Business opportunities in tackling air quality

News – Monday, June 18th, 2018


This Clean Air Day our CCCA lead spoke to Rajnika Hirani who provides her perspective on tackling the issue of air quality and the great work happening across the borough.

Rajnika is Head of Sustainability and Business at the Francis Crick Institute. Based in Camden ‘The Crick’ are members of the Camden Climate Change Alliance and Rajnika a member of the advisory board with a long-standing career managing sustainability in various organisations.

Why is air quality important to The Crick?

Rajnika:  The Crick strives to ensure that its operations have a minimum impact on the local environment and in particular on air quality in the surrounding area and communities. We are moving forward on our sustainability journey and energy reduction forms a big part in this.   We monitor our emissions and are looking to monitor our air quality internally and externally.  Our 24-hour team are both proactive and reactive to the maintenance and operations of our building to make sure usage is optimised and resources are not wasted.” 

What are your thoughts on what businesses are doing in Camden?

Rajnika: “We are seeing some exciting innovations and positive adoption of practices that improve air quality in Camden. Not only from larger organisations but smaller ones too across a diverse number of sectors. Issues they’re tackling range from fleet and deliveries to employee travel and management of their building.

 Colyer - van closeupColyer London, for example, changed their delivery fleet to electric as part of their wider sustainability activities winning them a number of prizes at the CCCA sustainability awards 2017 (read their case study to find out more). The Wesley Hotel is now also using an electric delivery van and on a site-wide level  Kings Cross Estate Services have recently procured a cargo bike to assist with paper recycling and deliveries across their estate.”

However, it is not about purely switching delivery options, it’s finding smarter ways of delivery, pickups and reducing in the number of vehicles in the first place. The Fitzrovia Partnership Business Improvement District are running their own consolidated deliveries for stationary as well as waste collections. University College London with their logistic zone and consolidation of construction materials award-winning project. With Camden being home to a significant entertainment venue scene, work such as that undertaken by The Roundhouse, where their food and beverage team moved to a supplier who can consolidate deliveries, is important.

On deliveries, Rajnika notes: “we have an off-site delivery centre which receives approximately 18 deliveries per day and the Crick then only receives 2 per day from this centre plus some direct deliveries. This approach has reduced traffic to our main building in St Pancras by 27%.”

Smarter employee travel

More challenging is addressing the habits of employees. Many organisations have introduced travel policies and plans to reflect the prioritisation of walking and sustainable travel to meetings locally.

wellbeing walkTo facilitate this, wellbeing walk projects, such as that implemented by Urban Partners of Kings Cross, another in development by Euston Town Business Improvement District and the Camden Highline offer the opportunity for employees to take less polluted routes. Beck Greener, a patent law firm, have run their own internal staff campaigns to increase sustainable travel and, along with a significant number of organisations including, Birkbeck University, offering a cycle to work scheme. Greening the streets through pocket parks such as the Fitzpark designed by Arup in collaboration with Fitzrovia Partnership can also improve footfall to businesses as well as provide wellbeing benefits.

For further distances, London Videoconferencing is also keen to spread the word about businesses making full use of telecommunication services thereby cutting out the requirement to travel to business meetings. Read their case study to find out more about their services and sustainability commitments and achievements.

Being an international organisation Rajnika recognises the value of technologies, such as video conferencing, to smarten up businesses communications The Crick has state of the art telephone conferencing facilities to enable communications with researches across the world.  This technology is helping us to reduce business travel however, we are still in stages and very much work in progress…”

Managing buildings

Frances crick solar panelsWith a large proportion of emissions coming from the buildings themselves and with older buildings providing a challenge, appropriate maintenance and upkeep are key. Architectural firm John McAslan and Partners have used the Camden Climate Fund to assist in installing new boilers that are more efficient. Sheppard Robson has also improved their building as part of a refurbishment and is looking at improving the internal air quality.

Rajnika: “With building operation in mind the Crick was built to BREEAM Excellent standard.  Now that we have occupied the building for 18 months, we are looking to take the next step and work towards BREEAM in use.…. “

So what does a high air quality future mean for a business and where do businesses go from here?

Camden Council is committed to improving air quality for the community and business and this is highlighted in the Camden 2025 vision.  For businesses, dealing with this issue Rajnika says: “it’s a positive future as businesses identify better ways of doing things to bring about benefits in savings and improved environmental performance. Businesses are beginning to understand the impact of pollution and the conversations are already happening to find new approaches to deliver more sustainable services and products”.

How can businesses get involved?

Earlier this year, the Cabinet Member for Improving Camden’s Environment, Councillor Harrison, wrote an air quality blog for CCCA [read it here] about what businesses can do. You can also check the CCCA recent news article with ideas of actions you can take to reduce local air pollution.



Rajnika Hirani Head of Sustainability and Business,  Francis Crick Institute.