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What role does sustainability play in the design and operation of co-working spaces, and how are companies responding?


This article provides a detailed response to: What role does sustainability play in the design and operation of co-working spaces, and how are companies responding? For a comprehensive understanding of Co-working, we also include relevant case studies for further reading and links to Co-working best practice resources.

TLDR Sustainability is integral to co-working spaces, emphasizing environmental responsibility, community, and innovation, with companies adopting green practices to meet ESG goals and attract talent.

Reading time: 4 minutes


Sustainability has become a cornerstone in the design and operation of co-working spaces, reflecting a broader shift towards environmental responsibility in the corporate world. This movement is not just about reducing carbon footprints but also about creating spaces that promote well-being, foster community, and drive innovation. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of sustainability in attracting and retaining talent, as well as in meeting the expectations of clients and investors who are prioritizing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.

The Role of Sustainability in Co-Working Spaces

In the realm of co-working spaces, sustainability goes beyond energy-efficient lighting and recycling bins. It encompasses the very essence of shared resources, community engagement, and support for sustainable practices among tenants. Co-working spaces are uniquely positioned to lead by example in sustainability, offering a shared environment that reduces the need for individual offices, thus minimizing their collective environmental footprint. This approach aligns with the broader concept of the Circular Economy, which aims to eliminate waste and the continual use of resources. Sustainable co-working spaces often incorporate green building materials, energy-efficient systems, and designs that maximize natural light, improving air quality and reducing energy consumption.

Furthermore, these spaces frequently offer amenities and programs that encourage sustainable behaviors among their members. This might include hosting workshops on sustainability, providing access to recycling and composting facilities, or facilitating a community garden. The emphasis on community and collaboration in co-working spaces creates a fertile ground for sharing best practices and innovations in sustainability, leading to a ripple effect that extends beyond the physical boundaries of the space.

Organizations operating co-working spaces are also leveraging technology to enhance their sustainability efforts. Smart building technologies allow for more efficient management of resources, such as energy and water, by monitoring usage and adjusting in real-time. Apps and platforms that facilitate carpooling, bike-sharing, and public transport use among members further contribute to reducing the carbon footprint associated with commuting.

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Corporate Response and Market Trends

Companies are increasingly drawn to co-working spaces that prioritize sustainability, recognizing the alignment with their own ESG goals and the positive impact on employee satisfaction and productivity. According to a report by Deloitte, organizations are placing greater emphasis on sustainability and corporate social responsibility in their operational decisions, including real estate. This shift is driven by a recognition of the financial, as well as ethical, benefits of sustainable practices, such as reduced operating costs and enhanced brand reputation.

In response to this demand, many co-working space providers are integrating sustainability into their core offerings. For example, WeWork, one of the largest co-working space providers globally, has committed to becoming carbon neutral. They have implemented measures such as reducing single-use plastics, enhancing energy efficiency across their locations, and investing in renewable energy projects. Similarly, The Wing, a co-working space aimed at women, emphasizes environmental responsibility by using sustainable building materials and offering organic and locally sourced food and beverages.

The market for sustainable co-working spaces is also being driven by startups and small enterprises focused on environmental and social impact. These organizations often lack the resources to implement large-scale sustainability initiatives on their own but can achieve significant impacts by operating within a co-working space that prioritizes these values. As a result, co-working spaces that offer a strong sustainability proposition are becoming increasingly attractive to a wide range of organizations, from startups to large corporations looking to enhance their sustainability credentials.

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Real-World Examples and Best Practices

One notable example of sustainability in co-working spaces is The Greenhouse, located in London. This space is designed with sustainability at its core, featuring solar panels, a living roof for better insulation and biodiversity, and furniture made from recycled materials. The Greenhouse not only provides a sustainable working environment but also hosts events and workshops focused on environmental issues, encouraging its community to engage with sustainability in their personal and professional lives.

In the United States, Impact Hub is another example of a co-working space that integrates sustainability into its operations and community engagement. Impact Hub locations around the world offer programs and events that support social entrepreneurship and innovation for positive environmental impact. They also implement sustainable practices in their spaces, such as using renewable energy and providing resources for members to reduce their environmental footprint.

Best practices for co-working spaces looking to enhance their sustainability include conducting regular environmental audits to identify areas for improvement, engaging members in sustainability initiatives, and partnering with local environmental organizations. Additionally, communicating the impact of these initiatives, both in terms of environmental benefits and cost savings, can help to further engage the community and demonstrate the value of sustainability efforts.

In conclusion, sustainability is playing an increasingly important role in the design and operation of co-working spaces, driven by organizational demand and a growing recognition of the environmental and social benefits. By adopting sustainable practices and fostering a community of environmentally conscious members, co-working spaces can contribute significantly to the broader goals of reducing carbon emissions, conserving resources, and promoting a healthier planet.

Best Practices in Co-working

Here are best practices relevant to Co-working from the Flevy Marketplace. View all our Co-working materials here.

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Explore all of our best practices in: Co-working

Co-working Case Studies

For a practical understanding of Co-working, take a look at these case studies.

Co-working Strategy Development for Infrastructure Sector

Scenario: A firm specializing in infrastructure development is grappling with the challenge of optimizing its co-working spaces.

Read Full Case Study

Educational Platform's Coworking Space Expansion Strategy

Scenario: A leading educational technology firm is seeking to extend its market reach and enhance collaborative opportunities by establishing a network of coworking spaces targeted at professionals and students.

Read Full Case Study

Coworking Space Optimization for Professional Services in Education

Scenario: A professional services firm specializing in educational consulting has recently expanded their Coworking space to accommodate a growing team.

Read Full Case Study

Cooperative Workspace Strategy for Education Sector in North America

Scenario: The organization is a network of coworking spaces catering to professionals in the education industry, specifically targeting educators, tutors, and edtech startups.

Read Full Case Study

Co-working Efficiency Enhancement in Life Sciences

Scenario: The organization is a mid-sized life sciences company specializing in R&D co-working spaces.

Read Full Case Study

Explore all Flevy Management Case Studies

Related Questions

Here are our additional questions you may be interested in.

What metrics and KPIs are most effective for measuring the ROI of co-working space investments for large corporations?
Effective ROI measurement of co-working space investments for corporations involves Financial Performance, Employee Productivity and Satisfaction, and Strategic and Operational Excellence metrics, emphasizing cost savings, engagement, innovation rates, and operational efficiency. [Read full explanation]
How is the rise of digital nomadism influencing the evolution of coworking spaces?
The rise of digital nomadism is driving Coworking Spaces to innovate by offering flexibility, advanced technology, community engagement, and Strategic Planning to cater to the evolving needs of a mobile workforce. [Read full explanation]
In what ways can organizations ensure data security and protect intellectual property when utilizing coworking spaces?
Organizations can ensure data security and protect intellectual property in coworking spaces by implementing comprehensive Digital Security Measures, establishing Physical Security Measures, and fostering a Culture of Security Awareness among employees. [Read full explanation]
How can companies measure the ROI of implementing coworking spaces versus traditional office spaces?
Assessing the ROI of Coworking versus Traditional Office Spaces requires evaluating Financial Metrics, Productivity, Employee Satisfaction, and Operational Flexibility to make informed business decisions. [Read full explanation]
What are the long-term implications of coworking on corporate real estate portfolios and space utilization?
The rise of coworking spaces is transforming Corporate Real Estate Strategy, Lease Structures, and Space Design, emphasizing flexibility, collaboration, innovation, and sustainability, while impacting Operational Excellence and Culture. [Read full explanation]
How are digital nomadism and remote work trends influencing the evolution of co-working spaces?
Digital Nomadism and Remote Work Trends are transforming Co-Working Spaces through enhanced Spatial Design, Technological Infrastructure, Community Building, and Flexible Membership Plans to meet diverse workforce needs. [Read full explanation]

Source: Executive Q&A: Co-working Questions, Flevy Management Insights, 2024


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