As part of our series to find out how flexible office providers are addressing ESG (Environmental Social Governance) within their spaces we caught up with Eoin Joy, Chief Property Officer & Head of ESG at Iconic Offices to find out more.

Tell us a bit about your business / offering

We are Ireland’s leading flexible workspace provider offering premium private offices, coworking and meeting rooms for our clients. Irish owned and made, we have gone through considerable evolutions ourselves and understand the challenges our clients face. Our approach means we design our workspaces taking every detail into account so that the user can experience enhanced well-being, productivity and enjoyment of their environment.

Businesses can avail of office space by the day, week, month or year depending on their business needs while also changing location and workspace size as their business requires. Home to ambitious Irish SMEs through to Global household brands, we customise the workspace to their needs.

We have been doing this for over 10 years offering flexible ways of working, so our model supports modern hybrid teams and businesses, whatever way they need to work. For some businesses that means one large office where a team of 20 work hybrid across 10 collaborative working sit-stand desk banks, their own meeting room, private call booths and lounge space all within their four walls. 

While some businesses seek multiple full day takeovers of meeting rooms and presentation/ collaboration spaces supported by day office passes. Every company is different, supporting them with personalised solutions is our expertise and passion.

Are you addressing sustainability in the way you operate your business, and if yes what does this include for you? 

Yes, our sustainability strategy is a central part of how we operate as a business and core to our overarching ESG goals. Our strategy addresses everyday items, mid-level ongoing projects and larger scale more ambitious works. For example, on everyday items, we provide recycling in every property and work with responsible suppliers on everything from building stock to construction works and services. We also provide food waste bins where possible and are looking into compost options. 

Our team at Iconic run frequent litter picks, take part in charity partner volunteer days (such as Dogs Trust) and raise funds for our charity partners on an ongoing basis, which falls under both our sustainability or ‘environmental’, and our ‘social’ initiatives. We stock complimentary period products with our partner Riley in all locations, which we rolled out last year to a hugely positive response. Riley are focused on providing sustainable and ethical period products making them the perfect partner on our sustainability journey. 

On the more medium scale, our building’s footprint reduction has been an ongoing project for 3 years where we enhance the goals based on achievements annually. Biophilic design across all locations increases oxygenation and brings health benefits to the spaces. On a large scale our first bee-hive huts and renewal energy systems roll-outs enable us to assess at scale from key learnings, alongside biodiversity in our outdoor spaces also. It comes down to the ESG Team, comprised of team members from every department including leadership, who are passionate about our business goals and help us drive it forward. 

Are you addressing environmental, social and governance issues equally or focussing more on one of these areas? 

Yes, our ESG team are focused on all three areas meaning we are consistently measuring the impact we can make on each. Our 50/50 male and female leadership team also supports having a broader range of viewpoints on environmental, social, and governance matters. Diversity can help identify and address potential blind spots and ensure a more comprehensive and well-rounded approach to sustainability and responsible business practices. As part of our social initiatives we aim to create an inclusive and diverse community, both internally and in the communities we operate for our members. In addition to our DE&I policy, we regularly assess procedures such as recruitment, internal meeting rhythms and engagement surveys to ensure business decisions are made with consideration of a diverse background. Having this representation and multiple view points helps us represent actions that reflect a more holistic approach to addressing what our clients need also.

Another key focus when considering our social initiatives is our relationship with our local community. As a business, we continuously strive to give back to local charities and the local environment. A few recent examples include: partnering with local charity NCBI to host charity clothing pop-ups in our workspaces to encourage our members and staff to buy locally and sustainably. We also partner with WorkEqual charity to raise awareness and hold clothing collections for their charity, helping women re-entering the workspace. Another recent partnership was with BelongTo, Ireland’s national organisation dedicated to empowering young LGBTQI+ people, we hosted a Pride cake sale day to help raise funds and awareness for this important cause. 

And while we are focused on ESG as a business, we are always thinking of our client and the items that can be incorporated into their ESG strategy requirement taking some of the lifting away from them. If businesses are seeking capital their ESG strategy is now key, so the more we can do that assists them, the better the job we are doing. 

As a part of your work on sustainability, have you set a net zero target? If yes what does your commitment include and what have been the main challenges so far?

We have not set a zero target, based on our business model and our portfolio inclusion of period properties,  it would not be viable. However, we have set ambitious reduction goals that we drive further on a continual basis. 

Is consideration of sustainability affecting your long-term strategic planning e.g. site selection? 

Yes definitely, as a business we have taken on properties in the last few years where we knew we could impact the final product certification to meet WELL standards, ensuring the workspace is designed with sustainability and the well-being at the core. This approach means measured practices at every stage, from sustainable building material use in fit-out to ensure low-emission scores right through to water, air and light quality control that enhance the well-being of the building occupants. 

We extended that further from a select number of locations, registering for WELL at scale, bringing impactful enhancements across all buildings in the portfolio where possible.

Are any of your clients/occupiers asking you about sustainability?  

Yes, this started with assisting larger scale global brands, completing questionnaires and aiding their planning for sustainability at our locations. Two to three years ago we would have received requests for assistance from clients on these areas a number of times a year. Last week alone we were approached twice, so it has become more of a top priority for business of all sizes. 

Do you think sustainability has been fully embraced by the flexible office sector? If not, what do you think are the barriers?

It has definitely been embraced and placed top of mind in more recent years because the market is driving it and clients are seeking it. One barrier is the lease model where it doesn’t allow full control over assets, so for flexible office providers to invest in the spaces for their business and their clients, the term of the building lease needs to make sense to pay back on the investment required. Where landlords are willing to partner with providers to make these enhancements, it makes a significant difference and enhances the long term viability of the property, future proofing it. 

What more can be done?  

It is up to any responsible business to keep assessing your efforts and finding ways you can move the dial more. Lots of small inroads creates momentum and aids meeting the goals on the larger scale strategy. 

Greater state supplied education and funding supports would be advantageous to any business. We are publishing content and launching new information in the coming months that can help business education.

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