers. Incorporating greenery into the office can also bring a host of other benefits including improving health and wellbeing through stress reduction, reducing absence leave, increasing productivity and improving air quality by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.
There are a number of ways that you can conserve water in the office.
Remind all staff to turn off taps after using them. As part of your building maintenance, check taps and toilets regularly for any water leaks. If you’re looking to refurbish your toilets or washrooms consider using low-flow toilets which use less water and install tap aerators which create a mist/spray thereby using less water for washing.
If you have a kitchen area think about how water is used. Again encourage staff to use water frugally by turning off taps when they finish with them. Look at the ways that mugs, cups and cutlery are washed up i.e. rather than individually running a tap to wash and rinse them encourage then to steep them in a bowl of water that can be used by more than one person. If you decide to purchase a dishwasher (research has shown that on average dishwashers use 4 times less water than washing by hand) look at those brands which have low water consumption and educate staff on the best dishwasher programmes to use to conserve water.
Maximising The Use Of Natural Light
Where possible utilise natural light in your office layout. This helps to reduce the amount of artificial light that’s then required throughout your office thereby reducing your energy consumption.
Utilise large windows and doors which allow more light through. If this isn’t an option then make the best use of the available natural light when arranging office space and workstations. Don’t forget to position monitors so they avoid glare.
Wherever artificial light is required use low energy LED lighting systems in your sustainable office refurbishment which are energy efficient and cost less.
Ventilation is vital. Although we’ve always known that good ventilation is required in office buildings it’s been brought to the fore due to the pandemic. Now we need to ensure good ventilation is in place in order to reduce how much Covid-19 virus is circulating in the air. Where ventilation is poor there is a greater risk from aerosol transmission.
As much as opening windows can provide some ventilation when fresh air comes in through the open windows and doors, mechanical ventilation can provide a more consistent and controllable passage of air throughout workspaces.
If you do use a mechanical ventilation system it’s important to keep it well maintained and to replace it as required, to the more energy efficient air conditioning systems available today. Today’s air conditioning use between 30-50% less energy to maintain a buildings temperature than those air conditioners made in the 1970s. Even if your system is less than 10 years old replacing it could save you between 20-40% in energy costs.
Installing Smart Technology
You can decrease your energy consumption if you use smart technology, especially if it’s integrated at fit out stage.
The use of smart sensors can help to control light usage, monitor energy usage and provide feedback and advice on ways to reduce your office’s carbon footprint. Smart meters can be connected to heating, ventilation and air conditioning to track and control settings and to ensure that the system uses the minimum energy to achieve the maximum performance.
Updating equipment such as printers and multi-functional devices to newer more energy efficient models can cut energy consumption by as much as 30%.
Using Local Suppliers Where Possible
By using local suppliers you reduce the distance and therefore the amount of travel that it takes products to get to you and consequently less carbon emissions. Of course it’s not always going to be possible to source “locally” but if you have the choice choose local.
Introducing Sustainable Business Travel Policies
Consider travelling less. The pandemic has shown us that it’s possible to conduct business locally, nationally and globally without having to travel. Business meetings, for the most part, can be done online via collaborative software e.g. Zoom or Microsoft Teams etc. By carrying out business online you reduce your travel miles and your carbon footprint. If you do need to travel consider the modes of transport you use.
Implement car sharing or encourage staff to use public transport to get to and from work. You may also want to consider remote working where appropriate to reduce business travelling.
Hiring A Sustainable Office Refurbishment Contractor
By hiring a sustainable office refurbishment contractor you can be sure that one of their priorities will be to present you with the best sustainable options for your office fit out. They should also be able to recycle old fixtures and fittings and source sustainable building materials and new sustainable fixtures and fittings.
How Can JBH Refurbishments Help?
JBH Refurbishments have over 30 years experience in office design and development and can advise on all aspects of your Kent or London sustainable office refurbishment .To find out how we can help us via our contact form or by calling us on 0333 207 0339.