Aerial view of forest

30@30 Planet Pledges: What We’ve Learnt So Far

Earlier this year, to kick off WPR’s 30th anniversary, we unveiled our commitment to deliver 30 positive impacts at 30. We set ourselves the goal of taking steps that would make a difference to our planet, people, community, society and future.

Just over a third of the way into the year, we’ve done a fair bit. So far, our planet initiatives have been a big part of our focus. Everything we’re trying to achieve is important, but we knew that the mammoth task of reducing the impact our organisation has on the environment was particularly ambitious.

In this Reading Room blog, managing director Jane Ainsworth shares her insight on what we’ve learnt so far to guide any other SMEs thinking about taking similar action.

1. Do the Big and the Small Stuff

We’ve pledged to source fair-trade items, buy only palm oil-free goods, and become a carbon-neutral and plastic-neutral workplace by the end of the year. And we’ve already made good progress. As of April, we are carbon neutral, having offset the carbon emissions of our entire team across their personal and professional lives, and we are now investing in some of the highest standard of forestry projects in the world.

These are big steps but we also realised how important it was to look at the countless consumables we used day in, day out around the office. We’ve said goodbye to plastic sweet wrappers and non-recyclable crisp packets, and hello to plastic and palm oil-free alternatives. Our client and team gifts, our meeting room provisions, our soap, our toilet rolls and even our phone covers are all now plastic free. It’s this sort of attention to the smallest details which begins to shift everyone’s mindset and create a new way of operating.

We’re tackling stationery next, followed by tech and cleaning products. The list goes on…which brings me to our second key learning.

2. You Need Commitment from the Top

It might sound obvious but none of this is cheap – and it’s time consuming too. To take the decisions that will make a real difference, you have to be totally committed to having a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

No matter how enthusiastic your wider team, your leaders and managers have to be fully behind the ethos and counting the benefits, not the costs, or you won’t make the choices that will have a real impact.

3. Once You Start, You Can’t Stop

The more you do, the more you want to do. We knew that offsetting our carbon was a good place to start, but the more we’ve scrutinised our impact the more we’ve realised that reducing our carbon consumption is equally – if not more – important. Once you start really paying attention to the outcomes of the choices you make, it changes your entire mindset.

We’re now questioning everything we buy to consider its environmental impact and its relevance. We hate waste more than ever and want to be sure everything we purchase is needed or appreciated before it makes its way to a recycling depot or landfill site.

4. Some Decisions Will Be Unpopular

Not every decision you make will be popular. We always encourage our team to share ideas for things that could improve their experience in the workplace because we have created a culture of listening that is fundamental to WPR life. But even though we try to accommodate as many requests as possible, we’ve had to say no to some calls for consumables or tech that don’t comply with our vision to reduce our impact on the environment,.

Transparency is really important here; you need to keep communicating the bigger picture to your team so they understand the reasons behind your decisions and you can work together towards the same end goal.

5. It’s Not Easy but It’s Worth It

It would be fair to say we’ve found the process harder than we expected. It has taken more time, more thought and more investment than we anticipated. But we have no regrets about setting ourselves such ambitious goals and, if anything, we’re now even more passionate about taking positive action for our planet than we were at the start.

Along the way, we’ve found – and now support – some incredible businesses including: Tony’s Chocolonely, Love Cocoa, Two Farmers, Clipper Tea, Arena Flowers, Wave Case, Sweet Love of Mine, Kingdom Coffee Co, Serious Tissues, Carbon Neutral Britain and Raindrop Clean.

Choosing suppliers that share a philosophy about wanting to do more for society and for the planet is just one of the benefits to come from our pledges and a great reminder of how powerful this movement can be when we act collectively.

We still have a way to go, both for our planet pledges and across our other core aims to create a positive difference to our people, community, society and future, but it’s already shaping up to be an exciting and memorable year.

The author: Jane Ainsworth is managing director of WPR. She has more than 20 years’ experience in developing and delivering communications strategies for consumer brands including Dunelm, Tesco, Mothercare, Greene King, John Lewis, Bullring, Beaverbrooks and Westfield.