Library of
Design, Art and Idea

Sustainability

20.02.2015
Vol. 6

Bianca Doenicke is a corporate responsibility and sustainability professional with over 8 years' experience in the energy, office furniture and consulting business in Europe, primarily in Germany and the UK. Embedding sustainable business practices into the value chain and communicating the benefits are key to her job. She has worked with internal company stakeholders, such as employees and executives, as well as external stakeholders, such as customers, clients, investors, other companies, NGOs, governmental bodies and academia. Her academic background in economic sciences, ecology, marketing and managing dynamic organizations gained from studies in Germany and Sweden, combined with her several years' professional experience in sustainable management, enable her to drive business opportunities and sustainable development.

Haworth is a global, family-owned office furniture manufacturer and workspace solutions provider. The company works with dealers to help architects, designers, and facility managers in the complex process of selecting, specifying, planning, and purchasing furniture and workspace interiors. What criteria should an office meet if it is to be considered sustainable? Essentially something is sustainable if it meets the requirements of today's generation without jeopardising the possibility of future generations to satisfy their own needs. This means that economic, ecological and social criteria have to be brought in line. Therefore those offices which avoid negative impacts and reinforce positive effects, with regard to productivity, environmental compatibility, social acceptability and health effects, are more sustainable. What does this involve? Anyone who has the power to influence the site or the building should start by doing that. Then, this includes the interior design, furnishings and office operations. The proximity to local public transport, efficient energy and waste management, access to daylight, good indoor air quality, flexible office furniture and the efficient use of office materials, e.g. when printing, all have an important role to play. At the heart of the matter are the intrinsic factors and the behaviour of each individual who can help create a sustainable office and who ultimately will benefit from it too. Open spaces, desk sharing, home office – there are many types of offices. Which one gets the best results in terms of sustainability? The design of an office should start with the company culture and with the tasks to be carried out by the employees. A workspace has to be functional and, at the same time, be as economical, healthy, socially acceptable and environmentally compatible as possible. Often the most sustainable type of office results from a combination. From a resource point of view, desk sharing makes a lot of sense if the workspace suits all those involved - not least when it comes to the table and chair settings. The home office doesn't just save travel to and from the office, and therefore resources, it can also improve work-life balance. Technological solutions may be required to allow communication with colleagues. Open spaces increase the chances of exchanging information whilst the amount of space, and consequently the associated economic and ecological costs, can be reduced. In all, well organised sharing of workspaces can be more sustainable than people 'owning' spaces.
Nowadays, many companies place great emphasis on their own direct responsibility. But when does a company really operate sustainably? Should it be able to provide certification? Primarily it's a question of performing sustainability in the core business and not just in areas of secondary importance. Transparency in this area can be provided through the company's performance, through self-declarations, or through verification by independent third parties, i.e. certification. However, certification is often very time consuming and expensive and, as a consequence, fewer resources are then available to improve performance. A certificate can quickly convey complex issues as long as it is known and recognised. However, it is always worthwhile asking just how sustainably the company operates as a whole. The certificates, e.g. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for sustainable buildings are governed by standards which provide natural guidelines for implementation without the certification actually having to be obtained directly. To what extent does Haworth exemplify sustainability, including in its production approach? As a third-generation family company Haworth has been concerned with durability and future viability since its foundation in 1948. When it comes to sustainability we follow a holistic approach across the entire product life cycle - from product development, procurement and the use of materials, to production and distribution, right up to so-called end-of-life management. Alongside our products we also offer our experience and expertise in the field of sustainable building and workspace design whilst always considering new ways to work. Through various dialogues with local and global stakeholders we continue, on the one hand, with our own development, and on the other we actively help to create what it means to live sustainably. Whether, as is currently the case, this is in the development of a European sustainability standard for office furniture, or through our membership of Green Building Councils in various regions around the world. What trends have been demonstrated in the last few years in the development of sustainable companies? The old 'chicken and egg' problem is no longer so firmly embedded in many companies. It used to be that only the companies that enjoyed economic success were able to afford ecological and social extras. Now there's more of an understanding that this holistic approach is exactly what's needed to secure the company's success in the long term. Companies are increasingly integrating sustainability aspects into their core processes and their service spectrum. They know that by doing this they will be able to save ecological and financial resources so that external demands can be better met and turnover generated. This is where we come full circle: Any company which can be profitable through appropriate sustainability management will be able to reinvest in its own future viability. Sustainable workplaces are a part of this, not least because they increase a company's attractiveness as an employer.
Vol. 6
Neighbours Istanbul as the Office