Illustration of two people at an office, with bikes and trees
Illustration of two people at an office, with bikes and trees

In 2020 we moved into a new office space at Embassy Gardens, and refurbished our building at Vauxhall Bridge Road. Paula Prentice, Head of Facilities, led the Our Space project that oversaw the move and renovations of both sites. As part of our newest Sustainability Policy she details how sustainability was the first consideration in every part of the process.

At what stage was sustainability considered in the Our Space project?

Right at the very beginning – as soon as we decided the location of the new building, sustainability was our key driver for looking at architects and other partners. Perkins & Will, who we worked with, are one of the industry's preeminent sustainability design firms. They were ranked Best Large Architecture Firm in the 2014 U.S. Green Building Council’s Awards, so sustainability is in their DNA. From appointing them, to selecting carpets and choosing wood for our bookshelves, all design decisions were led with sustainability in mind.

Tell us about some of the design decisions that were made?

Both our Vauxhall Bridge Road office that we refurbished, and the new space at Embassy Gardens feature some brilliant, innovative design work. All carpets in the buildings are recycled, all the furniture is manufactured in the UK which means the carbon footprint was minimal, our bookcases are FSC certified wood, parts of the chairs we chose use recycled fishing nets – we looked into every detail. Additional to this, all lights are now energy efficient across every site, and our London offices use sensor movement technology to minimise energy waste.

In terms of the move, all of our old furniture has either been reused in the new office spaces, given to charity, resold, or broken down and recycled if we weren’t able to save it. That means there was zero waste to landfill from the whole refurbishment of Vauxhall Bridge Road, and the moving out of our old office space.

How do we empower colleagues to make the most sustainable choices?

From hire cars to stationery, there are a number of things we’ve set up to ensure choice is as sustainable as possible for colleagues. Currently, where company cars are provided, hybrid or electric are promoted first; we now only travel internationally when it is business critical to do so, and we do not take domestic flights.

In the office, we’re introducing FollowMe Printing which will make a huge impact. The effort to start cutting down our printing and office paper use began in 2018, and printing has fallen year on year, but the FollowMe Printing will further lower our usage. Another thing we’re tightening up on is stationery ordering. We have a core list of products that are all sustainable, so colleagues can use things that we've already tried and tested, and know are the best solution.

Is there any detail you’ve been working on that might surprise people?

Our new restaurants in both of our London offices are working towards zero plastics. That means that all drinks are either in bottles or cans, and all yoghurts, fruit and other snacks are in reusable glass jars. We also have bamboo cutlery for takeaway use, so everything is sustainably sourced; and offer lots of vegetarian and vegan options to empower colleagues to make greener choices. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant we were only able to start our work on this for a short period of time, but when we re-open we’ll continue to work towards our zero plastics goal.

What is something you're keen to develop and work on to make our facilities as sustainable as possible?

This year we’re exploring an initiative to install solar panels on our warehouse in Frating, which would be brilliant! We’re constantly looking for spaces to innovate in, so hopefully things with real impact will continue to take place.

Illustration: Mike Ellis for Penguin

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