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A Journey To Genuine Net Zero

A journey to genuine Net Zero

In this article, our CEO David Lewis gives an insight of how LEWIS has succedded in creating a genuine ESG framework and how we've developed an approach to help businesses like yours.

At the start of this ‘journey’, I assumed that gaining Net Zero status for LEWIS would be a case of purchasing a fancy certificate, sending out a couple of emails, and boom! We'd be the talk of the town, the greenest business around. I couldn’t have been more wrong. And you know what? That turned out to be a good thing—a really, really good thing.

It's driven us to build a commitment to Net Zero that's for good, not just for show. And it's also the reason we've developed an ESG framework that we can now use to help other businesses too. Our tried-and-tested process will align to your brand proposition, your culture and your people, making a lasting impact on your business and the planet. So read on to find out how we did it, or get in touch if we might be able to help you on your journey to a a Net Zero accreditation that means more than nothing.

For decades the team at LEWIS has completed countless ISO accreditations and gained badges of honour across due diligence, process, quality control, professional qualifications and many, many other audit criteria. Whilst carrying out these sorts of regulatory activity are rarely top of anyone’s fun list, they’re invariably done with an angle to gain competitive advantage and win more business.

In 2020, I heard the term ESG for the first time in a discussion with a fast-growing procurement technology business. On said Teams call, I slyly but frantically typed the term into a browser and saw the phrase Environmental, Social and Governance repeat on itself. Why did these three words matter, I thought? What relevance did they have in partnership to each other? Naturally, the environment is hugely significant in the business world but what did social and governance have to do with it?

The more I listened the more I realised that all of the best businesses were changing, or knew they had to change. Clients and their procurement teams were going to start looking at their supply chains with a different lens. Staff and potential recruits would start to ask more ethical questions and prioritise these factors at the same level as pay, holidays and free bacon rolls on a Friday (which I still miss, by the way).

Fast forward a few years and the theme of ESG is now much more common amongst businesses and those that lead them. The biggest and most common question about ESG? Where the heck do I start?

Committing to change is always difficult and trying to push forward and bring people along on that ride is perhaps even more challenging. But it’s nigh-on impossible when you don’t know where or how to begin, never mind what the destination looks like.

I’m sure that you, reading this article, have been bombarded by professional services companies, audit businesses, online tools and specialist consultants, all desperate for you to purchase their unique variation on ESG credentials. It’s a minefield! And what I’ve come to learn is that there’s not a single solution that is fully recognised or 100% accurate. Why? Because there’s no industry standard, no guiding principles and no validated solution.

So, what do you do?

Well, Team LEWIS went back to school, or university to be precise.

With the help and endless patience of the professors at Strathclyde University, we went back to basics with our learning. Maybe the glazed-over look on our faces when they talked about Science Based Targets, Scope 2 indirect emissions, tC02e, alluded to the fact that this really was going to be an education.

It was apparent early in the journey that validating ourselves through that magic piece of paper would not excuse us from our responsibilities as a business to set out a roadmap for the future. “Doing Net Zero” is not a means to an end. There is no accreditation as such. But there is a calculation, a set of data that we’ve gathered and understand to be our impact on the world today. These are our figures, and now we need to own them and plan a future, formally looking at how our whole business can make changes for good.

Learning about Environmental impact for our business also moved us into looking at the S and the G of ESG, and consideration of how, as a business, we can further prioritise diversity, inclusivity and relationships with staff, clients and suppliers. Along that road, we’ve made some pretty significant steps towards transforming ourselves into a Purpose Led Business rather than a Profit Only Business.

Following 6 months of work, auditing and assessing, we finally gathered a full data set outlining what and where all our emissions are and what size of carbon footprint we have as a business. We worked with Strathclyde University route in tandem with tools such as the NatWest Carbon Planner and the ESG passport and supplier management review (take a look at their great awareness and insight document which is full of quality info and some easy starting points).

You’ll no doubt be familiar with the term ‘green washing’, whereby businesses can effectively buy their way out of troublesome carbon or environmental emissions. From the start, we knew that wasn’t the route LEWIS would take. Our destination was to make a plan to sustainably offset our CO2 today and make pledges to reduce it in future. By tackling our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, and changing to be better, we can find a mutually beneficial outcome.

There’s no fanfare, there’s no pat on the back. This is simply where we are! And yes, we do feel proud for taking responsibility, but this is the very, very first step. We now need to set goals, educate our team and our clients and suppliers so, together, we can all take positive action.

Today, we have a fully audited Net Zero definition, we have standards and published documents on our ESG roadmap and actions for the future. In truth, it’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s crucial in trying to do the right thing today and tomorrow.

So, what are the key take-aways from our journey to Net Zero?

  • Just start! Take action, however big or small.
  • Don’t wait for a simple all-encompassing solution – it’s not out there and you’ll only get more confused.
  • Think of this as a roadmap, it's not over when you get your emissions figure, that’s just the start.
  • Get everyone involved, help educate, ask for help, get examples and figures that you and your team can understand.
  • Think ESG not just E. This is a bigger change than just an Environmental one, but start there as it’s an area you can move on quickly and make a difference. At the same time, start considering and taking small steps in the S and G areas.
  • Keep going. There will always be someone bigger and better using other tools. Just do your thing and keep taking action.

We can help

Taking the first and best steps towards your Net Zero or ESG business vision can be daunting. Our expertise in developing brand, culture and propositions, along with our trailblazing experience in ESG, has helped us develop a focussed ESG initiative that we can now offer to our partners. After all, it’s in our interests (and those of the planet) to help businesses achieve better things and move towards a more purpose-led approach. So, if you need support or advice about your own ESG offering, please get in touch with our team via our website, to set up an initial chat.

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About the author

David has a huge experience in helping clients deliver marketing solutions in: utilities, arts & culture, financial services and fashion. It is his goal to work with marketing directors and senior marketing managers to increase the effectiveness of their businesses, through strategic delivery of impactful creative and technical solutions that are measurable and achieve excellent ROI.

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