Sustainability is going to play a key part in all of our futures as agency owners. But how do we implement sustainable actions in a practical and meaningful way? And will any of them make any tangible improvement to the climate crisis?

December’s AC Teams event on Sustainability with Christoph Geppert, Director of Grain Sustainability, looked at what we can do to make a difference.

There has been a lot of buzz around sustainability over the past decade, with many companies making bold bids to reduce our carbon emissions, both as companies and as individuals: Impressively, tech industry leaders Microsoft and home-grown Unilever have recently both set themselves the lofty goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030, and big retail brands such as Nike and H&M have also adopted recycling programs where customers can recycle old products, reducing considerable waste.

It feels great to be able to do something to reduce the negative impact we have on the earth, but sometimes if we take a closer look at it – it might not be as great an offering as it first appeared:

As an example, in recent years, carbon offsetting by airlines has been offered as an easy and cost-effective solution to the problem of air travel, which can simply be added to your cart before checking out.

However, Christoph explains, their maths might not quite add up:

“And that’s been a sour debate for a while now,” says Geppert, on carbon offsetting: “easyJet offers (it) when you book a flight, something like $5 a tonne of carbon. The U.N. has calculated the cost of offsetting a ton of carbon at $70. So that’s the discrepancy already there.”

Similarly, “You (might have) clients on renewable energy, and that makes them environmentally friendly, right? That is a misnomer. It means their product is intrinsically environmentally friendly. They, as an organisation, can still be unsustainable.”

So how can we be more effective in creating tangible change and in communicating the business benefits to both our own companies and our clients? And exactly what do we need to do to take those vital next steps?

According to Christoph, the answer can be starting small or going all out:

‘We have another client, and the pressure on them came from their clients. And one of their clients just bought a s*** load of carbon offset! But what it created was the pressure to have to reduce their costs, because they (felt): “We’ve got to do this every year, now. Every year, we’re going to carbon offset our stuff!”.

That cost them millions.
So guess what the incentive is?
Have less carbon to offset!’

So what can we do if we don’t want to spend millions on carbon offsetting? What can we do to reduce our carbon emissions as a business?

Why not invest in eco office equipment and green energy, use public transport or car shares for business trips, recycle, use recyclable or second-hand resources, switch to sustainable suppliers, minimise printing, minimise food waste and single use plastics, or switch to online meetings where possible.

There are many things you can do to offset the impact your agency has on the world. As long as you are inspired and do what you can, our wonderful planet earth will thank you.

About Christoph Geppert, Director of Grain Sustainability
Originally from Hannover, Germany, Christoph holds a degree in Management, Economics and Politics from the University of St Andrews, and an MA in Industrial Design from Central Saint Martins, UAL. Having worked for large multi-nationals like Sony, Qualcomm, Nokia, Tesco, Sunglass Hut and Costa Coffee, Christoph’s work spans many industries and very different types of organisations including start-ups, SMEs and large enterprises as well as non-profits. It is this diversity that informs Christoph’s crisp analysis and innovative work.

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