Data, Supply Chains, and Hybrid Work: Key Learnings from our Sustainability Roundtable

Monday, April 1 , 2024

Our recent Instant Connect Sustainability Roundtable in London provided a platform for CRE leaders across sectors to explore sustainable workplace solutions. Through dynamic discussions, we uncovered crucial insights into sustainability implementation, supply chain challenges, data issues, and the evolving landscape of hybrid work towards achieving Net Zero goals—this is what we found.

DATA CHALLENGES


At the core of our discussions was the paramount importance of sustainability data. Many attendees shared their experiences of setting ambitious net zero goals before having a robust plan in place, essentially working backward to fill the gaps. This challenge was particularly pronounced for one occupier aiming for carbon positivity, necessitating comprehensive data across their supply chain and office portfolio.

Recycling also emerged as a common priority, with initiatives such as internal recycling programs gaining traction. However, challenges in negotiating with landlords for equipment and ensuring employee support underscored the need for innovative engagement strategies. Interactive education methods like gamification and targeted activities within physical spaces could foster awareness and participation, ultimately reducing contamination rates.

Data privacy concerns were also prominent, with some participants facing obstacles due to strict privacy policies whilst others had mandated freedom of information. Despite these contrasting challenges, there was a consensus on the growing importance of verified supply chain data to ensure alignment with values and commitments. Participants emphasized the need to uphold brand values across the entire supply chain. There's a shared risk among participants, including Instant, that neglecting sustainability in supply chains could harm their ability to attract environmentally conscious clients, posing a significant business risk as the focus on emissions and targets intensifies.

 

SUPPLY CHAIN OPTIMIZATION


Discussions emphasized the significance of enhancing sustainability standards within the supply chain. Establishing minimum standards and negotiating effectively with suppliers were deemed essential for driving sustainable practices forward. One participant highlighted subcontracting from larger organizations to smaller entities as a strategy to access specialized expertise and minimize supply chain disruption.

A notable example was shared of a financial sector client's climate action program, aiming for 67% of suppliers to set science-based targets by 2026. Collaborative efforts, including webinars and workshops, demonstrated the necessity of a holistic approach in navigating the journey towards collective net zero goals.

 

HYBRID WORKING STRATEGIES


A disconnect between headquarters and local teams was identified, both in delivering new workspaces and operating them sustainably. It was noted that a workplace strategy led by the headquarters can facilitate the development of a cohesive blueprint and requirements for future offices. In one case, this alignment streamlined negotiations and ensured consistency and efficiency in the rollout process.

Global businesses faced additional challenges due to cultural and legislative differences, hindering efforts to align office footprint goals. Despite these obstacles, initiatives like developing a global governance structure demonstrated proactive steps towards addressing carbon reduction across decentralized portfolios.

The global disconnect also impacted hybrid working strategies, with structured approaches like a three-stage hybrid work model enhancing predictability in office occupancy levels. Leveraging data to optimize office space allocation based on actual utilization trends enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

 

The Sustainability Roundtable underscored the interconnected challenges and opportunities in data management, supply chain optimization, and hybrid work strategies on the path to sustainability. To overcome these challenges, collaboration, innovation, and a holistic approach are paramount—simple put, CRE leaders cannot do this alone. They play a pivotal role by driving demand for sustainability data and solutions from their suppliers and partners. However, sustainability does not consistently rank as the top priority for everyone, and this is where we face our greatest challenge. Achieving transparent data practices, fostering supplier engagement, and aligning global strategies with local contexts are all feasible, but only when our net zero objectives are aligned.

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