The pillars of the Earth

The Expert Eye
ESG policies are becoming standard. By 2026, every company, no matter how big, will be legally obligated to report on its activities to protect the environment, on its social responsibility and on its corporate governance. How are these three pillars being implemented when it comes to workplace planning and facility management? And How can a friendly and comfortable working environment even be created in the face of climate change?

Even though the ESG concept has recently been gaining in popularity and it implementation is picking up pace. Many companies have for years now been following ecological and pro-environmental practices and they have also been engaged in CSR. Up until now, they have taken on a varied range of activities and solutions undertaken in a non-systematic manner, but with ESG, their range has been precisely defined. How are activities to protect the environment and the climate, fulfil social responsibilities and ensure above-board corporate governance manifesting themselves when it comes to workplace planning and facility management?

Caring for the environment

The first pillar of ESG is responsibility for the environment and the climactic situation and above all this is seen in the commitment of companies to cut back on their CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by 2050, to improve their water management and to switch to renewable energy. The range of activities covered by the letter E is, however, much broader. As part of everyday office management, they mainly encompass using tools to become more energy-efficient, re-using grey-water, recycling waste and carefully managing office materials.

The problem with this part of ESG is one of measurement. Guidelines for measuring it in a uniform manner are lacking. When planning a strategy to cut down your emissions down to zero, a starting point needs to be established – but for each company and business it will be somewhere different. Due to this, the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities is neither being imposed nor is it obligatory. For many businesses, the starting point for implementing an ESG strategy will be to firstly assess one’s own resources, the energy budget and how much is used, and what importance the question of energy has. This allows the real resources required to reach a goal to be assessed. BREEAM and LEED certificates in this regard are basic measurements.

Having decided on our starting point, we will know how far we are from our goals when we take into account the situation on the market and the costs of implementing an ESG strategy. Many of Cushman & Wakefield’s clients are still growing accustomed to the vision of implementing a strategy and the budget planning required. So the question arises, to what extent are investors prepared to make sacrifices for ESG?

Caring for workers and stakeholders

The next pillar is the S, which stands for social responsibility and this can be implemented in many different ways. In the Polish professional environment, most often this will concentrate on ensuring that the workplace meets safety standards and that every worker has the same rights. This is a question of creating an environment free from discrimination, which is mainly related to a person’s sex, age, sexual orientation and religion. It is also about worker well-being, both physical, through the planning of an appropriate office layout with security installations, as well as mental, by offering the appropriate psychological support, including meetings with specialists, workshops and training programmes. Since this field is incredibly wide, every organisation will in a certain manner define its own goals and its own priorities in fulfilling its social responsibilities. An organisation that fulfils its social responsibilities will be awarded with a Well certificate.

Organising social activities at work is an extremely important part of ESG strategy. This can be clearly seen in the traditional business park model, which concentrates exclusively on office buildings and is now something that we are moving away from. Currently, such places are organised above all to be inclusive, which can be seen, for example, in its engagement with senior citizens and providing a series of interdisciplinary buildings to make them useable to a wider range of visitors. Bars and restaurants should be easily available to employees, as well as kindergartens, fitness clubs, and cycling facilities. Access to public transport is one particularly important feature to connect the business park with the rest of the city.

Such facilities are called ‘community buildings’ and one such example is the Warsaw Hub. Services available within the grounds as well as points for restaurants and bars and the ‘Chill do Woli’ placemaking zone, which all reflect the social responsibility pillar of ESG. Such facilities help to create and integrate society across the entire area of a business centre.

Building an ESG strategy based on social responsibility is therefore a process that needs to activate and incorporate the needs of the previously mentioned social groups as well as make it easier for workers to spend their free time together, give them a chance to relax, and also to provide them with medical care.

Maintaining management quality

The final pillar of ESG is corporate governance, which is essential to include in order to run a socially responsible business. Care of corporate governance improves the security of a company’s business partners, its clients, or the tenants of a particular building. This field covers the transparency of a company’s operations, proper oversight, an anti-corruption policy, what is generally understood by ‘business ethics’, and doing business only with companies that act ethically. Due diligence is the process of assessing a company from the point of view of its finances, its trade, its legal status, its taxes and its technology.

For its corporate governance, a business also needs to have its production assessed, which should take place 24 hours a day. It needs to have special equipment and action also needs to be taken to make it resilient to changes in the weather and the climate, so that it maintains an appropriate temperature, while the properties themselves need to be maintained and invested in so that they meet current requirements. In this field the question of risk management is also crucial – preparing for crisis situations, having the appropriate procedures and a proven and effective action plan.

The goal of governance is therefore to run a responsible company based on ethical activity and adapting the workplace to cope with climate change and environmental challenges. We can therefore talk of being resilient to such factors and being aware of the topics raised by their threat.

Who should draw up the ESG strategy?

The wide-ranging ESG concept requires a dedicated team of competent experts to take a business through all the essential processes, changes and certifications. Putting together such a team can be quite a challenge, which can lead to an inadequate strategy being drawn up and to difficulties with its implementation later on. Our knowledge of the environment and office planning competencies are continually improving and this affects many fields at the same time.

Experts with interdisciplinary knowledge are essential to plan out an ESG strategy. This knowledge must cover technical specifications, climate change and its associated threats, finance and the cost of energy, and worker well-being. Such experts also need to have marketing skills. It may turn out to be essential to form a team of experts to analyse, plan and implement solutions that are appropriate for the ESG strategy’s guidelines.

About C&W

Cushman & Wakefield (NYSE: CWK) is a leading global real estate services firm that delivers exceptional value for real estate occupiers and owners. It is among the largest real estate services companies in the world, with approximately 50,000 employees in 400 offices and 60 countries. In 2020, it generated revenues of USD 7.8 bln from its core services of property, facilities and project management, leasing, capital markets, valuation and other services.