The CEO of inmidtown has game-changing ideas about responsible business
How can we define innovation and responsible business? After all, innovation happens in spaces that aren’t prescriptive – those that are beyond definition. For us at inmidtown, the business improvement district, innovation is about finding alternative models and ways of working that help 560 businesses across Holborn, Bloomsbury and St Giles. It’s about finding solutions that address the pressures these different businesses are under.
From waste removal to procurement, we constantly strive for innovative practices that help businesses grow, perform better and have a less harmful impact on their environments. Our highly successful programme, Zero to Landfill, is an exemplar of this. We started by asking ourselves a simple question: how can we encourage businesses to recycle more? In an inner city district where outdoor space for recycling bins is limited, how can we innovate within waste removal?
It wasn’t long before our simple question transformed into a stirring ambition: what if we became the world’s first capital city commercial district to eliminate the waste we send to landfill? That means ensuring every single one of our ‘waste streams’ – from glass bottles to confidential files, left-over food to redundant electrical equipment – leads to a truly sustainable outcome. It means returning as much as possible of the district’s waste as sustainable product: food waste as compost and white paper as stationery. So what started as a recycling service has morphed into a closed loop solution for waste.
The benefits for businesses are multiple: waste is removed and recycled cost-effectively, stationery bills are reduced, and thanks to our specially developed carbon calculator, businesses have report-ready carbon data. We now have 230 businesses on the programme and, at the time of writing, our ticking carbon calculator showed a collective saving of 1,578,465 Kgs of CO2. In fact, since 2010, we’ve achieved cost savings of £800,000, and diverted 6,500 tonnes of waste from landfill.
Since 2010, we’ve achieved cost savings of £800,000, and diverted 6,500 tonnes of waste from landfill
Just as waste is a problem for every business, so too is employee retention. I believe we’re still very much in an employee-driven working environment. For increasing numbers of people, knowing that an employer is ethical, innovative and has wider concerns than purely business are important factors when considering employment opportunities. Part of what drives inmidtown’s bee-keeping and microclimate initiatives is the impact they have on employee satisfaction and quality of worklife. The experience we’ve found is that by using space innovatively – such as cultivating a roof garden – businesses can dramatically improve their employees’ work satisfaction, in turn giving them a competitive edge.
In Holborn we have the solicitors Mishcon de Reya and Olswang, and the Radisson Blu Bloomsbury Street Hotel at the forefront of this innovation. All three businesses have created roof gardens on their premises and are growing fruit and vegetables which are then harvested and returned to the kitchens before being eaten by staff. As well as providing cost-saving sustenance and a home for beehives, the gardens provide much needed areas for relaxing and taking time out.
Our remit at inmidtown is to provide innovative solutions for the 570 businesses that we represent. But this shouldn’t be our luxury alone. All businesses need the opportunity to think differently, and the government can support this by funding more initiatives designed to inspire collaboration and original thinking. Two such ways are through academic partnering, and peer-to-peer mentoring – both of which inmidtown has benefited from. By collaborating with Birkbeck University, University College London and the University of Herefordshire, we’ve been able to develop technological solutions which may have otherwise been too expensive to consider. Likewise, by collaborating and sharing ideas with other businesses, we’ve found new answers to old problems.
By its very nature the private sector is more diverse, fluid and fast-moving than the public sector. This is something to be supported and celebrated. Perhaps then we’ll become closer to defining what it is to be innovative.
Tass Mavrogordato is the CEO of inmidtown