Climate change has firmly been on the agenda recently and it’s easy to see why with extreme weather such as the bushfires ripping across Australia or near record acqua alta levels recorded in Venice last year. Climate change is here and it’s happening.
More than two thirds of extreme weather events in the last 20 years were influenced by mankind, according to Carbon Brief, a UK website covering climate change. Meanwhile, BP’s annual world energy study found that carbon emissions from global energy use jumped two per cent last year alone.
As a business we’ve found that we can no longer sit on the side-lines and in 2020 we’re committing to taking climate change seriously. We’re making changes, both big and small, that will have a real, tangible impact on our overall carbon footprint.
As a result, this year we’re launching Leonard Green. It’s our initiative to tackle climate change by consciously implementing and monitoring environmentally friendly changes.
What is Leonard Green?
Leonard Green will be made up of eight members of staff who are tasked with setting targets and ensuring we stick to them.
Every business decision will aim to bear climate change in mind. From our suppliers, specifications and purchase orders, we’ll try to find the greenest option.
We kicked off our Leonard Green pledge with a visit from Penney Poyzer, the Nottinghamshire-based eco-expert, who came in to educate the team on how to be more environmentally friendly and conscious in our everyday lives.
What changes are the business implementing to combat climate change?
We’ve committed to several changes that, overseen by the Leonard Green team, will see our carbon footprint reduce significantly. This includes everything from donating to environmentally friendly charities to reducing the number of international flights we take.
1. Staff vouchers
One of the benefits we’ve always offered the team are our staff vouchers. Historically they’ve been used to purchase items that will make the office a better place, such as a coffee machine or stools to make sitting by someone’s desk easier. We’ve also offered travel vouchers, where staff can take a trip to visit some inspirational architecture.
However, in 2020 we’re taking a fresh approach. Staff will still receive their vouchers; however, everyone has committed to spending it on things that help tackle climate change. This could include purchasing litter pickers to be used on the beach when visiting the coast, sponsoring a primary school learning about the environment or donating to a climate change charity.
2. Donating to environmentally friendly causes
We’ll also be swapping our staff treats, such as chocolate at Christmas or the occasional pizza delivery, for something more environmentally conscious across all our offices. When news that broke at the end of last year about the Australian fires, we all found it extremely upsetting – especially for our Australia office. The team therefore decided that instead of their monthly treat they would rather donate the money to a charity supporting the disaster.
I’m incredibly proud of our compassionate and forward-thinking team for being so onboard with the initiative by forgoing their treat in order to help others.
3. Setting conscious challenges
One of the tasks given to our Leonard Green organisation is setting regular challenges for the wider team. These are yet to be decided, but the challenges will be designed to make the team think, question, and learn different ways to be sustainable.
These could include anything from taking part in Veganuary and learning about the impact that regular meat eating has on the plant to going plastic free for a month to see how much plastic waste we generate as a team.
The purpose of Leonard Green is not to tell staff what to do but instead about informing and educating everyone (including myself!) about ways to be more environmentally friendly and have a positive impact on climate change.
4. Looking at our green credentials
We’re also going to be looking at our green credentials and our specifications when designing projects. By choosing environmentally friendly or low carbon footprint specifications we could have a huge impact.
We know there will be some clients who may not be on board, largely for cost or time reasons. However, in these instances we will draw up comparisons between traditional and green specifications to show why ultimately an eco-conscious building is the better choice.
5. The most impactful change – reducing our international travel
The biggest and most impactful change we are implementing is to cut down the number of flights we take each year. We’re an international business with offices in Berlin, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney, Australia as well as two in the UK. This coupled with 50% of our clients being headquartered abroad, means a lot of international travel.
However, before we could commit to cutting down on flights, we knew we had to improve our IT infrastructure. There’s no way we could have client meetings or pitches if the video quality was low or the sound unclear.
We therefore applied for the Nottingham City Council digital growth fund grant, which the council offers to local businesses looking to upscale their infrastructure. Thanks to this funding we’ve been able to invest in higher quality screens, microphones, and speakers as well as more collaborative ways of working.
As a result, we’ve held more meetings by Skype and Webex than ever before. So far, we’ve exclusively had all our Australian meetings this way. This has cut down not only on international travel but also domestic travel as the Aussie team are also committing to more meetings this way.
This year we will be looking to cut down on our flights to Europe and encourage our clients to have digital meetings instead.
Therefore, we’ve committed to an overall reduction of domestic and overseas trips. Between 2018/19 and 2019/20, the number trips involving air travel will have fallen from 297 to 203, which is already a reduction of 31.6%. But it means we still have a way to go.
What are the next steps in the fight against climate change?
We’re committed to making a positive impact and actively choosing to be more environmentally conscious. Therefore, we’re making this pledge for 2020 and will evaluate our progress, choices and the impact it’s made on our carbon footprint.