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We all care about financial sustainability… but what about social and environmental?

Evoke Projects examines sustainability in the workplace, both as part of corporate social responsibility and also as a way of reducing office costs. This article will cover the following topics:

  • What is your corporate social responsibility?
  • How office design is driving sustainability in the workplace
  • Sustainable ways to reduce your office costs

What is your corporate social responsibility?

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, corporate social responsibility (CSR) means that businesses have “a degree of responsibility not only for the economic consequences of their activities, but also for the social and environmental implications”. But what does this mean in practice?

From a human rights perspective, many aspects would be considered common sense and are well enshrined in Australian law. For example, workers have a right:

  • to be paid a minimum wage
  • not to be discriminated against
  • to be safe at work.

Good for the soul?

Corporate social responsibilityis increasingly being seen not only as an obligation, but also as a marketing and goodwill opportunity. Each business has to search its own soul regarding how far to take corporate social responsibility. A great deal will depend on the industry, the size of the company and the budget available (CSR doesn’t come cheap!) So what avenues can you explore?

Charity and community support

Corporate social responsibility that goes above and beyond will nearly always include philanthropicendeavours. This could include charity cash donations, employee matching schemes or staff involvement in community fundraising and charity programs. Philanthropy can improve staff morale and retention as well as provide interesting content for your company newsletter.

Diversity programs

Corporate social responsibility can include employment diversity goals; for example, increasing the number of females employed at a management level and ensuring that minority groups are represented in the workplace.


Sustainable business practices are a core part of CSR as they are intended to reduce a company’s environmental footprint. ISO have produced a guidance document on CSR and sustainable development: ISO 26000:2010.

How office design is driving sustainability in the workplace

Did you know that buildings consume around one third of the earth’s resources? Even if you didn’t, you will have read about environmental initiatives to combat climate change and improve sustainability. The publicity and regulation in this area mean that whenit’s time tolook at a new office fitout, sustainability is firmly on the agenda, leading to more environmentally friendly Australian workplaces.

At Evoke Projects, clients ask for our recommendations on creating a modern interior office design, with cost-effective sustainability options. There are many considerations when creating sustainable offices, both for legal compliance and as part of corporate social responsibility. We’ve summarised some of our advice below.

Energy audits

Start with an energy audit that monitors your lighting and power usage. This shows you what is contributing most to your power bills and provides a focus for cost reduction opportunities during your office fitout planning.

Office furniture recycling

If you are planning an office refurbishment, there will likely be old furniture to dispose of. Ask your office fitout company about any recycling opportunities and buy new office furniture from a company that has a stewardship program, taking back old furniture at the end of its life cycle.

Environmental rating systems

There are two rating systems that you can aim to achieve for your building: NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating Scheme) and Green Star. NABERS rates a building’s performance in energy efficiency, water usage, waste management and indoor environment quality. Green Star rates the sustainability of buildings and fitouts against a range of environmental criteria.

ISO certifications

ISO is the benchmark for international standards and ISO 14001:2004 covers environmental management systems (EMS). You can work towards certification of your own EMS, and it is also recommended that you select a certified office fitout company, as they will have processes in place to create sustainable office designs and refurbishments. This includes selecting non-toxic materials, recommending sustainable furniture and finding ways to minimise waste. Evoke Projects is ISO 14001:2004 certified and is committed to creating sustainable interior office designs and fitouts.

Visit the ISO website to find out more about the standards.

Productivity and sustainability work well together

Research has shown that motivation and productivity are improved when staff have the opportunity to be closer to nature. Office designs with garden features, natural light, fresh air and environmentally friendly furniture and consumables will lead to happier employees and more sustainable offices.

Office design initiatives can reduce your travel footprint

Installing showers and bicycle lock-ups will encourage staff to cycle to work, rather than using cars or buses. Video conferencing facilities for meetings can reduce the need for staff travel.

Legal compliance in office design

The National Construction Code covers legal requirements related to sustainability, including energy and water efficiency. Ensure you take these into account when designing your new office.

Sustainable ways to reduce your office costs

Sustainable office design is clearly a positive step forward for the environment and your corporate social responsibility. But did you know that creating a sustainable workplace could also save you money?

Read on for five sustainable ways to reduce your office costs.

1. Conduct an energy audit before you refurbish your office

Arrange for a data check of your energy use. Logs can record total watts used by electrical items at different times of the day. An energy audit company can also provide recommendations to reduce this usage and quantify the dollars that will be saved each year by making changes.

Changes might include moving away from fluorescent lighting and towards LED. Variable speed drives can be fitted to air conditioners to reduce energy consumption. Evoke Projects arranges energy audits for clients as part of our commitment to sustainable office design, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need a recommendation.

2. Energy efficiency certificates

In NSW, these are called Energy Savings Certificates but each state has its own scheme. In principle, businesses that invest in energy saving schemes receive a certificate, which is usually purchased by energy retailers, thereby reducing the company’s electricity bills. Evoke Projects can advise you further on obtaining energy efficiency certificates for your business when undertaking an office refurbishment or fitout.

3. Install solar panels during your next office fitout

Solar power is naturally generated by the sun and is a great way to reduce your energy bills. Solar panels require minimal maintenance so it is a sensible investment that will provide cost savings in your office buildings for many years to come.

Evoke Projects works with an award winning solar installerto supply solar panels for office fitouts and refurbishments.

4. Reduce paper and recycle

Reduce your paper costs by moving to online document sharing services such as Google Docs, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive. Set your printers up for double sided printing. Find a local ink cartridge provider who can refill your used cartridges and save you money.

5. Don’t forget the people

No matter how sustainable your office design is, if people don’t want to work there, motivation, productivity and staff retention will suffer.

Create an office design that is functional, aesthetically pleasing and ‘human friendly’, not just environmentally friendly. This includes clever use of colour, furniture, interior office zoning and technology.

Evoke Projects will help you plan a sustainable office interior in a way that suits your corporate objectives, budget and environmental policy. Please call us on 1300 720 692.

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