Stepping towards net zero together
Forster Communications is galvanising its broader community to achieve a bold climate positive target by 2023.
By Will Kirk, Head of Operations, Forster Communications
We were one of 61 UK B Corps to make a commitment to achieving net zero by 2030 last year — an incredible milestone for the B Corp movement but bold targets need precise action to turn them into reality.
In January we launched our Climate Positive Plan, a three-year blueprint to becoming climate positive by 2023 and our response to the need for change. It is based on the reality that as a consultancy with one central office, whose ‘products’ are largely intellectual, our environmental impacts are low.
We have no Scope 1 emissions and our Scope 2 emissions are minimal. Our opportunity for change lies with our broader community. In order to make a difference, we needed think differently and consider all the skills and resources we can use as communications experts.
Our plan focuses on ourselves, our clients and our community. Each of these include specific areas that we must address to become climate positive; some we can directly control and others we can influence. We set three targets:
- Accelerate the process of reducing our own carbon emissions and by March 2022, all our suppliers will be committed to achieving net zero
- Inspire and support our clients to tackle the climate emergency and by April 2023, all our clients will have publicly committed to cut their carbon emissions
- Drive action with our team, our partners and others around us — learning and sharing, talking and debating, campaigning and celebrating together
Moving office has really helped and carbon footprint was a critical selection criteria for our premises. We kitted out the office with recycled furniture and donated all our unwanted pieces. As a result we’ve seen a 43% drop in CO2 emissions p/p, a 50% drop in waste produced p/p and are working to be paper free. We worked with our new landlord to switch suppliers so that no waste is sent to landfill, by all 51 businesses in our building.
With everyone now working remotely we’ve extended this approach into our homes and 80% staff use 100% renewable energy — essentially everyone who has autonomy over their energy suppliers.
We have encouraged and incentivised sustainable travel for colleagues via our peddle points scheme for some years and recently extended the offer to clients who can claim up to 50p mile for cycling or walking to meetings with us. Before Zoom became the meeting-methodology of the moment, we encouraged clients to reduce the need for face-to-face contact requiring carbon-heavy transport.
As the team started to return to the office after the summer we offered them £100 each to spend on cycling kit that would help them avoid public transport and stay safe.
Last year we saw a 54% reduction in train miles travelled on the previous year, 37% of colleagues cycled to work (up from 26%), and 92% of the team took up our cycling kit offer to stay warm and safe this winter.
We have always made sure the products we purchase for the office have a low environmental impact; energy efficient screens, recycled stationary and ethical cleaning products are standard. However, the Climate Positive Plan focused everyone’s mind and in February colleagues overturned a previous decision and voted to become a dairy free office.
Now we are reviewing our supply chain. We have always screened our suppliers, but this month we issued an updated screening questionnaire putting climate change at the forefront. Having set a goal of only working with suppliers who have committed to net zero by 2022, we need to understand where each of the current suppliers are on their journey.
The pandemic has pushed us back by around six months on this process but we’re hoping for a rapid response from our outreach. This is not about cracking the whip; it’s about inviting our suppliers to be part of the change and signposting information and tools like B Impact Assessment and Compare your Footprint to help.
Running in parallel, we are capturing information about our clients’ commitment to cutting carbon. Many of our business clients are B Corps, and on the path to change. However, the charity sector is interesting and we are having to build the case for climate action with many organisations.
At the heart of our plan is conversation and partnership; learning from and working with individuals inside and outside our organisation. We invited organisations to reach out for advice when we launched our plan and were thrilled to be able to help several begin their journey. And we’re actively networking — with B Corp, Business Declares, ICRS and the SME climate hub all providing valuable connections.
We’ve always prided ourselves on walking the talk, and that has never been more important than now with the climate crisis we are facing. We look forward to sharing our progress and to learning from you.
A first step for businesses interested in measuring their social and environmental impact is by using the free B Impact Assessment tool. Any company wishing to certify as a B Corp has its performance assessed by B Lab across all dimensions of its business. These companies are on a journey of continuous improvement to ensure business leverages its power to be a positive force in the world.