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Talking about impact is difficult, especially when it’s difficult to even agree on which metrics determine it. Developing projects with impact in mind is so foundational to Impact Hub that they changed their name from Hub to Impact Hub years ago. I spoke with Cristina Sancho, Sustainability Lead at Impact Hub Madrid, to explain how Impact Hub is working on its commitment to sustainability.
“Impact Hub has three lines of business: spaces, events, and consulting & projects, and we try to bring sustainability to all of them.” To do so, they have to employ different strategies.
In their coworking areas, for example, they seek to create a zero-emissions space. They also manage waste responsibly and adjust the water management of the space to keep consumption to a minimum and collaborate with reforestation projects to offset the emissions they still emit. This action plan is moving them toward achieving zero emissions.
Their events are designed to be sustainable. One of the usual difficulties in achieving this milestone is the catering; meeting sustainability requirements comes at a cost.
“If the client does not want to pay the extra cost involved in sustainable catering, Impact Hub will not take care of the catering and it is the client who will have to assume its contracting and management because we cannot offer that service.”
“In fact, we are now working to also measure how the guests arrive at the event, in this way we will get a more complete picture of the real impact of the events held at our facilities.”
The third line of business that Cristina manages is projects. They operate as a consultancy and carry out their own projects mainly focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship.
“We are now working with a real estate company. Although they don't build, they do work with builders who do it for them and we advise them to do it in a more sustainable way.”
Another of Cristina's reflections is how SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) are falling behind in the race to improve their sustainability. “The problem with this is that, although the European Union exempts them from complying with certain measures because of their turnover, they run the risk of being left out in the future of contracts with larger companies that are not exempt from complying with these measures.”
Impact Hub’s response is to work with large companies to help SMEs develop their own path to sustainability. “We have created a platform that helps our members to be more sustainable. We created it with the financial support of our corporate project clients because we believe that real change cannot happen without a change in the SME. We believe that large companies cannot just tell an SME they work with: ‘tell me about your emissions.’ We believe they should help them as much as possible because we know that the SME cannot pay for the consulting services necessary to be able to undertake these reductions.”
Cristina tells me that this online tool generates a diagnosis and recommendations for users so that they can implement five actions to improve the sustainability of these projects. “Obviously it will require resources and it will also be a long-term commitment for these SMEs.”
They have just launched the tool and are testing it with internal users, so they do not yet have data, but hopefully, in a year's time, they will be able to share it with us to observe the evolution and the impact it will have in helping both internal and external users.
We do not yet know the final scope of the actions of Impact Hub Madrid in their latest initiatives but I think it is very interesting how they are involving large companies in the evolution of SMEs in an issue as fundamental as sustainability. Now all that remains to be seen is how this commitment plays out.
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