As part of H+K’s Sustainability and Social Impact consulting team, I frequently find myself chatting to colleagues and clients about the state of the planet; more specifically the matter of climate change, what actions clients can take to constructively engage, what is our greatest collective challenge, and how best to communicate about these efforts in a constructive manner.
It’s by no means a one size fits all conversation, but I do have a few top hits that go something like this:
- Sustainability = change. It’s not a cultural trend to be ‘tapped into’, so let’s get a mix of marcomms, strategy and operations leaders in the room early if you want to communicate about sustainability.
- Don’t tinker. Focus where your footprint is heaviest, where you have influence and where intervention will have the greatest impact. (Make sure you’re set up to collect measurable data to evidence your impact and create credible comms.)
- And speaking of comms, it should be proportional to the change you’re creating.
- Don’t fall into the trap of pushing responsibility onto others. Any old cliché relating to ducks or houses can be inserted here but the crux of it is to do everything you can first before inviting others to help reduce the emissions in your value chain.
I’m under no illusion that this is an easy list of steps to follow, particularly when it can feel a bit like you’re damned if you do (they’re only talking to me about [insert issue/sustainability update] to push more [insert product/service]), damned if you don’t (they must be doing unspeakable evils because they’re not communicating about their actions).
The way to avoid this paradox is to start with impact, focusing on what you are actually doing to tackle a shared environmental or social challenge that has a measurable, beneficial impact on society and grow from there. This also helps to dodge the ‘if I can’t solve the climate crisis, what’s the point?’ mindset which can be paralysing and trips up progress in the long run.
This leads me neatly to hit number five, inspired by the best career advice I’ve heard. It comes from an ex-CSO of one of the world’s leading retailers on how to stay motivated to push forward with sustainability agendas:
5. Prioritise long-term impact, but nurture interest, motivation, and action along the way to feed your own stamina.
With one eye on net zero across Scope 3 by 2030 (tick for number two), we’re doing just that with the launch of Stride+Ride, H+K London’s active commute scheme that rewards employees who walk, run or cycle into the office with wellness time off.
Beyond it simply being a healthy and environmentally positive thing to do, the scheme will help us to better understand, monitor, and reduce our Scope 3 emissions from employee commuting and provide data to evidence progress against targets. With the Race to Zero just announcing strengthened minimum requirements for membership – such as the need for members to ‘publicly release a transition plan document on their long-term net-zero goals and their 2030 targets’, amongst others – the scrutiny and standards of companies’ commitments will continue to grow. Data to evidence progress, therefore, is paramount.
If you happen to be one of those intrapreneurs interested in nurturing interest and motivation while you focus on your wider transition plans, here are a few practical steps to cut some corners in setting up an active travel scheme:
- Figure out which of the myriad benefits an active travel policy would most engage your CEO (for example, reducing your organisation’s GHG footprint to support Net Zero commitments, boosting employee health and wellbeing, forging culture change, increasing employee benefits to recruit talent) and let her know you can help solve one of her problems. It won’t hurt to tell her active commuters take 2.5 fewer sick days a year.
- Once you’ve got the green light, figure out what will motivate your colleagues as an incentive to hop on a bike or walk in, while not terrifying your CFO – vouchers, a fancy lunch for the most active team, extra holiday? For us, it’s wellness time off; for every return active commute, we earn 10 minutes off.
- Make it accessible. Not everyone can, or is ready to, hop on a bike. Consider including walking to meetings or reward people for getting off transport a few stops early.
- Make sure you’re able to track the active journeys so you can reward those who participate – there are apps to help with this if there are loads of you and a ‘mark your own homework’ system isn’t going to cut it. We use Welba.
- If you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint, make sure you get a baseline of your office’s current commuting emissions before you start and think about the best way to measure this – I found the simplest is the GHG Protocols distance method and will be bribing all my colleagues to participate in an annual commuting survey with the chance to win a free day off.
- Make it simple. For H+K’s striders and riders, it’s as easy as hitting ‘start’ and ‘stop’ on an app.