Climate change is real. It’s not just coming for us if we don’t change our ways; it’s very much here, and here to stay. The bushfire crisis that’s been ravaging this country over the last six months is a great example of that and has finally opened up people’s eyes to the reality of what we’re facing as a result of climate change.
We can’t wait for government legislation to change the carbon emissions targets for businesses; everyone and every business needs to start taking some responsibility right here and right now in order to effect immediate change. In September 2019, The Urban List held a competition to identify the most sustainable professional/agency in Australia’s advertising industry. PHD won the title, which served as great recognition of the efforts we’ve made over the last year or so to change our practices and create an actual impact on the environment. However, I don’t think we should just leave the conversation there.
Therefore, when we won the title, I reflected on what else can we really do to ensure we’re all pulling together in the same direction to help save this planet that we simply cannot live without. Rather than holding onto the steps we’ve taken at PHD and using them for future award entries and so on, we’d like to share them in the hope that maybe, just maybe, they can help inspire other companies or individuals who haven’t yet started on their journey, or are just at the start of it – so that we can collectively build on this conversation and help each other ensure we’re advancing in this fight.
We’re certainly not saying we’re doing everything right, but we’re making a serious attempt at it and believe that’s the starting point for everybody to start playing a role.
To get started, we went through the global environmental policy and goals, and adapted them locally for PHD Australia.
There are five key areas that we’ve focused on:
1. Creating more energy efficient workplaces
The key objective is to reduce our energy requirements. Tactics that we’ve employed include optimising the air-con/heating levels; minimising the number of electrical products left on standby; testing/rolling out sensors; and timing systems for office lights. We’re also in the process of ensuring 100% LED lighting across our offices.
2. Reducing our carbon footprint
The biggest factors contributing to our carbon emissions output are travel and energy usage:
• Aviation: The corporate travel company that we use does not have the facility to enable us to add a carbon tax to our flights. As such, we’re currently in the process of developing and rolling out our own OMG carbon credits scheme. We’ve agreed a ‘tax’ that will be set aside for every flight taken, based on the carbon emissions incurred. At the end of the year, this ‘tax’ will go towards a reforestation program.
• Energy usage: Unfortunately, we’re unable to put solar panels on our office buildings. Therefore, with the help of our electricity provider, we’re buying green power instead of standard (coal/gas) power. If you look into the cost of this with your provider, the differential is relatively minimal given the impact you’d make.
There are also a number of other smaller efforts we’re undertaking, including carpooling, improved video conferencing facilities, and our work-from-home policy.
3. Minimising our impact on landfill
This has been a huge mindset shift for everybody at PHD. For example, where we previously had six landfill bins in the kitchen, we got people to think about the actual waste being created by reducing them down to just one, encouraging them to recycle instead. We now have bins for pretty much everything. For example, in addition to the usual yellow bin waste (plastics, tins, paper), we also have bins for soft plastics, 10-cent bottle recycling (we’re working with a local school to donate the bottles to help support their fundraising efforts), food waste, coffee cups, mobile phones, batteries, and so on.
4. Greater sustainability within the workplace
Creating a more sustainable workplace means holding everyone accountable for their environmental impact while empowering them to make change. We audit how much each team at the agency prints out, and have gamified paper reduction across the organisation by pitting teams up against one another and showcasing their quarterly usage at all-staff meetings. The cost savings from the paper are then used to plant more trees as part of a reforestation program we’ve partnered with.
This is a critical component to the overall program as it involves educating everyone on what can/can’t be recycled, what efforts we as a business are making, and how their individual contribution is helping to make a difference.
As you’d expect, we’re measuring all of our improvements and updating our people along the way on how we’re going.
So where to from here?
Well, we’d love to gather and share more of what other businesses are doing. The more we can all learn about new things and processes that we can adopt or adapt, the better we can all get at driving change. As an industry, we have a huge array of skills and creativity that can benefit other organisations, across industries, and help drive environmental change.
We’d love to set up an industry taskforce to bring together the collective skills of those keen on driving the environmental conversation. We alone can’t stop climate change, but together, we can make a real difference.
If you’re interested in getting involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.