9 things we’ve learnt while delivering our Climate Positive Plan

By Forster Communications

In April 2020, we set out to deliver an ambitious plan to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We took difficult steps, learnt masses, adapted, adjusted and – in some areas – succeeded.

Here’s what we learnt

Ambition drives action

We launched our plan with ambitious goals that we knew were our best route to reducing our emissions and increasing our positive impact to the world around us.

We didn’t know how we would achieve them. Their boldness – and the fact that they were in the public domain – not only sharpened our thinking but gave us permission to have difficult conversations and be brave.

Don’t be restricted by protocol

Greenhouse gas emissions are measured using the GHG Protocol of Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions. As a small business, with no manufacturing, our Scope 2 emissions are small.

To make meaningful impact, we needed to go beyond expectations, understand the levers we had in our control and build a plan that used these to maximum impact.

We report using the GHG Protocol and have approved science-based targets but thinking outside the framework has enabled us to go further and do more.

Enable colleague creativity

While board sign off was necessary, colleague involvement was key. Our plan was created with and delivered by the team, who have lived and implemented it every day.

Early on we included everyone in climate advocacy training to build confidence in speaking about the plan and why we were doing it, and towards the end we set up a colleague-led Impact Working Group to inspire action.

Expect change         

Two months after launching our plan, the world was turned upside down by the Covid Pandemic.

Since then, there has been a permanent shift to hybrid working with a direct impact on energy consumption as each individual house is heated in the winter.

Even when energy related to commuting is removed, this has driven a net increase in emissions as not everyone in the team is able to switch to renewable energy sources at home.

Money matters

Our greatest success came from tackling the emissions associated with our finances, pensions and insurance.

This took time – and there is shockingly limited choice in financial provision that meets our criteria – but we have now moved all our banking and insurance provision and worked with our team to ensure all company pensions are climate positive.

One size does not fit all

We set a target for ‘all our clients’ but quickly realised the reality of how different sectors were responding to the climate crisis. While all the businesses we work for have publicly committed to tackling their emissions – and increasingly have science-based targets – this was not the case for the not-for-profit sector.

Our membership organisation clients have small teams dedicated to helping their members improve sustainability and most of our charity clients are focused on directly achieving their charitable objectives, particularly during the pandemic. We committed our time to increasing awareness in the charity sector and finished with 82% of clients with GHG emission reduction targets in place, rather than the target 100%.

Not everyone agrees           

While most of our suppliers were keen to talk about what they were doing or wanted to do to set net zero targets, one refused. And continued to refuse.

It was one of our larger suppliers and a complicated process but after significant effort to engage them, we terminated their contract and found an alternative provider who met our climate ambitions.

Progress is good for business

Setting bold targets and standing up for what we believe has been good for business.

As we reduced our emissions we increased our revenue, grew our team by 46%, with a low colleague turnover rate of 4% compared to the industry average of 20%, won 11 awards and built a global portfolio of similarly progressive clients.

Growth brings new challenges

As our global portfolio of clients has grown, so too have our emissions from international flights. This is now one of our biggest challenges in cutting carbon emissions and sits at the core of our new plan.

As we continue to grow, so has our ambition and our new climate action plan puts people and nature at its heart.

Read our current plan here and our latest impact report here.

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