By Parry Jones, Deputy CEO at What’s Possible Group
The planet is on fire and in the battle against global warming, we believe businesses can, and should, be part of the solution.
However, at the same time we are in a recession, which means business leaders are under increasing pressure around how they spend their time and budget.
So, how does a business navigate the short term need to balance the books, with the longer-term goal of saving the planet? In my experience, the answer is passion and creativity.
What’s Possible Group’s process
Last month the What’s Possible Group was awarded Carbon Neutral status.
Like many things in business, the process is relatively simple to describe; our emissions were assessed by THG Eco, independently verified by MyCarbon and then offset against the purchase and retirement of carbon credits.
But whilst easy to describe, it was a lot of hard work. I’d like to take you through our personal journey in the hope that it will give other business leaders some inspiration and pointers to help them along the road to carbon neutral and eventually to B Corp status.
And as with all major initiatives – it all starts with your people.
Whilst most people in your business will care about sustainability (71% of people working in the advertising industry are concerned about the impact it has on the environment), you will have a few who are deeply passionate.
You must find them and give them the opportunity to make a difference.
Become more than the sum of your parts
It didn’t take long for us to find our deeply passionate What’s Possiblers.
Pete is head of Print Management at What’s Possible. At home he recycles religiously and has solar panels fitted. This is important, but he knew he could have a bigger impact through his job.
So he challenged his team to make a difference and secured the help of a handful of super champions to galvanise the team effort. For the past 18 months, they have carbon balanced 100% of the paper that they purchase (2.5 million kg of carbon), plus protected the equivalent of 66 premier league football pitches worth of land from deforestation and degradation. Printing through the What’s Possible Group is now sustainable. Indeed, sustainability has become a key part of the product, and many clients use us because they too want to be sustainable.
Tara, in her spare time away from running our Dublin office, is studying for a Masters in Climate Change: Policy, Media and Society. She pulled a team together to share the media opportunities that clients could use to be more sustainable in their advertising.
There are out of home sites that catch carbon in the atmosphere. We can measure the carbon impact of search, or a client’s website. Eco friendly ad networks, like Goodnet, have been launched. It feels like there are new initiatives daily each bringing fresh ambition and commitment across the whole media ecosystem. Sky, for example, is the first major UK media owner to be carbon neutral and have set up a £2m fund to reward sustainable brands. There are so many new options, but you need your passionate advocates to seek them out and spread the word – knowing they have the backing of the board.
Pete and Tara, and multiple other What’s Possiblers, recognised that passion breeds passion and we as a board recognised that their actions become an investment and not a cost. We knew we could achieve more by aligning sustainability with the goals of our clients and we give our clients the opportunity to buy media in a most sustainable way.
But it’s not just our clients that benefit. By supporting our people to drive change, we create a virtuous circle around talent recruitment and retention. Good people want to work with good people. Good people want to do good, and we want to be a force for good as a business, knowing that our people will continue to push us on to do more.
The journey to become a B Corp
B Corp is a movement of businesses committed to the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit. We are on our journey which has helped us create a culture and framework to drive change.
So far, we’ve enrolled in cycle to work and electric car schemes, our people have taken time out to go on climate marches and we now measure our carbon impact and aim to reduce, then offset our carbon. Partners like B Corp have helped us understand what is important. The B Corp journey makes our people proud to work at What’s Possible.
In summary, find the people who are passionate about making a difference and give them the opportunity to have a bigger impact. Work with the right partners, such as B-Corp, THG Eco and MyCarbon.
And get creative. To offset our carbon, we are supporting a project that is donating kitchen stoves to communities in Anseba, Eritrea. Not only does this project address deforestation and biodiversity loss, soil erosion and CO2 emissions, it also improves the health of women and children who are responsible for managing the stoves.
That’s truly good for our people, our planet and our profit.