Building for Tomorrow

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, companies are increasingly recognising the importance of sustainability in their operations. This extends to the workspace, where the design and management of office environments play a significant role in reducing environmental impact and promoting a healthier planet. 

In 2023, KPMG found that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors are influencing millennials’ and younger workers employment decisions. Nicknamed ‘climate quitting’, younger workers are seeking out more environmentally friendly jobs, with 46% seeking companies that can demonstrate a commitment to ESG, with 20% turning down job offers from companies whose commitments don’t align with their values. 

> See Flexiform’s Environmental, Social & Governance Book, 2024.

Sustainable office fit-outs have emerged as a proactive approach to creating workspaces that are not only functional and aesthetically pleasing but also environmentally responsible. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deeper into sustainable office fit-outs, explore sustainable design practices, and discuss strategies for refurbishing or recycling old furniture to minimise waste and maximise resource efficiency.

CAT B Office Furniture Installation

Weighing up Office Fit Out vs. Relocation for a Long-term Solution

As businesses contemplate their office space needs, the decision between office fit-out and relocation becomes pivotal. Whichever route the company goes down, the most sustainable option will be the one that is a long-term solution. 

With the evolution of work practices such as remote working and agile methodologies, the traditional approach of acquiring more office space through relocation may no longer be the most effective solution. Remote working allows employees to work from anywhere, reducing the demand for physical office space. Similarly, agile working emphasises flexibility and collaboration, often requiring less dedicated workspace. It’s worth considering if an office fit-out can offer a long-term solution by optimising existing space to accommodate modern work practices.

Sustainable Office Design

When choosing your office furniture, many factors can alter how sustainable each piece is, from the location of where it’s made, to how long it’s designed to last, to the material options you go for. Here are some items to consider; 

Future-proofing Office Furniture: Embracing extendable desking solutions allows businesses to adapt to changing needs and evolving work practices. These versatile desks can be easily adjusted to accommodate different tasks and team configurations, reducing the need for frequent furniture replacements and minimising waste.

Choosing Furniture that can be Refurbished: Opting for furniture that can be re-upholstered or re-sprayed extends its lifespan and reduces environmental impact. By investing in high-quality, durable pieces, businesses can minimise their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future. A great example of this is choosing metal furniture which can be resprayed, over MFC wooden furniture. 

Long-Lasting High-Quality Furniture: Prioritising high-quality, long-lasting furniture not only reduces the frequency of replacements but also ensures comfort and functionality for employees. Investing in sustainable office furniture from reputable manufacturers guarantees durability and reliability, contributing to a more sustainable workspace. Look for certifications such as GREENGUARD, BIFMA and FSC indicating low emissions and/or adherence to environmental standards, and British Standards (BS EN) numbers for tested and approved furniture.

Camira Sustainable Fabric manufactured from recycled plastics

Environmental Aspects of Materials: When selecting office furniture, consider the environmental impact of materials such as MFC (melamine-faced chipboard), MDF (medium-density fiberboard), laminate, and veneer. Opt for sustainably sourced materials with low VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions and certifications such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). These certifications ensure that wood-based products come from responsibly managed forests and contribute to forest conservation efforts.

Explore environmentally friendly fabric options from manufacturers like Camira Fabrics, which offer a wide range of sustainable textiles made from recycled materials, organic fibres, and low-impact dyes. These fabrics not only minimize environmental impact but also provide comfort, durability, and aesthetic appeal to office spaces. 

Suitability for the Area: It’s important to choose furniture and materials that are suitable for the area and who it will be used by. Choosing high-impact finishes or fabrics with large Martindale rub cycles for high-traffic areas will extend the furniture’s longevity. 

UK Made: Transport is responsible for about a quarter of the EU’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, by choosing locally sourced and manufactured products, we can reduce the carbon footprint of office fitouts. 

Old and new office furniture

Old & Existing Furniture

A new office fit out doesn’t mean all office furniture has to go into landfill! There are several ways to re-use, recycle, or donate furniture. 

> See our Major Highstreet Retailer case study where we re-engineered existing office desks in our Yorkshire factory, to re-use the framework.

Refurbishing Existing Furniture: Extend the lifespan of existing furniture through refurbishment techniques such as re-upholstery and re-spraying of metal furniture. This not only revitalises the appearance of furniture but also reduces waste and conserves resources. 

Recycling Old Furniture: Old furniture can be broken down, re-used and recycled, helping extend the life of the products. At Flexiform, we partner with Coggins to recycle office furniture which still has life left in it or our waste management partner Crossley Evans. Any furniture which can’t be recycled is turned into Energy. 

Donated office furniture - leather office sofas

Donating to Charities and Organisations: Donate old furniture to charities, schools, and nonprofit organisations in need. By repurposing furniture for community use, businesses can contribute to social responsibility initiatives while reducing landfill waste. At Flexiform, we have a Charity Sign Up page where companies can register interest in used office furniture.

> Read out End of Life Product Upcycling, Recycling & Donation Booklet.

In conclusion, sustainable office fit outs offer a holistic approach to creating eco-friendly and future-proof workspaces. By integrating sustainable design principles, choosing environmentally friendly materials, and responsibly managing old and existing furniture, businesses can reduce their environmental impact while promoting employee well-being and productivity. Embracing sustainable practices not only aligns with corporate social responsibility goals but also positions businesses as leaders in creating a greener and more sustainable future. With careful planning and strategic investments, companies can transform their workplaces into vibrant, sustainable environments that support both people and the planet.

See our environmental credentials and commitment to Net Zero.