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Blogs 10 jul 2024

Data, embedding circularity and the commercial opportunity

Q&A with Rob Stewart, Strategy & Sustainability Director at Koba

Hi Rob, tell us a bit about Koba and the market you are in?  

Hi, yes. We’re a flexible workspace company. It’s a part of the office market that’s growing fast right now, for a variety of different reasons. I think people are beginning to realise that it makes sense to outsource more of the workplace experience to people who are experts in it. We are proud to be creating beautiful spaces that are functional for a new world of work. For us hospitality is critical, but our real differentiator is our approach to sustainability. 

What makes you different when it comes to sustainability?  

We recognize that we’re in a market where there are a lot of people making, in our view, pretty lightweight claims about sustainability. We’ve seen grand declarations, but if you spend time scratching beneath the surface, you find a different story. 

So, our approach is very evidence-based and data-driven. We make that data available to all in sundry, and not trying to kind of bury bad news under the carpet. 

We recognize that there is no silver bullet for the issues that exist within our industry, and there are many. We want to be open and honest about what we’re trying to do and help people understand that through data that is collated and displayed in places like the Madaster platform. 

We are in a world where we are kind of on a par price wise with other competitors, but they don’t take sustainability as seriously as us. We think that’s a competitive advantage. 

What kind of challenges are you facing?  

Yeah, there are a lot of challenges, of course! The reality is that we as a business are a procurer of things that exist within existing supply chains. For us to address the way we design, fit out and operate spaces, our supply chains need to catch up with our ambitions.  

If we want to get to a truly circular world, we need to be standardizing components, formats, and sizes. Currently there are a lot of parts of the supply chain that are very happy to just supply bespoke. You can go to a high quality, interior walls company, and they’ll quite happily supply you with something that could be six inches different to somebody else, it then becomes very hard to use reuse these pieces again in the market.  

I think a lot of change will come from bottom-up pressure, from occupies themselves who are seeking to attract and retain a workforce that genuinely cares about sustainability. There is already a green premium and I think in due course that will filter down from a building level into the interiors level and then the real estate operator level, which is where we sit. 

We believe it requires people like us to come into the market and show how things can be done differently for others to then respond. 

How will the Madaster platform will support you on your journey? 

It’s twofold really. One area is our own understanding; we want to ensure that we are providing a demonstrably more sustainable fitout. It’s important for us to understand where we are at beyond embodied carbon. There are others in the market who do an incredibly good job of helping you capture pure embodied carbon data, but we want to move that conversation in towards circularity.  

To do this we needed to work with a partner who can help us capture that information, and frankly, that we can collaboratively work together with to help educate our end users. We have a task to help others understand why circular choices and business models are not just better for the environment but can commercially make more sense as well. 

Madaster gives us the ability to track how we iteratively improve on our circularity (or not). It also it gives us a way to communicate with the people who buy our services. The people who part with their money to come in and use our office spaces.  

And what does the Madaster peer network mean for you?  

I think there’s a lot that we can all gain from each other. We have a sustainability manifesto which is publicly listed on our website and one of our commitments is around radical transparency. That’s true internally, externally, but it’s also about collaboration. Because if we’re the only guys who are getting better at what we’re doing, and everybody else is business-as-usual, then nobody is better off. I think this kind of openness can only help everybody. 

With that in mind, what would you say to others who want to make a start on incorporating circularity into their developments? 

That’s a really good question. I suppose the answer most people would probably expect to hear is, it’s better for the planet, it’s better for the environment and it’s better for people.  

I would encourage people to look at the commercial opportunity. We live in a commercial world and there are gains to be made as early movers in new emerging areas of sustainability. Circularity is one of them, it is going to be one of the most important. 

It is already taken off in other parts of Europe. We in the UK are a little bit different in terms of regulation and the way things are moving, but the opportunity is there. Yes, it may cost you a bit more money. Yes, it’s certainly going to take you more time and effort. But in a world in which our customers are becoming more sophisticated in their choices, it’s absolutely the right thing to be looking at from a commercial point of view.  

Thanks Rob for sharing your thoughts, great talking to you.  

Rob Stewart, Strategy and Sustainability Director at Koba said, “Madaster enables us to store and visualise circularity data and having the ability to display that within our sites will be a big part of our brand proposition.”

Madaster UK Managing Director, Andrea Charlson, remarked, “We are delighted to welcome Koba into the Madaster Partner Network and look forward to supporting them in their ambitions to capture and share data and insights about their project portfolio.”

For more information about Koba, visit Home | Koba (kobaspace.com), and to learn about Madaster’s platform, visit The Madaster platform – Madaster UK.

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