Turning the dial on net-zero: key takeaways for helping your workforce go green

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Turning the dial on net-zero: key takeaways for helping your workforce go green
Bryony Kelly

Turning the dial on net-zero: key takeaways for helping your workforce go green

Are you interested in sustainability, reducing your carbon footprint and doing more for the environment? Read our key takeaways from our event ‘Turning the dial on net-zero: practical tips for HR and TA to help your workforce go green’ to learn how you can get started - with insight from industry leaders at Nationwide, KPMG, Bruntwood Works and Auto Trader.

Last week, Lorien hosted the virtual event ‘Turning the dial on net-zero: practical tips for HR and TA to help your workforce go green’. We were joined by industry experts from some of the UK’s most forward-thinking businesses in sustainability, including James Rowlands, Lead Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Nationwide Building Society, Bev Taylor, Director of Energy and Environment at Bruntwood Works, Christos Tsaprounis, Head of People and Culture at Auto Trader, and Sarah Benson, Environment Manager at KPMG. Here are some of our key takeaways.

Your carbon footprint goes wider than you think and achieving net-zero is about more than just offsetting

Greenwashing was the curse word of the session. While all of our speakers acknowledged that offsetting has a part to play in reaching net-zero, they also warned against relying on that alone.

All of our speakers faced similar challenges in that only a small percentage of their emissions came from what they did directly, with the majority attributed to their relationships with suppliers or the things that their customers do. Sarah Benson, from KPMG, estimated that over 80% of their emissions were ‘Category 3’; as a result the business had set a target to reduce emissions in their supply chain by 25% by 2030. Achieving net-zero is therefore also about influencing your value chain and taking suppliers and customers on the journey to green with you. 

Setting aspirational but achievable targets is key to starting your journey

All of our speakers had set internal environmental commitments or were in the process of creating them. Many were aiming to reach net-zero by 2030 – twenty years ahead of the government’s target. For Bev Taylor, understanding your emissions, setting targets, and ensuring you have the infrastructure and company policies to support your aims were incredibly important. Without knowing how wide your footprint goes, it can be difficult to know what you’re trying to offset and how you are best to – whether that’s reducing, producing, or procuring. 

Collaboration is key for meaningful change

One of the key messages to come out of the session was the importance of collaboration. There are a lot of good initiatives and resources out there to support companies go green, whether it’s carbon literacy training, council initiatives or events. KPMG said that were currently working with the government to support a UK biodiversity initiative as part of their offsetting work.

For Christos Tsaprounis at Auto Trader, collaboration was also about looking at the bigger picture and supporting people in the industry. As an online business, their individual carbon footprint was quite low, but as part of the automobile industry, he felt they had a wider responsibility to lend their voice to the community, educate the industry and support consumers to make more sustainable choices. The education piece was echoed by James Rowlands from Nationwide, whose aim for half of all homes on mortgage books to reach EPCC standard by 2030 was reliant on incentivising and educating people on the merits of buying a green home. He said a key part of their work was aligning consumers, the government, and suppliers to drive change.

Change isn’t always driven from the top. Employees, customers, and investors all play a role in the fight for change

Everyone noted seeing a growing interest across clients, employees, and investors in going green. Nationwide’s James Rowlands noted a rise in people wanting to be sure the money they invested with the Society was used ethically and sustainably, KPMG’s Sarah Benson commented in an increase in client RFP’s asking questions on their green policies a need to demonstrate an understanding in this space, and Bruntwood’s Bev Taylor said that in the last six weeks they’d had three different requests for ESG information. 

However, the biggest force for change echoed across all businesses was employees. Christos spoke about Auto Trader’s active employee network and said that a passionate employee base that actively contributed made it much easier to table changes at board level. 

Meanwhile Sarah Benson from KPMG noted that the average age of their employees was mid-twenties – meaning a hugely engaged and vocal workforce for green issues. Focusing on green would help their workforce feel proud to work for KPMG, stay with KPMG and speak positively about KPMG outside of normal conversations – which was a big driver for change.

Employees are proactively choosing companies with a strong green agenda

As a famously purpose-driven business, Nationwide has always attracted people that are drawn to working for something bigger, but James Rowlands noted that recently he’s noticed a change in tide of people choosing NBS for its sustainability goals as well as its ethical practices. He commented that industries with negative environmental reputations, as well as those companies accused of greenwashing, were beginning to be ruled out by candidates. Missing out on talent was a key risk for companies that weren’t serious or authentic about reducing their footprint.  

Christos from Auto Trader also noted a rise in candidates looking for sustainability initiatives in where they apply, while Bev Taylor said that articulating and communicating your commitment to sustainability to both current and prospective employees was one of her top tips. Bruntwood Works had sustainability baked into it from day one – due to a business model about giving old buildings a second life – and consequently attracted people that followed those values.

The green agenda is only growing – now is the perfect time to act

All parties commented on a surge of interest in green affairs, but also that the threat of climate change was as real today as it had ever been. All urged the need to act now, saying there had never been a better time. 

KPMG in particular noted that the move to remote working had opened up new opportunities. Sarah Benson said that KPMG had always resisted mandating what happened outside of the office, but since more people had begun working from home the sphere of influence had shifted. From an internal survey, they found that nine out of ten of their employees wanted KPMG to play an active role in supporting them to be sustainable in their day-to-day lives and not just in work. While Benson said they were keen to start discussions rather than dictate policies – and had done so by bringing experts in – it was a sign that the demand for green was changing. 

As James Rowlands from Nationwide said, this issue isn’t going away; regardless of what position you are in, what you do or where you are, the time to act is now.

Interested in learning more about how you can go green? Check out some of our top tips from Head of RPO and MSP Annelise Smith on how we’re getting started. 

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