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How we helped the flex workspace company Koba create an industry leading sustainability manifesto

5 February 2024


Why Koba’s Manifesto matters

Koba is positioning itself as a small disruptor in a big pond. This is a common position we've heard before, but Koba's manifesto focuses on replicability, transparency and collaboration, making it a bold change. In a sector filled with grandiose statements, this is noteworthy. As Koba's sustainability partner, it's interesting to see how this cornerstone will shape our work together.

As EPEA we have focused on how to achieve a circular economy, from the molecule to the product, through the Cradle-to-Cradle® approach for 40 years. As Drees & Sommer (EPEA’s parent company) we work with some of the leading names across Real Estate. The complexity of Real Estate makes it difficult for any single actor to drive change. Rather than being a reason for inaction, we’ve worked with Koba to shape a strategy built around pragmatic, meaningful actions rather than catchy headlines.


Transparency and disclosure are important topics in a fast-paced market that is obsessed with getting quick results. In a competitive space like ESG, it takes courage to act against greenwashing and be open to people raising questions. However, doing so can help enable open-sourced, real learning by both building occupiers and the wider Real Estate sector. Being transparent about the journey towards finding the answers, including the failures, means that everyone can learn together. It also helps to build a relationship of trust with building users, which has been shown to be lacking in the wider sustainability agenda. This is often due to hidden data, greenwashed claims and vested interests. It takes courage to be transparent and time will tell whether it pays off. Our experience suggests it will.

Circularity above carbon

Carbon has become a focal point in the UK, which is understandable as it can be measured, acted upon, and is relatively straightforward. However, focusing only on carbon as a single metric fails to take into account many other important factors, and optimizing for carbon alone will not lead to sustainability or prevent climate collapse. For example, ecosystems play a crucial role that is not fully understood by carbon metrics.

Making progress towards a circular economy involves several metrics that are not widely agreed upon. While carbon is an important aspect of this process, it is not the only factor to be considered. The circular economy takes into account what happens at the end of a product's life cycle, which is difficult to measure in carbon terms due to the subjective nature of this process and the lack of standardization. To achieve a circular economy, it is essential to involve design, production, logistics, and commercial aspects. All these pieces need to work together as one; otherwise, it either won't be circular or won't be economical. No single actor can achieve this goal alone, and it requires the collective effort of all stakeholders.

By adopting this approach, we can achieve several benefits such as creating healthier buildings by excluding toxins during the remanufacturing process, improving commercial performance by reducing the dependence on new assemblies and making it more flexible to changes. Additionally, we can build a stronger and more resilient system that is less vulnerable to disjointed and lengthy supply chains while being more connected to local markets, and people.

Walk alone to go fast, walk together to go far

By focusing on circularity, success is contingent on collaboration, which also has a wider impact. No single actor, especially small ones, can change the market on their own. However, by leading the way and bringing others along, Koba can create a network effect that shows how sustainability can be achieved in a meaningful and commercial way. Instead of setting high standards and buying the top-of-the-line products at a premium, Koba aims to collaborate and experiment to achieve success. Working within real constraints such as older and underperforming buildings, tight budgets, and short timelines allows for scalability. If a small player can act as a catalyst and bring landlords and suppliers along, everyone will benefit. Success in this model sends a powerful message to the wider market that it is possible and good business. And here is the evidence to prove it.

The climb, not the summit

Koba has come to the realization that sustainability is a continuous process. Although less easy to communicate, the focus on achieving the answer alone can prevent us from asking the right questions, especially considering that the questions we need to ask change as we learn more. Therefore, Koba's top priority is to understand data, how to capture and collect it in useful ways that facilitate action, all while remaining evidence-based.

Being receptive to answers that may be unexpected or even uncomfortable is a challenging task. However, as Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens, highlights in his book '21 Lessons for the 21st Century', "Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question”. Throughout history, humanity has consistently demonstrated that progress does not come from knowing the answer before we begin. Therefore, our approach should remain open and adaptable in order to have any real value.