Environmental impact is an important factor for businesses to tackle, but you need to look at more than office design when it comes to reducing your negative impact.

The effect that businesses have on the environment has been a hot button topic for many years and isn’t set to go anywhere. To call this environmental focus a trend isn’t quite right, but it is going to be an increasingly important topic in 2021 when it comes to office design and how organisations operate. 

Reducing negative environmental impact has become a part of many brands’ identity, with this goal impacting the products and services they provide, the partners they work with and the way their offices look. It is no longer enough to simply say that a company cares about the environment, it must embody its dedication to protecting the environment in everything it does. 

Failing to live up to its promises is likely to result in negative press and consumer sentiment – especially in the age of social media and fast access to information. One small slip up can really damage a brand’s reputation, which is hard to come back from. 

This is why you need to look at how you can change the way your business operates in order to fully reflect its efforts to reduce its environmental impact. While office design does have its part to play, there is a lot more you can change when it comes to the way you work. 

Work flexibly

We’ve all had to embrace flexible working since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, but long-term flexible working could be a big part of reducing your company’s environmental impact. 

Not only does flexible working reduce your office’s energy consumption, but it will also cut down on emissions associated with commuting. You may not consider commuting emissions to be part of an organisation’s environmental impact, but if that organisation requires everyone to travel to the office every workday, they are. 

Allowing people the flexibility to work remotely a few days every week can have a big positive impact, as well as helping people to develop a better work-life balance. 

As well as less power usage and fewer commuting emissions, you may also find that you’re able to make do with a smaller office space, as not everyone will require a workspace at the same time. This cuts down the amount of furniture you use, electrical equipment and more – all of which is positive. 

Telecommunications company O2 recently announced its new Green Savings Calculator that will allow organisations to see just how much money they could save by adopting long-term flexible working, as well as how much they can reduce their carbon emissions. 

Recycle and re-use

Recycling, upcycling and reusing what you can within your workplace are also important steps to reducing negative environmental impact. When redesigning an office or moving into a new space, it can be all too easy to opt for new furniture, but what you already have could be used within your new space. 

This is definitely where the idea of respectful consumption comes into play. Rather than making purchase decisions to save money in the short-term, you need to consider how purchases – such as office furniture – could reduce your impact on the environment and save you money in the long-term. 

When purchasing furniture, don’t make price the most important factor in your decision. Instead, look at quality, how long it is likely to last, the flexibility it provides and the materials it is made of.

Ideally, you want any wood to be FSC-certified so you know it has been sourced from sustainable forests that are exempt from felling. Materials should be hard-wearing so they’ll last for an extended period time and allow for re-use in different ways. In terms of the design of your furniture, adaptability – whether buying off the shelf or bespoke – is a big factor in being able to continue using your furniture in the future as your business changes.

If your existing furniture isn’t going to work with your new office space, look at what options you have when it comes to disposal. It may be that your furniture can be sold to be used by someone else, fully broken down and recycled or donated to a charity. Any of these options is much better for the environment than sending it to landfill. 

Choose partners carefully

If your business is making environmental promises, you need to be working with partners who have similar goals and environmental standards. After all, your impact is affected by the companies you work with and choosing the wrong partner could undo a lot of the progress your organisation makes. 

For example, if you are ISO 14001-certified, which means you are recognised for having effective environmental management systems in place, you would want to ensure that other relevant companies you are working with also have the same certification. Ensuring your partners have the same priorities as your organisation will ensure you suffer no reputational damage by being affiliated with them. 

Improve your lighting’s efficiency

We all know that lighting is important to offices. You need to ensure that a workplace is well-lit to enable people to work comfortably and avoid eye strain. This means that lighting can use up a lot of energy, which can have a big impact on your environmental footprint. 

While you should aim to make the most of any natural light your office gets, you really can’t do without lighting. Switching to LED lighting is an energy-efficient option, providing a good level of light while using less energy. When you couple this with features like dimmers, as well as natural lighting – you can use solar shading and transparent film to cut down on glare and excessive heat from windows – your office will make better use of its energy.

On top of this, you should look to utilise motion-sensors where possible, as this will ensure that lights turn off after a timed period of inactivity. Although you can ask people to turn lights off if they are the last person to leave a room, the chances are someone will forget. Using motion sensors will ensure that lights are not left on when they aren’t needed. 

You can make your lighting even more efficient – as well as all of the energy used in your office – by switching to a renewable energy supplier. Ideally, your supplier should be REGO-certified (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin) so you know that the energy you are being supplied with is sourced 100% renewable. 

Work with environmental organisations

As well as taking steps to reduce your impact through design, energy and emissions, you might also want to consider actively working to improve the environment. Choosing organisations or charities to work with that work to look after the environment can help support your efforts and ensure that you are fully living up to your brand values. 

For example, if you use wood or wood byproducts, you might want to consider pledging to donate a percentage of every sale to plant more trees. Steps like this can help you become carbon neutral and showcase that you mean business to your customers.