Introduction to the Sustainable Design Collective

Increasingly supporting clients with ambitious ESG targets, the workplace design community is embracing change to reduce carbon emissions in the industry. The Sustainable Design Collective, is a think-tank which brings together circular economy champions from all sectors of the industry to share knowledge and ideas. Bureau Group is a member of the collective and represented by Jennifer Russell, Chief Operations Director. We spoke to Harsha Kotak, Designer and Founder of Women in Office Design, to find out about her aspirations for the group.

What motivated you to set up the Sustainable Design Collective?

Following the highly successful series of seminars hosted by WOD (Women in Office Design) in 2021, it became apparent that our industry needed to work together to develop solutions which drive greater environmental responsibility. Seminars are one off’ events whereas we felt there was an opportunity for more positive outcomes.

Working with the core team including myself, Joanna Knight, Ella Fathi and Georgia Elliott-Smith, we wanted to create a forum to provide practical knowledge and champion new initiatives.

What are the aims and objectives of the group?

The purpose of the Sustainable Design Collective is to promote and applaud achievements and, more importantly, to create a forum for knowledge sharing and exchange.

  • The Collective meetings are practical sessions focussed on discussing key topics which have the greatest impact on companies working in the office design field. All participants must endorse and accept the spirit of non-competition. We are working towards the greater good – ultimately to reduce our climate impact.

  • After each meeting, we publish a report which is available on an open source’ basis for anyone to download. This approach ensures that we are enabling everyone to benefit.

How did you ensure that you had the right voices around the tables and a balance to represent all areas of workspace design?

The Collective is primarily designed for architects and workplace designers. We also felt it was important to include some representatives from independent suppliers who could provide an alternative perspective. We also have a member from one of the leading property companies, JLL thus looking at our challenges and comparing that with the real estate developers and agents.

Sustainable Design Collective Meeting

What specifically made you approach Bureau COO, Jennifer Russell?

We know that Bureau Group has a determined focus on sustainability and reuse within the furniture sector. Being COO, Jennifer has practical knowledge of implementing this commitment. Her background in the legal profession also offers an alternative perspective.

Do you think that the furniture industry is ready to change and responding to change quickly enough?

It is hard to generalise but there is growing recognition of the importance of greater environmental responsibility within the furniture industry. There is still a long road ahead but increasingly manufacturers will appreciate that it is a commercial imperative.

What are the biggest roadblocks to change in commercial interiors?

There are many roadblocks including cost and resistance to change. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is timescales and commitment from the outset. There’s a need to educate clients from start and build metrics and timescales to assess opportunities for reuse as well as environmental impact of new products.

What role do you think furniture consultants like Bureau Workspace play in influencing this change?

All members of the workplace design community need to collaborate to share ideas and knowledge. Not being committed to any particular manufacturer does mean that furniture consultants can offer independent advice as well as facilitate refurbishment and logistics planning for reuse of existing assets.

What’s next for the Sustainable Design Collective?

After a successful year of meetings and exchanging ideas, we will be continuing in 2023 with a set of actionable items to take this Collective further.

We have already established the Sustainable Design Collective in India and it’s really interesting to read their reports. There are so many similar issues, which encourages us to look at establishing a similar collective in other countries.

We are delighted that the UK Sustainable Design Collective has been invited to present at this year’s Orgatec exhibition. This enables us to speak to an international audience and potentially grow our reach.

We also have a number of additional initiatives including a manufacturers and suppliers day in March next year to be announced soon.

About SDC (Sustainable Design Collective):

SDC is a think tank’, launched in January 2022, and committed to acting as a collective within the workplace design community to identify developments and best practice’ relating to sustainability.

The purpose of the Group is to promote and applaud achievements and, more importantly, to create a forum for knowledge sharing and exchange. The group will represent the full scope of the office design sector – architects, designers, clients, developers, suppliers and sustainability experts. Working towards the greater good – ultimately to reduce our climate impact.

Find more information about SDC.

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