In an era marked by growing environmental consciousness, the concept of a circular economy is gaining significant traction. The essence of circularity lies in the idea that instead of producing waste, all resources should be continually reused and repurposed.
While this notion is elegantly simple in theory, the practical implementation of circularity in the workplace is far more intricate. The global economy has been traditionally linear, following a “take-make-waste” model, leading to the depletion of resources and the generation of excessive waste. However, broader discussions of circularity encompass the business environment, including furniture, fixtures, equipment, and the buildings themselves, according to a report by Green Standards.
The sustainable office decommissioning firm said by setting these benchmarks it is possible to further bring the principles of a circular economy into business environments.
The Importance of Workplace Circularity
The shift towards workplace circularity is more than just an environmental initiative; it’s a strategic move that holds various benefits for businesses and society as a whole.
According to a separate report by Circle Economy, only 7.2% of the world economy is currently circular. At such low numbers, it signifies an increasing reliance on raw material extraction, which has adverse environmental implications.
Insights from the Green Standards report highlight the current state of workplace circularity, where stakeholders such as owners, occupiers, manufacturers, and more are taking steps toward responsible procurement, internal reuse, and employee engagement. Furthermore, there are ambitious plans underway to push the boundaries of circularity in the workplace. Resellers and remanufacturers are eyeing domestic manufacturing as a potential boon, while service providers and suppliers are gearing up for potential regulatory changes. Associations and consultancies are working diligently to change behavior patterns and educate employees about furniture, fixtures, and equipment reuse.
However, there are still obstacles in the way of achieving full workplace circularity. Service providers and suppliers acknowledge that circularity represents a significant economic shift and therefore requires widespread awareness. Construction and design firms are urging designers to prioritize reuse and avoid wasteful practices like “white boxing,” which showcases emptied spaces when tenants vacate.
The Built Environment’s Carbon Footprint
The built environment plays a crucial role in the pursuit of circularity. It is estimated that the corporate real estate sector contributes to approximately 40% of global carbon emissions. Despite occupying only 1% of the planet’s surface, the construction, occupation, and demolition of buildings have a substantial environmental impact. Embracing workplace circularity presents a unique opportunity to improve both environmental numbers simultaneously.
A significant number of Fortune 100 companies are already publishing annual sustainability reports, with 58% explicitly mentioning circularity, according to Green Standards. Leading corporations are investing in circularity experts and are well-positioned to lead the way in implementing sustainable workplace practices. As Theo Hooker, co-founder of Cambium Carbon, emphasizes, workplaces have the potential to empower a truly circular, regenerative system, and influential organizations can make the choices necessary to generate a positive impact.
The report had participation from a number of large businesses, including General Motors, Starbucks, Steelcase, Haworth, and CBRE.
The Path to Workplace Circularity
Realizing workplace circularity requires active participation from all stakeholders in the building and interior materials lifecycle.
Manufacturers must design products with circularity in mind, while clients need to demand spaces designed with reused materials and invest in circular solutions. Furniture vendors, building owners, management companies, general and demolition contractors, and designers all have crucial roles to play in promoting circularity.
While the ultimate goal is closed-loop circularity, according to the insights, where resources are continually reused with no waste generation, most offices are currently in a phase of open-loop linearity. This transitional phase involves minimizing raw material use, extending product lifecycles, and recycling wherever possible. The journey to closed-loop circularity is a continuous process, with every additional loop added to the resource cycle postponing a trip to the landfill. Progress requires general education, continuous improvement, and widespread adoption of circular practices.
The circular workplace is already emerging, with manufacturers incorporating environmental product declarations into their products, businesses, and governments implementing quotas for recycled and refurbished furniture, and organizations like Green Standards expanding their influence. Most importantly, employees are recognizing the importance of working in sustainable environments.
Conclusion: Coming Full Circle
The concept of the circular workplace may initially appear challenging, but its potential benefits are far-reaching. By eliminating waste, maximizing resource reuse, and regenerating both the natural and built environment, businesses can make a positive impact on communities while reducing the need for resource extraction.