The joys and plights in the transition towards a more sustainable workplace and culture
Sustainability is high on the agenda of global governments, and in response to the climate crisis, individuals are self-educating to guide choices in what they buy, how they move, and what they consume. But this evolution in thinking is yet to reach the workplace.
How can we be more mindful, aware and efficient of our own consumption within an organisation? And how can we make more informed, conscious decisions about how we use our space, tools and resources to contribute to global sustainability efforts?
Organisations vary in size, environment and employees, and often use multiple suppliers of resources. In contrast to our consumption on an individual basis, businesses, and their employees, are often very far removed from the capture and visibility of consumption data of what we produce, use and dispose of.
We cannot act upon what we cannot measure.
To understand our behaviour better, we tracked how we commuted, our waste and consumption of electricity, water and paper over the period of one month in our FJORD studio in Berlin.
Our studio uses 36,000 litres of water in just one month — since the average German office worker uses between 500 and 1,200 litres every month, this puts us somewhere in-between at 700 litres. To make this more relatable, we can consider this to be the equivalent to 116 bathtubs.
Our work typically requires the use of post-its, but every month we use over 5,000 of them. However, we actually score well below the average in our daily paper use — we individually consume 0.6kg on average, in comparison to the average German office worker at 20kg. If we were to weigh our paper consumption, we would reach almost half a tonne within one year. That’s roughly equal to 24 ten metre trees.
We accumulate on average 112 trash bags every four weeks. That’s around 204 litres per person. With this, we could fill four 3-cubic meter industrial waste containers every month.
Within one month, we create 300kg of CO2 emissions (based on 35 employees tracked) through our commute to work. That’s the equivalent to the amount of CO2 one human exhales in one year, 42,750 Google searches, or the production of 64,5 kg poultry which roughly equals 1,5kg chickens.
Data-tracking is complex for organisations, with a large number of employees, using multiple providers. Realtime data is hard to come by without jumping multiple hoops to access measurements of data that are often obsolete and irrelevant once gathered. The most frustrating pain-point is that even once we have obtained the numbers, they can be highly unrelatable for an individual to understand and act upon because, as an organisational body, the numbers are often very high. This involves investing a huge amount of background research to analyse the numbers and measure the impact the consumption of the organisation has had upon the environment.
What’s more is that individuals can adopt an adjusted personality in the workplace that is influenced by the values of a organisation and the mindsets of those around us. This means that we might consume differently in the workplace as we would at home. For example, we might consciously choose to buy only organic food from an ethical supplier for our personal consumption, but then print a hundred-paged pitch presentation five times to check for spelling errors. As individuals in the workplace, there are cases where we feel that it is not necessarily our duty to make the required behavioural changes, as it’s the role of the employer to take responsibility for our consumption as a whole.
We believe that we are not alone in our ambition to change the way that we as an organisation consume resources. That’s why we we hope to create a movement, through the development of an open source sharing platform, where organisations and individuals can learn from the experiences of others, such as the tools, hardware and sensors to track data, and strategies to inspire behavioural change.
The goal of this movement is also to encourage organisations to collect data that can result in an overall sustainability score. We believe that in defining a benchmark to work towards, based on the organisational size and industry, this might create healthy competition between organisations to self-improve, and ultimately reduce our overall carbon footprint. A score might also represent an organisation’s cultural values, encourage sustainable thinking in employee mindsets, and potentially even provide a competitive advantage when it comes to clients.
The Sustainable Workplace Platform
Our findings inspired us to develop a prototype of a platform where organisations can begin to track their consumption data, measure themselves against the community, and actively share ideas and solutions to improve sustainability within the workplace.
“We believe that many organisations are already learning how to gather live data in a larger work environment in order to track their consumption. Our goal here is to provide an easy and accessible set-up for data gathering, combined with an easy-to-understand and more relatable visualisation of that data.”
— Pelle Dwertmann
Live data could be distributed across multiple visual displays, from applications to large display screens, to build awareness of the studio consumption and inspire the behavioural change of employees.
We believe that providing a ranking of organisations, based on their sustainability scores, would allow these organisations to compare their consumption to others of a similar size and set of characteristics.
“If, for example, you receive a billing from your energy supplier once a year, you would be able to infer whether your consumption was greater or less than the previous year by the yearly cost.
What it does not tell you, is whether you are actually consuming more or less than a similar-sized property. Hence, you might think your consumption is acceptable because you did not have to pay extra, but in fact, you are consuming 20% more electricity than every other comparable property in your city.”
— Pelle Dwertmann
Lastly, we do not want the story to end by simply knowing the data. This is why we envisage a collection of actions to improve your sustainability score. This can take the shape in the sharing of solutions that organisations have already tried and tested, as well as a guide to the first steps an organisation can take to become a more sustainable workplace.
Would you like to collaborate with us? We would love to connect with other agencies and organisations to develop this platform together, get in touch!
For this year’s Berlin Design Week, FJORD Berlin held a series of talks across topics ranging from sustainability, spatial experiences, to diversity and inclusion within design. We also hosted an exhibition that highlighted the power of experimentation to encourage this free-thinking in our daily work.
Check out our other articles from the Berlin Design Week…
Experimentation as a tool for innovative and differential product creation
Design for spatial experiences
Viva la vulva 2.0
How to design for unconsciously biased data