Seismic’s spotlight series launches with an exclusive interview with Phil Nevin, Co-founder and CCO of flexible workspace provider x+why.
Our Seismic Spotlight chats reveal insights into businesses that are on their sustainability journey.
In this first article Seismic talks with x+why, a company that is increasing their impact and helping others to do the same.
When Seismic decided to take offices in London it was important that our working space reflected our values and our purpose. In x+why we’ve found the perfect partnership. Amy Bourbeau, co-founder and Chief Impact Officer here at Seismic, and the UK’s first B Lab Leader, recently spoke with Phil Nevin, CCO of x+why, to find out more about their mission and how it aligns with ours.
AMY: Could you share a bit about x+why and your mission?
PHIL: We are a flexible workspace provider – we provide space and service on many different levels whether that’s hot desking or a private office or a meeting room, space for a gathering or even a party. We’re a mission driven business: we’re aiming to change the way the world works for good.
AMY: How did you come to know about B Corp and decide it was something x+why wanted to pursue?
PHIL: I heard about B Corp through friends, who had impact-focused businesses, three or four years ago. We knew we wanted to create an impact driven business and B Corp was a brilliant way of framing what we were going to try and do and give some structure, clarity, and credence to it.
AMY: I remember coming to look at your first site and it was clear from the start that B Corp was embedded throughout your business. B Lab UK is based in your space, in People’s mission Hall. How does that feel and what does that mean to you?
PHIL: We feel very blessed to have them in our space. We love supporting them and all our members. We love it for our community because we’ve got so many people who are passionate about using business as a force for good.
AMY: A lot of the SMEs we speak with have trouble with the environment section of their B Corp application particularly, as they’re not at the size where they have their own facilities so must work with landlords, etc. Have you any advice for those companies who are trying to improve their environmental impact, but their hands are a bit tied?
PHIL: One of the shifts that’s happening is that space is being seen as more of a service than just a transaction, so people do have some power and can ask a landlord who the energy suppliers are and if they’re sustainable. It’s an easy shift for a landlord and could even save them money. There are other changes which take more upfront investment from the property owner but there’s more and more compelling evidence that these save money in the long run.
People can vote with their feet. A lot of the basics behind how sustainable a workspace is are around how it’s run – what you’re offering, office supplies, how much waste you create, how you get to work, etc.
AMY: How do you choose who works in your spaces?
PHIL: It’s part of our mission to help change behaviours – we don’t want all fully-fledged B Corps or fair-trade businesses dominating our communities as then we wouldn’t be able to affect others, but we do have one non-negotiable, which is our pledge. We ask any business that takes space at x+why to sign our pledge which essentially says, ‘we can make money as a business but we’re beholden to our planet and our people’. If you want to join x+why, you don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to commit to improve!
Beyond that there’s no sector that defines x+why, we’ve got everything from craftivists to venture capitalists under our roof and we love the variety, it’s wonderful!
AMY: Many businesses want to be sustainable but aren’t sure where to start. What advice would you give them?
PHIL: You don’t have to be perfect. It’s so important to get that out there. It’s not binary – you can be a sustainable business without being a B Corp. We see our role as helping a thousand flowers bloom and we want to help them bloom with ease. You can be a company that’s run really sustainably and perhaps become a B Corp a few years down the line.
AMY: Obviously COVID-19 has had a massive impact on x+why and we’ve all had to go through adaptations and adjustments. What have you learned along the way that you’d like to carry on into a post covid world?
PHIL: It might be an unexpected answer from a workplace provider but working from home is something that we want to see continue because it talks to employee wellbeing. I think it’s a really healthy thing to find a balance between the office and working from home.
We’ve started selling offices on time share so you can be a company who has the office Tuesday and Thursday, and the other company has it Monday Wednesday Friday and everyone wins.
As a workplace provider we’ve been thinking a lot about what companies will require from us post covid that’s different to pre covid. We’re excited to be at the forefront of helping imagine what the office for the future is.
We’ve signed up to the better business act and are looking forward to supporting it. There’s a huge amount to be done in terms of how that is translated into the business community, but it would be wonderful to see that become a reality.
AMY: Seismic have just signed up to the better business act too! Recently we’ve seen an exponential interest in B Corp and sustainability in general and companies who want to make sure this is embedded long-term, not just for now. It’s great there are organisations such as x+why that companies can work with to make sure they stay on that track.