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Green on the Inside
26th Jan 2010
Green on the Inside

Developers and tenants are increasingly demanding BREEAM ‘Excellent’ office buildings to demonstrate their commitment to the environment and sustainability of their businesses. With increasing pressure on corporate businesses and, in particular Government occupiers, to improve their green credentials, Karl Ward, Managing Director of Office Recycling Solution UK (ORS UK), looks at how the sustainability of the building only scratches the surface of the green agenda and discusses the simple steps that businesses can take to save money and the planet.

 

Businesses no longer have the luxury of choice when it comes to opting into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Such practices are now compulsory in the majority of cases with sustainability high on client and customer agendas and awareness growing year on year. How CSR is incorporated into business activity will vary from company to company according to local circumstances, particularly as there is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to corporate sustainability.

 

Businesses are on average responsible for over 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions compared with 27% for households. As many of us spend half our waking lives in the office, it is clear that businesses concerned with CSR need to embed a green ethos into the company culture, to make green intentions in the office really clear and effective.

 

Saving energy and becoming greener as a company doesn’t need great investment, but does require employees and employers to adopt some simple energy saving measures that cost little or less in time and money than standard practices.

 

Companies should start by looking at their energy suppliers and usage. Basic energy efficiency could save small and medium sized businesses around £1,000 per employee each year.

 

The second step is switching off the workstation computer. Computers and monitors often make up half of the electricity wasted in the workplace, with the monitor accounting for two thirds of that. If you don’t have movement sensor lighting in the office, it  makes sense to leave the lights off in areas of the office where there is no regular occupant, such as store rooms and the kitchen.

 

The third big area where office energy and cost savings can be realised is heating and cooling.  It is common to solve the problem of an overheated office by opening windows instead of turning the thermostat down. A one degree drop in temperature can save between 8 – 10% on the cost, so it makes sense for staff to get acclimatised to a lower office temperature all the time without the need to open windows.

 

Most offices have now understood the environmental and CSR benefits of recycling office waste, but one area that often gets overlooked is office furniture.

 

Most office furniture and equipment does not increase in value over time and should therefore be viewed as expenses, not as investments. If businesses can ask themselves how important new furniture really is, a lot of money can be saved by purchasing reconditioned or recycled items.

 

For example, if there is an area in the office where customers or prospective customers are met, it would be a better investment to purchase new furniture for this area. Other areas where public image is not a factor or wear-and-tear may be heavy are prime targets for good quality used office furniture.

With finances tighter than ever, there is no doubt that as a business we are seeing a shift in buying. Our customers are far more tuned into cost saving, as well as CSR and are now opting for refurbished or recycled instead of splashing out on new.

Our stock of second hand is bigger than ever but we are also seeing a need for responsible furniture disposal, as a result of greener working practices. With the environment in mind, businesses are looking for alternatives to the traditional disposal route of landfill.  Our clearance service has been tailored to this demand and, in line with the expectations of today’s savvy occupiers, we can guarantee that nothing will be sent to landfill. All furniture will be refurbished or any unusable items will be broken down for spares or recycled responsibly.

Ultimately recycling used office furniture diverts it out of the landfill and into the consumer markets. Not only does recycled furniture often look as good as new, but could provide an average saving of 30 to 50 per cent to any buying business.

Recycling is essentially at the heart of our business. With the escalation of environmental awareness and concern over global warming, we understand that selling green is the future. When fitting out office space, we have found that the region’s facilities managers are much more in tune with the sustainability agenda and, as such, look for office equipment suppliers like ORS UK to be accredited with iso environmental standards such as 14001 and 9001 to be firmly embedded into day to day working practices.

There is no doubt that introducing CSR practices can not only save businesses money in the long-term, but also sets an example for the entire company in managing assets and encouraging conservation and waste reduction. Making green practices at the centre of corporate culture will only strengthen a company’s financial and cultural message, as well as saving the planet.