This post was co-written with Chandresh Pankhania
Over the past couple of months, the teams at FutureGov have been exploring and sharing the ways we’re modifying practices and habits in favour of a more sustainable attitude towards the climate.
As part of that, the Operations team (office management, HR, resourcing and finance) has been thinking of ways we could play our part in the company’s response to the climate emergency. Our initial thoughts didn’t stretch much further than buying recycled printing paper and cutting down our (admittedly ridiculous) Post-it note consumption. But after a bit more consideration we soon came to realise there’s a lot we can do.
The practical changes
In the studio, we’re fortunate to have a pretty sweet supply of drinks, snacks, birthday lunches and the odd team party or two. However, we hadn’t paid much attention to the environmental impact of these foods we ordered. Recognising the impact this has, from plastic waste to food production, we started to make some changes.
At the end of last year, we switched to fully vegan catering wherever possible. By also being more organised we realised how simple it was to plan ahead and only commit to one food shop delivery per week. Only ever using ‘Green’ delivery slots, we’re helping reduce the time and repeated areas delivery vehicles cover, saving fuel and reducing traffic in an already congested central London.
Following the theme of consumption, we decided to trial a new process for ordering office supplies. It will come as no surprise that we order a lot of stationery. We now ask all FutureGover’s to request items in a dedicated Slack channel which is then only ordered once a fortnight. This cuts down on the number of deliveries we have, but also gets people thinking about whether they really needed something.
Some other easy changes we’ve made include switching to recycled paper and recycled Post-it notes and getting a Terracycle bin for crisp packets, plastic wrap and all those other hard-to-recycle things.
As a result of the pandemic, we’ve been working remotely which has meant a tremendous decrease in our rail and plane travel. We’ve been working for a while to reduce our travel and these current ways of working emphasise how easy some of these changes can be. For example in HR, we already ran a portion of interviews remotely — how can we increase and improve on that experience?
The non-tangible stuff
This team of people is uniquely placed to also take on the other background challenges people don’t always see, but still have an environmental footprint. This led us to look at our behaviours and the way we do business, so we decided to start the application process for the B-Corp Registration.
It’s safe to say that we might have underestimated the mammoth task of the B-Corp Assessment process! Although the B-Corp accreditation isn’t solely focused around climate change, it’s a good catalyst for us to purposefully consider our wider ethical goals.
Something that’s difficult for us and many organisations is finding the balance between better environmental solutions, financial viability and impact. We started by looking at some of our larger business costs and assessing their environmental impact for maximum impact.
For many organisations, office space and staff are some of the largest costs. We’re happy to share that the energy consumed in our London office all comes from green, renewable energy sources and all waste produced is diverted away from landfill.
When it comes to looking at staff, not so much individual people but the potential impact of being an employer, things are less straightforward. Where can we inform our colleagues about other opportunities? Treading carefully around the topic (as we are not financial advisors and in no position to advise our staff what they should be doing with their money) we found that our pension provider outlines the ability to invest pension contributions into different funds including an ‘ethical pensions fund’. Now we’ve had quite the debate about how ethical this ethical fund is, but it’s a useful thing to note and inform our colleagues about and remind ourselves that we each have the freedom to speak with our pension providers (current, previous and future) to invest in the best ways we each see fit.
We’re still learning
Thinking about how we can change to better our environmental impact has been a steep learning curve for the whole Operations team. And while we fully believe in making positive changes, some are easier said than done. What we’ve found is that looking at one problem in isolation seems to surface a collection of other challenges.
Vegan food is great, but a limited selection and higher prices can make it difficult for many to be the first choice. And taking the time to scout out which vegan cereal bars taste the best is painfully time-consuming. Should we even be buying products wrapped in plastic? Terracycle is a great option but there’s other forms of recycling to explore an implement, from printer cartridges to food waste.
These are all things we still need to consider. But we’re taking small steps and reminding ourselves that this is an ongoing journey. All of our small changes do add up to a big difference. We know recycled paper is not going to stop climate change in its tracks but it’s a start and it’s opened the door to a climate-conscious way of thinking.
Beyond Post-it notes: an operations team response to climate was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.