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In this blog, Rap Interiors interior designer Alice Carr takes us through what the three pillars of sustainability are, why they are so important, and how businesses can use them to achieve corporate responsibility goals.

So, let’s start by asking the golden question:

What Are the Three Pillars of Sustainability?

The three pillars of sustainability are social, environmental and economic. When each pillar is “achieved” and the business model works in harmony across the three areas, then you have true sustainability.

Here is a breakdown of the three pillars:

  • Social – A socially sustainable business treats employees fairly, engages with its local community through giving to charities and volunteering, and provides a safe working environment.
  • Environmental – The environmental pillar focuses on aspects that benefit the environment. This includes measures like reducing carbon footprint, water usage and waste.
  • Economic – For a business to be sustainable, it must be profitable, but this does not mean it should maximise profit at any cost. Rather, economically sustainable companies practice responsible governance and risk management. Profit should also not sacrifice the environmental and social pillars of sustainability.

Incorporating Sustainability Principles in Your Workplace

You should consider sustainability principles throughout the lifecycle of your occupancy. This will start at the lease negotiation stage and carry on through moving in and setting up, office refurbishment works, and end of lease dilapidations.

Here are some things to take into account throughout these stages:

Lease Negotiations

  • Social – Before you agree a lease, you need to consider the impact your business is having on the surrounding community, whether the location and local amenities accommodate your staff, and if there are accessible public transport links.
  • Environmental – Does the building have poor thermal breaks or a low EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating? This may be something you can ask your landlord to address prior to your occupancy commencing. Airtight buildings require less heating and cooling during operation and, in-turn, preserve the unnecessary use of fossil fuels.
  • Economic – Calculate the running costs of the premises to ensure your business can afford these. Look at your potential business growth: does the building allow for future expansion?

Related content: 20 Office Breakout Area Ideas

Moving in and Setting Up

  • Social – When space planning, think about how you will encourage employees to recharge and focus on their wellbeing. This could be as simple as offering a breakout space. You should also strive to ensure staff have comfortable workstations and showers to encourage exercise.
  • Environmental – Measures like placing compartment bins around the office to reduce waste and going paperless are beneficial to the environment. You also need to consider how you will be transporting FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment) to the office in a responsible way. For example, a good office relocation company will use large vehicles to reduce the number of trips required.
  • Economic Have you researched possible funding grants for setting up your tech? An office relocation will be the perfect time to upgrade your aged equipment to a more energy efficient solution.

Are you based in the South or East? You may be eligible for LoCASE funding. Learn more here.

Office Refurbishment and Design

  • Social – A good office interior design company will engage with you to fully understand your business model and the needs of all stakeholders. To do so, the design company will often conduct anonymous surveys, Q&A sessions, brainstorming sessions and informal lunches with members.
  • Environmental When choosing a refurbishment company, ask how they will adopt an environmentally friendly approach to the works. This may include disposing of existing carpet tiles responsibly, procuring FF&E from companies with green accreditations, and utilising local labour to reduce fuel consumption. The refurb company should also consult you on how the new elements of your space will contribute to a better environment, such as LED lighting, sensor taps and flooring.
  • Economic – When planning a refurbishment, you should budget for any specialist fees that may be required. Do your research to see if you could qualify for grants for LED lighting; software, tech and hardware development; and heating and ventilation. You should also take into account opportunities for additional income. For example, surplus space could be use as lettable coworking, storage and meeting spaces.

End of Lease Office Dilapidation Works

  • Social – Dilapidation works can be noisy and messy, so you need to consider how that could affect other businesses or residential properties in the area. To reduce the chances of disruption, consult your dilapidation company on whether they offer an out-of-hours service. You should also take into account how the dilapidation will affect your employees in terms of morale and the impact on business operations.
  • Environmental – Can you re-use any of your existing office furniture? If not, make steps to recycle or donate the unwanted items. It will also be advantageous to agree terms with the landlord to retain the existing furniture, fixtures and equipment.
  • Economic – When embarking on a dilapidation, it is best to find a contractor that can manage and control the whole process, as this helps to keep costs down by reducing the number of contractors involved. Furthermore, think about the cost implications of a pause in business operations when leaving the building.

Thank You for Reading!

If you are serious about sustainability, then this guide will serve as a handy reference point for your company. Wherever you are in your business journey, understanding the three pillars of sustainability will help you to achieve your corporate social responsibility goals and drive change both outside and inside your company.

Are You Looking for Help with Your Sustainable Office Design?

Established in 1988, Rap Interiors is an experienced office design and build company with a passion for sustainability. Whether you need help with an office relocation, fit out, refurbishment or dilapidation, Rap’s dedicated team of sustainability champions can advise you on the best solutions for your project.

To book a consultation, call 0333 600 1234 or fill out the enquiry form below.


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