The Role of Workplace Design in B Corp Certification 

May 24, 2023

Businesses working towards B Corp certification will certainly be familiar with the rigorous assessment and stringent measures that are necessary to achieve it.

The key impact areas of B Corp certification revolve around governance, workers, community and environment, forming the basis for assessing a company’s social and environmental performance.

While office design is only a minute aspect of your commitment to B Corp best practices, a natural step to take for businesses aspiring for B Corp certification is to assess and refit your work environment.

Does your workplace play a significant role in achieving B Corp?

The workplace is the heart and soul of your organisation.

While it in itself is unlikely to have a huge impact on your journey to B Corp certification, it does absolutely reflect your commitment to your people, the environment and your community. 

It’s the natural place for any organisation that is striving for B Corp to start, as:

  • Sustainability starts in the workplace
  • Employee satisfaction and wellbeing are dramatically impacted by the workplace
  • Communities can rally around your workplace, as long as you create space that supports this

In this blog, we will discuss 6 of the key points businesses who are striving for B Corp certification may want to consider when it comes to workplace design and refurbishment, as well as examples of workplaces that B Corps have created to help inspire you as you take the next steps.

Sustainable materials

One of the most important aspects of B Corp certification is sustainability, which means that sourcing the right materials for your refurbishment and fit-out is essential. 

For your refurbishment, you can select products designed with their second life in mind, or source sustainable products that are durable and long-lasting, for example, flooring or carpets that are made from recycled materials and are 100% recyclable. 

When it comes to your office fit-out, an excellent way to practise sustainability is by adopting second-life products, such as refurbished or refreshed furniture or appliances. Utilising second-life items means that you are eliminating the CO2 footprint of the equivalent new product from the project; an excellent way to conserve virgin raw materials.

You don’t have to hunt for these pieces yourself; by coordinating with a design partner, we can help you to source ethical furniture and reduce your overall carbon footprint throughout the fit-out process.

This process works both ways – make sure that any furniture or materials that are no longer needed by your organisation are passed on to new places to prevent unnecessary landfill waste. We highly recommend working with local charities so that your old furniture is rehomed to schools or community centres.  

Allbirds are a certified B Corp based in San Francisco. They embody both sustainability and their connection with the local community by preserving the original features of their office space, which is based in a historic district of the city. The existing millwork and exposed brick are signature architectural features of the neighbourhood. 

While these elements would have been easy to remove or replace during an office refit using new materials, Allbirds were able to demonstrate their commitment to environmental and socially conscious practices by choosing to restore them instead.

Energy efficiency 

When it comes to reducing your company’s carbon footprint, an energy-efficient office is, of course, essential. 

During a refurbishment, you have the opportunity to choose energy-efficient fixtures and appliances, including lighting, heating and cooling systems that use significantly less energy.

Other ways to boost your energy efficiency through refurbishment include: 

  • Replacing old equipment and appliances with energy-efficient models 
  • Upgrading windows and insulation to reduce heating and cooling losses
  • Using natural light where possible to reduce the need for artificial lighting 
  • Installing sensors for heating and lighting to ensure these are only on when necessary 

Green spaces 

Employee wellbeing sits at the core of any B Corp. Your workplace design is a fantastic place to start, and green spaces have been proven to support the wellbeing and productivity of your people (studies show that biophilic design can help boost productivity by 31%).

This is also an opportunity to benefit local flora and fauna. Incorporate plants, such as wildflowers and native hedging, as well as green walls in outdoor recreational areas and rooftop or balcony gardens.  

People have an innate need to connect to nature; green spaces have myriad benefits, both for your local environment and for your people. A win-win for everyone! 

Innocent Drinks became a certified B Corp in 2018, emphasising that their achievement was about so much more than the certification, but about proving that businesses could ‘be a force for good’. Their refurbishment of their London HQ, Fruit Towers, featured many innovative designs to boost employee wellbeing and build a sense of community.

However, one design that stood out, bringing the appearance of the outside in, was the turf flooring which gives the illusion that the entire office is a ‘green space’, even using picnic benches for their seating areas. 

Water conservation 

A practice vital to sustainability is water conservation. To reduce unnecessary water usage, your company could install features such as low-flow faucets, toilets and showers. 

Rainwater harvesting is another effective technique to conserve water and reduce your reliance on municipal sources. You can do this by installing gutters and downspouts that collect rainwater from the roof, which can then be stored in tanks or cisterns for later use. 

Waste management 

The waste hierarchy management system is essential for any business looking to reach their Scope 3 Net Zero Carbon targets and be on their way to becoming a B Corp. Getting it right starts in the design of your workplace. 

One of the key ways to efficiently support this system is to create adequate space for recycling and composting programmes and ensure that disposal areas are carefully considered and placed. People are less inclined to dispose of waste correctly if it’s a hassle to do so. 

Reduce all friction and you’ll see a significant reduction in the amount of unnecessary waste produced. 

Community engagement  

One last point to consider is the impact your company is having on the local community. 

Your workplace can become a true pillar in your community – host events, volunteer your space and give back to the people in your area. This is a key aspect of B Corp certification, yet it’s one that’s often missed. 

When refurbishing your building, consider how any unused (or rarely used) spaces can be repurposed for community usage. 

The x+why co-working offices, designed by architectural firm Squire and Partners and branding agency Mammal are an excellent example of this. 

The concept behind the refurbishment was to provide a flexible and creative space for a community of businesses. The design centres around the heritage of Whitechapel, representing a variety of cultures and traditions and utilising the office layout to create a ‘market feel’. They also support and represent the community by using artworks by local creatives. 

The office is designed to suit businesses of all sizes and sectors, providing meeting rooms, breakout spaces and dedicated desks, as well as areas to support events from workshops to social occasions. 

Sustainable, community conscious office designs from Rhino Interiors

Achieving B Corp status doesn’t happen overnight, but at Rhino Interiors, we believe that one of the best places to start on your B Corp journey is in the workplace. By creating sustainable, people-focused spaces, you’re laying the foundation to become a true Benefit Corporation.

Get inspired – see examples of innovative office designs we’ve created for B Corps below:

Gousto’s stunning London build. 

Barcode Warehouse’s new Innovation and Customer Experience Centre. 

Our team of expert and experienced designers are dedicated to delivering attractive, functional and sustainable workplaces that improve your impact on the environment, community and employee wellbeing. 

To find out how our team can transform your workspace, get in touch today

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