The Power of Sustainability: A New Era for Businesses

Tuesday, October 3 , 2023

Sustainability in the flexible workspace sector is not just a trend but an imperative. But as operators, how can you showcase the significance of these initiatives to tenants?

Although there is a general understanding now that sustainability is necessary, it can be challenging for operators to navigate this fast-evolving and complex space.  

One particularly shocking piece of data shows that an estimated 42% of all CO2 emissions have occurred over the last three decades, demonstrating how urgent it is for all of us to start tackling the challenges. Despite this, only 14% of people think their businesses are ambitious in this area.  

With a direct link between changing consumer sentiment and business, making the connection is more important than ever. Society is holding us to higher accountability, and Gen Z in particular, sustainability is a massive consideration when choosing where to work and spend their money.  

Developing a sustainability strategy in the flex office space 

The commercial property sector is responsible for roughly 26% of the global emissions contributing to greenhouse gasses. We've seen this as high as 40%, too, which means if we can move the needle in our sector, we can have a global impact as a collective.  

Moving towards a Net Zero working environment has already gained traction, and recent research by The Instant Group and the Urban Land Institute has indicated that 54% of occupiers believe ESG will significantly impact their offer in the future, which is a promising trend.  

To do this, though, operators have said they need to understand occupier pain points for this better to become a valuable part of their offering.  

Key considerations:  

  • Carbon Emissions Accounting: The details of carbon emissions and how they're accounted for are essential. Everyone's emissions profile influences others, pointing towards a collective responsibility. 
  • Role of Operators in the Flex Sector: Operators play a significant and growing role in this system, especially within the flexible workspace sector. Their actions and decisions influence overall emission profiles, impacting their occupiers. 
  • Sustainability as a Priority: There's a clear signal that sustainability is a business imperative. Most occupiers are requesting sustainability information from their workspace provider, indicating a growing influence and importance in the sector. 
  • Occupier's Influence: Occupiers drive the value chain. Their demands and needs shape the actions and strategies of operators. 
  • Operators' Challenge: Operators find themselves balancing between two pressures. On one side, they face demands from occupiers like Google, who have ambitious sustainability goals and require their workspace providers to align with them. This means that operators must meet these sustainability demands and provide accurate data reporting on carbon emissions. 
  • Data Accuracy and Format: As operators face these demands, it's crucial that the data they provide concerning emissions and sustainability is accurate and presented in an acceptable format. This ensures transparency and alignment with the occupiers' targets. 

Link between sustainability and profitability 

Sustainability is a collaborative effort. Working together to embrace renewable energy, sustainability policies, optimising operations, and leveraging data are vital steps businesses can take to make a difference. 

Some ways operators can approach this includes:  

  • Differentiation through Sustainability: Operators should leverage sustainability as a distinguishing factor in their business model. It allows operators to stand out from the competition and support in attracting occupiers with similar business principles. 
  • Collaborate with Occupiers: Building a partnership-focused relationship is crucial. Listen to the needs of the occupiers and tailor solutions that meet their expectations, especially concerning sustainable practices. 
  • Understand and Address the Complex World of Hybrid Working: Navigate the intricate landscape of hybrid work models, return to office strategies, and other challenges. Focus on positioning sustainability as a critical solution to these challenges. 
  • Leverage sustainability as a Business Advantage: Use sustainability to foster relationships and create business opportunities. By positioning oneself as a collaborator, operators can address the specific pain points of occupiers. 
  • Embed Sustainability in Offerings: Operators should integrate sustainable practices into their core offerings beyond catering to the occupiers. This includes addressing their emissions and ways of operation. 
  • Rely on Data: Understand the importance of data in tracking and showcasing sustainability efforts. With data, progress can be tracked and measured. Start by identifying the correct data to gauge site performance, sustainability impact, and other vital metrics. 
  • Move Beyond Certification Alone: While certifications are valuable and are a key pillar within a sustainability strategy, operators should ensure they also address the root causes of emissions and not just aim for a certification badge. Consider both certification and actual emission data as two parts of a holistic approach to sustainability. 

Five key actions for a sustainable future 

1. Switch to Renewable Energy: Particularly in the UK, there is a shift towards renewable energy tariffs and providers. Working individually or with landlords to find the best tariff is recommended. 

2. Evaluate Suppliers for Sustainability: Assess your suppliers to determine if they have a sustainability policy. If they don't, question them about it. Also, consider switching to local suppliers, such as local coffee providers, to reduce transport emissions and support local businesses. 

3. Improve Waste Management: Focus on recycling, educating occupants about proper recycling, and using waste services like First Mile and AI bins to help users determine which waste goes in which bin. 

4. Optimize Building Operations: Monitor how occupants are using the space. Based on that data, consider turning off certain services when not in use, understanding occupant behavior to reduce emissions, and ensuring that devices are turned off during weekends or periods of non-use. 

5. Leverage the Sustainability Index: This index provides differentiation for platform listings, ensuring that the data submitted and available to prospective occupiers is validated. This validation, symbolized by a kite mark on listings, can then communicate a commitment to sustainability to potential clients or occupants. 

Watch our latest webinar to learn about incorporating sustainability strategies into your business.  

Are you a flex space operator? Discover how you can become a sustainability data provider today.

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