Sustainability isn’t one size fits all, but your business can make a positive impact in its own way. Here’s how.
“How can we be more sustainable?” It’s a sentence you’ve likely heard over the last few years, either in your office, or perhaps in your own head. Sustainability is a hot topic for businesses, because, well, it’s the future of how us humans live. To put it simply, “a sustainable business is an enterprise that has a minimal negative impact, or potentially a positive effect, on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy—a business that strives to meet the triple bottom line.” Soon, sustainability will move away from being a unique selling point and become what’s expected.
Why being a sustainable business is important
Behind over a third of the world’s carbon emissions, there are 20 businesses. Every year, global emissions from textile production and the fashion industry are equivalent to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2, a figure that outweighs the carbon footprint of international flights and shipping combined. In other words, although swapping to a vegan diet, cycling to work and shopping second-hand can be good for the planet, the climate crisis ultimately sits with businesses. It’s in the hands of CEOs and decision-makers to really make a positive difference.
What’s more, being a sustainable business can actually have a positive effect on sales and customer loyalty. A study by CGS revealed that 68% consider sustainability an important factor when buying a product. In another study, consumer research published by the insights company Kantar found that more than three quarters (77%) of Brits have switched, avoided or boycotted brands because of their environmental policies.
What are the different types of sustainable businesses?
There are four types of sustainability—environmental, human, social and economic.
The environment is what most of us picture when we think about sustainability. For environmentally sustainable businesses—especially those who sell products—they’ll focus on the carbon footprint of their product, packaging and operations. This could be a vegan certification, plastic alternatives or leading by Cradle to Cradle principles to contribute towards a circular economy. Even service-based businesses can be environmentally sustainable, by considering the wider impact of their clients and investors. For example, a sustainable service business would avoid working with venture capitalists who also invest in palm oil.
A humanity-driven sustainable business focuses on the wellbeing and equality of the people who make their business happen—from the team at their HQ, to those who work in their factories. Working conditions, fair pay, equality and diversity all come into play under this pillar of sustainability.
Social sustainability means looking beyond the walls of a business to consider the impact it has on the local and global community. It prioritises job creation, giving back to charity and supporting others through business. Non-profits, this one’s for you.
Economic growth is a good thing for everyone—directly and indirectly. When a business succeeds, it means more people have jobs and so, more tax is contributed to national services like education, welfare, environment and our NHS. Economic sustainability is the alchemy of people, planet and profit.
The sustainability of B Corporations
Businesses that are B Corp certified have been rigorously investigated on B Corp’s five impact areas—governance, workers, community, environment and customers. So basically, if you see a business with the B Corp badge, you can count on two things— 1) they cover all aspects of sustainability and 2) they’re one of the good guys.
For customers, this is a big plus, and the proof is in the numbers—a third of certified British companies felt they’d attracted new customers and team members since joining the scheme. Investors are also taking notice of these purpose-driven brands. You only need to look at the success of Patagonia, innocent and other sustainable companies to see why it’s the future of business.
How your environment can help your business to be more sustainable
There are some really simple actions you can take in your office to be a more sustainable business. Start small with things like recycling schemes or a general ‘print-less’ rule—it all adds up.
But what if your office could be sustainable without even trying? Think of it this way—if your space has big windows with lots of natural light, you won’t need to use electricity to power lamps for most of the day. If your office is well-insulated, say ‘au revoir’ to the electric heaters under everyone’s desk. By choosing a space that’s close to transport links or a cycle route, your team will be far less likely to use a car at the beginning and end of every day.
With your office alone, you can achieve both environmental and human sustainability with one shot. Why? Well, in addition to the energy-saving props mentioned above, your team has somewhere warm, bright and convenient to work every day. These factors have been proven to boost productivity—so, while you’re at it, you can add economic sustainability to that list too.
Sustainable offices in London
In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re obsessed with offices. Workspace sustainability is one of the most popular questions that hit our inbox and there are plenty of options out there—like serviced offices which provide all office furniture for you (so you don’t need to buy even more stuff), to coworking spaces built with recycled materials. Here are just some of the sustainable offices you’ll find in London.
TOG — White Collar Factory
Right in the heart of Tech City, you’ll find White Collar Factory just a short walk from Old Street Station and all of the cool bars and restaurants that the area has to offer. From a sustainability perspective, White Collar Factory’s design works with the thermal mass of the building’s concrete structure to absorb the heat generated in the office. The heat is transferred by a network of chilled water pipes embedded in the concrete, which radiantly cool the building. So, it uses up to a quarter less energy than conventional offices.
UNCOMMON — Liverpool Street
When we mentioned easy commutes for your team, you don’t get much better than UNCOMMON. It’s set in the Crosspoint, a building that’s right next to Liverpool Street Station (which is a great place to base your business). Their approach to sustainability is about creating a balanced space for you and your team.
“[We] provide workspaces where every detail has been fine-tuned to improve productivity while supporting wellbeing. There are quiet spaces that encourage focus, greenery throughout the buildings to purify the air, and everything from the furniture to the music has been chosen to prime people for a successful day.”
Second Home — London Fields
What’s bright and flexible with plants all over? Second Home’s London Fields spot. For every space, they work with architects Selgas Cano and Estudio Cano Lasso, who are maestros on evolutionary psychology and biophilia (a scientific term for plants and the positive impact they have on us humans). In addition to all that clean air in your lungs, Second Home runs on 100% renewable energy.
No matter what sustainability means to your business, we can help you find the perfect space to make it all happen. Speak with one of our office alchemists.