Features Newswire Mann Report

ESG-Minded Strategies and the Future of the Workplace

In the contemporary business environment, it is crucial to monitor, report and communicate environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices for sustained growth and prosperity. Employees, shareholders and prospective talent have all begun to place increasing emphasis on deeper transparency, ease of use and values-driven decision-making, pushing these principles to the forefront of many business leaders’ minds. However, despite the growing demand for ESG-centric strategies and corporate standards, a well-defined framework for business leaders remains elusive, leaving many uncertain about how ESG can or should be relevant to their organizations.

ESG is a personal concept — each individual within an organization should experience its values just as shareholders do. Consequently, identifying moments or places shared by both staff and leader- ship can be an effective place to start. The office itself represents an important opportunity to make this connection, particularly for companies unsure of the future of their real estate strategies, by looking at space as a tool that can enhance and reinforce ESG practices and commitments.

Getting Started: Emphasizing Company Values
As a New York City-based firm, we have seen the demand within our market first-hand. Nearly every inbound request for proposal (RFP) that we have received of late has had a focus on ESG. Clients want to ensure their ESG goals are embedded into every aspect of their organization, including their real estate. In fact, we are often provided with our potential client’s annual sustainability report in addition to any branding and real estate guidelines during the RFP process. These reference materials help us learn more about big-picture goals and inform how we approach the design.

Given the nature of the organizations asking these important questions, our expectation is that organizations across the nation, particularly within other, large metropolitan areas, are keen for similar answers. Business leaders from across the economic landscape want to know what is being done from a design perspective to integrate these strategies. We believe that the most effective ESG commitments will seamlessly integrate with the organization’s core values and mission, ultimately aligning with the overall workplace strategy that the design will support. It is vital for that design to reflect those values in a personal way — the most successful applications often transform business methodologies.

As designers, our job is to guide facilities managers and C-suite executives through the information-gathering process. Designers do these exercises — including interviews, surveys and curated visioning sessions — regularly to inform what a company wants or needs out of its spaces. Further, we are equipped with the expertise to tailor these strategies to the company.

What’s important to staff and leadership is and will always be distinct from organization to organization. The designer’s job is to organically open the door for these conversations, building a platform for business leaders to source and collect the information necessary to define their company values.

Once the research is complete, careful consideration of space types and material selection takes place, allowing designers to incorporate tangible interpretations of company values into physical spaces. If the client’s core values include integrity, natural wood and stone could be added. If a client’s core value centers around people and community, large communal spaces within the space will encourage community building. In a recent project for IEX, transparency was a guiding principle, leading the design team to incorpo- rate an open mesh transparent ceiling system.

Achieving ESG-focused Design
Translating the chosen objectives identified through data into design must align with a brand’s corporate social responsibility objectives and requires a comprehensive approach. This encompasses environmental responsibility, real-time metric markers, optimizing technology, energy-efficient systems, smart building technology, internal and iterative benchmarking and embodying the values.

Tackling Environmental Responsibility
The “E” in ESG is often what companies talk about the most. Within the workplace, designers can help facilities managers and C-suite executives integrate materials that alleviate environmental stressors. This can include providing clients with carbon analyses of material options such as carpet and ceiling tiles, adjusting HVAC set points to reduce consumption or having designers source local products and materials that can decrease energy usage and carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Another way designers can implement environmental responsibility within the workplace is by designing with reducing waste top of mind. Designers must strategically design in subtle ways that promote better day-to-day choices through recycling and waste stream awareness. This can be done through eliminating single-use paper and plastics or adding lighting and HVAC set points to reduce consumption.

Monitoring with Real-time Metric Markers
When designers help weave ESG practices into daily work routines, digital boards can be integrated to display real-time measurements of air quality and carbon emissions within the office for employees and stakeholders. Key metric markers include volatile organic compounds, ozone levels, smog, water quality and occupancy density.

Optimizing Technology and Infrastructure
When facilities managers and C-suite executives embrace technology and infrastructure upgrades, there is a significant increase in strengthening ESG integration in the workplace. By investing in energy-efficient systems, implementing smart building technology and promoting flexible work arrangements, organizations can create a more sustainable and environmentally responsible workspace. This, in turn, contributes to the company’s long-term growth and success while also showcasing the organization’s commitment to ESG practices.

Energy-efficient Systems
Incorporating energy-efficient systems can also significantly contribute to a company’s ESG goals. Businesses can effectively reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions by adopting LED lighting, energy management systems and high-efficiency HVAC equipment. These systems contribute to the organization’s environmental goals and result in long-term financial savings by lowering utility costs. Energy-efficient systems can improve employees’ overall comfort and well-being, leading to higher satisfaction and productivity rates.

Smart Building Technology
Smart building technology can potentially optimize resource usage and significantly facilitate data-driven decision-making. For instance, installing sensor-based lighting systems can ensure that energy is not wasted on unoccupied areas, while automated window shades can help regulate indoor temperatures and reduce the need for air conditioning. Implementing energy monitoring software allows for real-time tracking of energy consumption, enabling organizations to identify areas for improvement and implement targeted energy-saving measures.

Integrating technologies like IoT (Internet of Things) can also enable better control over energy consumption and adapt to occupants’ needs, creating a comfortable and environmentally responsible workspace. Advanced building management systems (BMS) can monitor, control and optimize various aspects of the building’s infrastructure, such as HVAC, lighting and security. By leveraging data analytics and machine learning, these systems can further improve energy efficiency, reduce maintenance costs and enhance overall building performance.

Internal and Iterative Benchmarking
It’s important that facilities managers and C-suite executives understand that ESG goals aren’t static and space doesn’t have to be either — they are dynamic and adaptable. By having employees and shareholders outline benchmarks and creative “rewards,” spaces can evolve as goals are met. For example, repainting conference rooms can visually indicate changes to those within the office.

Values Through Design
Designs can also effectively convey tangible values within the workplace environment. For instance, using an all-glass design can emphasize a company’s commitment to transparency. If focusing on wellness is a core value, incorporating efficient fixtures can help reduce water waste, while utilizing zero-VOC paint can improve air quality by limiting airborne toxins.

Real Estate Strategy
Another strategy facilities managers and C-suite executives can consider is having designers collaborate with landlords — as building selection is the single most significant decision affecting the ability to reduce emissions in real estate strategies. To start, they must look at the building envelope and determine whether or not it has been upgraded. If not, what is the landlord’s stance? Once this happens, a full view of building systems is necessary. One system to examine would be HVAC — what materials are they sub-metering? Are there electric or condenser water systems? You must also consider the building and its proximity to transit. All of these aspects enable you to track changes in your emissions and meet sustainability goals.

In today’s world, having designers incorporate ESG into workplace strategies is an increasingly crucial iterative process and the business must embody it. The most significant ESG commitments are those that seamlessly integrate into clients’ core values and mission, aligning with their workplace strategy. By conducting team interviews and utilizing curated exercises, designers can assist organizations in harnessing the full potential of ESG.

Consequently, by having facilities managers and C-suite executives work closely with designers, they are given the ability to incorporate environmentally responsible design elements, real-time metric markers, internal and iterative benchmarking and the “living” values within the workplace while evaluating the real estate strategy.