If you’ve been around WOD or the workspace design industry in general over recent years then chances are you’ll recognise our latest Feature Friday guest; Georgia Elliott-Smith.
Georgia was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her background and all things sustainability with us.
WOD: Let’s start off at the beginning – tell us about your background and how you became involved with the workspace sector…
GES: “I’ve worked in construction for my entire career, since becoming the first environment manager for Bovis Europe back in 1995. That was mostly heavy construction, new builds and major refurbishments. My first client when I started Element Four in 2003 was a well-known fit out design and build group in need of an environmental plan. Since then, I’ve been deeply involved in workplace projects, making offices green and healthy.”
WOD: Tell us more about what exactly drew you towards the topic sustainability, and how that lead to the creation of Element Four…
GES: “I studied Environmental Engineering at university and have worked in sustainability for 25 years. I set up Element Four knowing that the sustainability professional has fundamentally failed to create systems change – if we had succeeded, the climate and ecological emergency wouldn’t be here.
But it’s not just a job – it’s my life! I’m passionate about environmental justice. I am an Extinction Rebellion activist, an anti-incineration and air pollution campaigner (last year I took the government to court over carbon emissions). I’m also running to become a Green Party councillor in the local elections in May.”
WOD: What are the key issues relevant to your client base at the moment?
GES: “Everyone is talking about carbon. In April (2022), new legislation came into force requiring investors to report on the carbon impacts and climate mitigation measures of their assets. This has a big knock-on effect through the property value chain, forcing everyone to get serious about reducing operational and embodied carbon. We’re helping our clients to understand, measure and reduce their carbon emissions so they can answer the questions coming from their customers.
Secondly, there’s a lot of talk about ESG, although many people are confused about what it means and how to get started. We create ESG strategies for companies and projects to ensure industry can operate responsibly while remaining profitable.”
WOD: Of these issues, which do you find most interesting and challenging?
GES: “ESG is so broad, complex, nuanced, and fast-moving – it’s also becoming an increasingly critical client requirement. It’s exciting to help our clients create strategies and practical plans that result in real benefits.
The best part for me is setting priorities, weeding out the topics that are most important and those that can be put aside. Seeing the penny drop when they understand the issues, and the relief they feel from having a clear plan that they can confidently discuss with clients, is brilliant. No more avoidance, greenwash or waffle!
One of the questions I ask when I’m client-side, interviewing suppliers is “how did you create your sustainability plan?”. The answers are revealing and demonstrate how seriously they take it.”