Our sustainability story... WIP

Sustainability is not a thing that can be achieved or completed. It's not about driving an electric car or offsetting carbon. Sustainability is something that is embodied in a business' culture; that permeates into all activity over time. It is going about your business in a way that is mindful of your business activity impacts and seeking to measure and minimise those impacts; then motivating your stakeholders to become a part of that journey, and perhaps start their own.

It was in mid-2019 that we found out about a proposed solar-powered microgrid that was being installed on the rooftop of our office and warehouse facilities. We felt that this was a great opportunity to meet our energy needs in the most sustainable way as a business. It was not only going to be cleaner energy for our business, but it was also going to be supplied at competitive rates with near-to-zero transmission losses. The proposal from Willoughby City Council (WCC) sustainable business programs sought "buy-in" from the tenants of our complex, and over the ensuing months, we helped Peter Lisle and the sustainability team at WCC with media and vocalised our support.

By late 2019 a 100kW capacity solar array had been installed and we were eagerly awaiting news of the proposed Microgrid. Sadly, due to "energy regulator issues" WCC has been unable to follow through on the promise to provide the micro-grid to the interested tenants in the complex.

This was not the end of the story for us though. The failed micro-grid proposal jolted our business into realising that there are opportunities out there within our grasp that can have a positive impact beyond our bottom line. It lead us to sign up for an assessment by the Better Business Partnership (BBP) to help us understand how we could start to make a difference for ourselves, the community and beyond.

The BBP is an organisation who's mission is to help local businesses to be more successful through stainability. They are interested in the health of the business as a whole, staff, transport, plastic and environmental measures. In 2020 we completed our first self-assessment which highlighted some of the key areas of growth that we needed to work on as a business. One of those was energy, and on 27th August 2020 we made the simple choice of switching to a carbon-neutral accredited energy provider. By the time our self-assessment was validated by BBP, we were already on our way to making a positive impact, without waiting for the micro-grid. We made some other changes in our business to mitigate and reduce waste and water usage. Our sustainability journey had begun.

This year after surviving covid, as the business continued to grow, we began working on "what's next" in our sustainability journey. A great friend of the business Matt Wilcock came on board and we soon connected with Carbonhalo to explore what it would look like to become carbon-neutral as a business. Whilst views about climate change may vary, and other areas of sustainability are important, what was clear to us as a business was that minimising our climate impact was part of our social responsibility. It is the most pressing concern for us all . Carbonhalo offers a 3-stage proposal for businesses like us.

  1. Taking climate action - Estimating the climate impact and carbon cost of your business activities
  2. Measured Carbon Neutral - A more detailed measurement of and recommendations on reduction strategies across all business activities
  3. Verified Carbon Neutral - An audited assessment to ISO14064/5 across full operations

As a business, we felt that our journey had already begun with the BBP and we had taken the positive step to change to clean energy, offsetting or sourcing clean energy through that initiative. So we opted to jump directly to Stage 2 with Carbonhalo, and deep dive into all of our business activity. We looked at our direct and indirect business activities and discovered that there are a lot of indirect carbon costs associated with our internal operations as a business. We looked upstream to our clients and delivery of goods and services, and we looked downstream to our raw materials and our supplier network both locally and abroad. We recognised that defining the scope of accountability was as important as the measurement. And just last month, we finalised our scope and received our report from Carbonhalo our journey has us looking at a reduction in specific areas within our supply chain combined with the offsetting of our unavoidable emissions. So, for the year we will be offsetting 128 tonnes into certified climate projects.

In our business, we design and produce retail displays and packaging. Having measured our business emissions we then moved to the embodied carbon produced for the goods manufactured, (known as a product carbon impact assessment) We asked Carbonhalo to look at this for us too. In response, they not only completed the product carbon impact assessment they also built for us a calculator to help us measure order impact by material type and specification; enabling us to"quote" the carbon cost alongside the monetary cost for many of our projects. In much the same way that you can offset the carbon cost associated with a Qantas flight, we can now offer our clients the ability to account for and offset the Carbon associated with the production and delivery of the goods we produce for them. The current calculator helps us to quote and account for more than 50% of the types of goods and services that we offer and the plan is to expand that offering in the near future so that we can approach 100%.

So for us, sustainability is a permanent part of our WIP (Work in Progress) as we roll into 2023. And our commitment is to make ongoing steps toward conducting our business in the most sustainable way we can. Taking the next step in our journey with Carbonhalo has helped us to make a significant reduction in our climate impacts, whilst illuminating further opportunities for improvement in our future. Watch this space. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about how to measure your climate impact through carbon assessment, perhaps get in touch with Carbonhalo