How To Deliver A Carbon Friendly Workplace Transition

How to deliver a carbon friendly, post-COVID-19 workplace transition that limits waste, protects the environment, and benefits employee health and wellbeing.

A guide for businesses on delivering a carbon friendly workplace transition, post-COVID-19, that limits waste, protects the environment and benefits employee health and wellbeing.

Hurried workplace transitions enforced by COVID-19 increase the risk of significant volumes of furniture and other workplace assets being wasted, creating negative carbon impacts. However by embracing circular economy principles, organisations can reduce environmental risk and reap significant business benefits.

How To Deliver A Carbon Friendly Workplace Transition contains five calls to action:

  1. Whatever your situation, treat unneeded equipment as a resource, not waste.
  2. Use this toolkit’s waste hierarchy for office clearances to prioritise options to reuse equipment inside or outside your organisation, to extend its life.
  3. Ensure that facilities, procurement, and sustainability teams collaborate throughout the process.
  4. Use Business in the Community’s (BITC) Circular Office lifecycle framework, contained in this document, to embed circular principles at all stages.
  5. Include embodied carbon alongside cost in your business case.
Preparing for post-COVID-19 workplaces

The way we think about our workplaces underwent a seismic shift in 2020.  COVID-19 has brought about enforced national lockdowns, mandatory social-distancing and widespread homeworking.  The uncertainty and economic impacts of the pandemic have forced companies to reduce costs, prompting as many as 73% business leaders to consider downsizing their offices during 20211. Most UK employees want the opportunity to work flexibly2, meaning offices will likely require fewer desks and more collaboration space.

Whilst these trends represent opportunities for businesses to improve their employees’ experience in the workplace, reduce their carbon footprint and save costs, BITC has also identified increased furniture and IT waste as a significant hidden risk of this workplace transition.

How To Deliver A Carbon Friendly Workplace Transition contains information on the business case for taking an approach that embraces circular economy principles. It outlines a simple framework to enable businesses to build circular decision making into their workplace transition planning. With a focus on practical steps at each stage of the fit-out cycle: Design, Procurement, Operations and End-of-Life. The guide also contains case studies and worked examples to help you put the information into practice.

About Business in the Community’s Circular Economy Campaign

BITC’s Circular Economy campaign seeks to tackle the climate emergency by making the circular economy a mainstream business priority.  By moving away from a take-make-dispose model of consumption, towards one that focuses on retaining value from materials for as long as possible and eliminating waste, responsible businesses can save costs, reduce carbon and become more resilient.

We call on businesses to publicly commit to embracing the Circular Economy by signing the Waste to Wealth commitment.  We support BITC members to bring this to life through practical guidance and collaborative projects aimed at creating circular value chains, focusing on resource intensive sectors including the Built Environment and Textiles.  The work is led by our Circular Economy Taskforce and includes our Circular Office and Lifting the Lid on Waste guides.

In September 2020, Business in the Community’s Time to Fix Up report identified the shift to a Circular Economy as a key priority for businesses looking to Build Back Responsibly from COVID-19.  Whilst not the only answer, Circular Economy principles present a compelling template for companies to reduce short-term costs, identify new revenue sources, build resilience into value chains and accelerate the pathway to a Net Zero carbon economy. 

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References
  1. Accumulate Capital (3 September 2020). 73% of UK business leaders predict office downsizing. Available at https://www.accumulatecapital.co.uk
  2. YouGov (September 2020). Most workers want to work from home after COVID-19. Available at https://yougov.co.uk