Our sustainability journey…..one step at a time

John Caswell

Technical Design Lead

Twelve months ago I raised the question of sustainability within the company I work for. Why were we not doing anything? And was I the only person thinking about this? It turned out that I wasn’t, and everyone believed it was something we should be doing. We didn’t know where to start, as none of us had ever tried to establish more sustainable ways of working before. However, it became clear that it was something we should look into. There was a lot of head nodding and a couple of people agreed to join me in forming a ‘Green Team’.

I couldn’t find a lot of clear sustainability information online, after much searching the first good resource I found was the ICAEW Green Business Guide and the content on conducting an environmental review. It laid out the framework for the main categories we should look into – Energy, Waste, Consumables, Projects and Suppliers. This helped me form an internal audit process looking at where we were as a company and what we could change to make things better.

Shortly afterwards I met with a friend who had recently completed a master’s degree in sustainability. He explained to me about some simple sustainability principles – the funnel metaphor, the triple bottom line and nested systems. He lent me a book (that I really should give back!) by Bob Willard titled The Sustainability Champions Guidebook, this helped form my understanding and explain my findings to the rest of the company about exactly what sustainability can mean to businesses.

We slowly started to change things, our paper supplier, our power settings, our tea (this was a topic of much debate!) and even our search engine. In April 2018 the ‘Green Team’ presented where we were to the rest of the company. As the year progressed, we made more small changes and looked at how we could implement better energy consumption and re-use existing resources in the new office space we were planning. We attended sustainability exhibitions, organised a company beach clean and invited Steve Malkin from The Planet Mark to talk to us about the bigger picture. Finally, it seemed like something had clicked.

At the start of 2019 we’ve put sustainability at the forefront of our agenda. We’ve set ourselves some big targets that we want to hit by the end of the year and are thinking more sustainably about everything we do. It’s even forming how we review the company’s purpose and helping us to map out its future progression.

All this started with an email, an idea and a desire to make things better. It has progressed through small steps engaging with every employee over the course of one year. Just thinking what we’ve managed to change in the last twelve months feels great and makes me optimistic for the future. We’ve only just begun!

Can I have some more?

Leave it to an architect. Or should you?

In recent articles, I’ve talked about retail design being an unknown discipline. This issue manifests itself in brands turning to architects for support in their retail strategy, and whilst that may not sound like a bad thing, there is, in fact, an industry that exists purely to service designing for retail. My intention is to shine a light on designing for retail, believing that our industry can provide real benefit for brands and consumers alike.

How do you provide a really great retail experience every time? Focus on the staff.

As retail designers we are often drawn to consistent patterns in creating new store designs, formats and experiences. We naturally focus on finding the right material palette to communicate the brand and its values. We scrutinise the layout of each site and analyse the best possible paths for customer journey, sell-through, and penetration into the store. We seek to find new ways to “wow” customers, resulting in phones coming out of pockets to fill social media feeds with what’s new.