July 21, 2022

Blog/ Chief Sustainability Officer?

Sam Keam

Zedify Sustainable Delivrey

Chief Sustainability Officer? 

Greetings from the home office. 

Three months ago I stepped away from working at Zedify. As for so many, 2020 and 2021 had been a bumpy ride and I definitely needed a break and a chance to recharge. I am so grateful for my co-founder Rob King and the rest of the management team who supported my decision and took on the extra workload in my absence. Recently, I returned to Zedify, and while I can’t believe how quickly three months have passed, I have been welcomed back to a bigger, more dynamic and more positive team than I could have ever imagined. 

Of course, even having the option to take three months away from the pressures of work emails and Zoom calls in a fast-moving business is a huge privilege, and I did not want to squander the chance to reflect on how I can best help Zedify achieve our mission.

As I return to work, I am very excited to be stepping into a new role – Chief Sustainability Officer. Being a founder, I could have chosen any title I liked for my new role at Zedify (ahem – ‘Technoking’!?). And while I’m no fan of the man, I do agree with Elon Musk that these titles don’t mean much, it’s what we do that counts. To that end, I see my role having two main areas of focus. 

Go beyond emissions

Since launch, we’ve been scaling a truly zero-emission urban logistics model in the UK and that’s as crucial as ever. Climate breakdown is the defining challenge of our generation and I firmly believe that we must completely reimagine and reorganise the way freight is distributed in cities to be more resilient, efficient and lower impact. We are already over 90% lower emission even than EV vans and we aren’t stopping there. I want us to further reduce the climate and air quality impacts of our operations, but I also want us to go beyond that, beyond just focusing on emissions.

Cities face enormous challenges in the coming decades. While toxic air and extreme weather are front and centre, quality of life in cities is also increasingly threatened by noise pollution, biodiversity loss, lack of access to nature, poor mental and physical health from inactivity, and the dominance of car culture. 

Zedify is in a unique position to build partnerships with our clients and other organisations working to solve these challenges. Whether that’s by working with suppliers to address their footprints, or supporting local carbon sequestration and wildlife conservation projects, volunteering, and public outreach. As an organisation, we are committed to demonstrating we are carbon negative by 2023 and also a nature positive business by 2024. This means cutting all possible scope 1 and 2 emissions, and developing partnerships with robust, certified projects that remove at least the remaining emissions of our activities from the atmosphere. We also want to support projects that can demonstrate additional social and ecological benefits, such as restoring damaged and degraded ecosystems so they are more resilient and productive, and ensuring that local people are put at the centre of any schemes so they control the value and actually see the benefits these projects deliver.

DEI (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion)

The UK logistics sector has several things to be rightfully proud of. Innovation, investment and competition have driven huge growth and cost efficiencies in recent years. The sector mostly managed to keep pace with the demands of rocketing online retail growth and despite huge challenges, even delivered the bulk of the nation’s needs during the COVID 19 lockdowns. Despite this, it’s still a starkly male dominated workplace, and also one that has sadly been mired in controversy over pay, working conditions, and service breakdowns. Working in the sector is often associated with low pay, low morale and a lack of opportunities for progression. Something has to change. 

Our network of local hubs are a huge asset. Having locally knowledgeable and committed staff underpins our service, but we cannot take this for granted. We are currently pending  B-Corp certification and this has been a really valuable process. We’ve learned a ton about our strengths and weaknesses but one of the main areas where we have room to improve is in our community impact. One of my key ambitions is to ensure that working for Zedify is positive, rewarding and builds professional and life skills for our staff, from all backgrounds. It should also be an opportunity for staff to participate more closely in the local projects and activities that underpin successful communities in the cities where we live and work. 

When Zedify launched, we agreed from the outset that our minimum standards for staff must be hourly pay at the Real Living Wage, but we clearly need to build on this by doing much more to attract people from all walks of life and ensure their roles at Zedify are more than a temporary stop-gap on the way to another job. We must not only retain staff but train them with new skills as we grow to fill positions in operations, customer service and tech, among others. Lastly, when (not if) we make mistakes, we need to be absolutely committed to listening to our staff, taking on board their concerns and feedback, and using that to improve. 

If you’ve read this far, thank you! Of course, this is just me setting out ambitions, which is the easy part, but look out for new announcements coming soon on several key actions we will be taking to address each of these areas.

 

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