How does your business fare on the basic sustainability checklist?

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The realization that humans are not invincible has never been as acute as now. A tiny, unseen virus has reminded us of our fragility and the importance of respecting nature. It’s perhaps also the time for businesses to rejig their conscious to check what is it that they’re doing to preserve the planet for a sustainable future.

So we ask today, where are you on the spectrum of a sustainable office?

Here’s an effective blueprint to check yourself against

1.Mindful energy consumption with sustainable lighting

With offices recording the greatest proportion of total lit up floor space as compared to any other inhabited building, lighting can be the second most expensive system after HVAC. As upgrades for sustainability go, revamping your lighting systems is the lowest hanging fruit which requires hardly any investment and yields immediate cost savings. LED retrofits are a must. LEDs have a longer lifespan allowing for lesser landfill waste, and when coupled with smart controls, LED lighting can increase your savings by up to 47%. If you top it up with smart technology for occupancy/ vacancy tracking to load shedding and daylight savings, you can reduce energy consumption substantially.

The most underutilized resource though, in a sunlit country like India, is something that comes for free – sunshine! With just a few architectural modifications, natural light of any given space can be maximized to reduce dependency on artificial sources. Try it and see the difference. Some organisations who have made this shift in their design blueprint have experienced upto 25% energy savings along with a big boost in mood of the employees and productivity. 

2. Addressing the challenge of cooling in a rapidly heating environment:

Globally, cooling or HVAC systems account for 40-50% of a building’s total energy consumption and result in 34.7 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions, annually. With the earth’s temperatures rising, so is the need for HVAC systems, making it a vicious cycle of ever rising carbon footprint for every organisation. Not only that, air conditioning systems can quickly drain your profit margins. 

India’s air conditioning market is expected to touch sales of a billion units by 2050. With energy consumption set to increase in tandem, it is critical that organisations invest in the latest and the most energy efficient HVAC solutions and combine it with sustainable architectural design, which allows for natural ventilation and cooling. A properly designed and installed HVAC system can boost efficiency of a building while lowering energy bills and improving water consumption. A lack of proper planning, on the other hand, can result in maintenance snags and increased energy costs along with a high toll on the environment.

3. The double-sided coin of waste management

Waste can be both; a resource or an environmental hazard. To properly manage waste, segregation is a prerequisite. Sorting waste and arriving at recyclable materials is an absolute must for every commercial and office complex to lessen the burden of our ever-growing landfills. Segregation is mandated by law in most progressive countries, including in India, and most offices do implement it. Going beyond segregation is the real challenge. Bio-composting units for all wet waste, within office complexes or within localities which are zip codes to several retail and office buildings, is the next big essential step. The truly conscious companies are those who find ways and means to recycle and re-use dry waste and even e-waste.

4. Giving multiple lives to office furniture

With design trends changing rapidly, commercial furniture today is a $10 billion a year industry. Unfortunately, the ease with which furniture is discarded with every office upgrade of location cha also makes it a big burden on planet earth. Over nine million tonnes of discarded furniture reaches landfills, annually.

Sustainability starts with the conception of your design and selection of its raw materials and continues throughout the lifespan of your office furniture. The longer your desk can work for you the more sustainable it is. This is achieved by investing in interiors that are modular, flexible, recyclable and built to not only last but also survive change.

Recyclable furniture not only saves on wood, fuel, electricity and the cost of manufacturing, it also results in massive reduction of landfill waste. The bottom line? The longer you can keep your existing furniture working for you and your employees, the more sustainable it is.

5.Doing more with less; water conservation as a priority

Water-efficiency is a long-term requirement for business continuity. Burgeoning population and growing economies are testing the limits of the already depleted water sources.

With strict regulations being imposed by many a government, businesses are having to learn to do more with less when it comes to water.

Starting with understanding the breakdown of water usage, studying the process and implementing changes to harvest, reuse and recycle every bit of this precious life-force is the need of the hour with or without regulations.

Effective implementation at scale doesn’t take place overnight and requires multiple stakeholders working together, be it occupiers, facility managers or employees. Massive awareness for conscious consumption and conservation of water is no longer optional for offices and commercial establishments.

None of the above is a big ask. It is in fact, the very first rung of a very tall ladder of corporate sustainability. If your business has not even ticked these basic boxes, there’s a real problem you need to address, as of yesterday.


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