Blog/ Sure our brand wears an ‘impact halo’, but let's not forget about everything that lies beneath the surface | Zedify
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Blog/Sureourbrandwearsan‘impacthalo’,butlet’snotforgetabouteverythingthatliesbeneaththesurface

calendarJune 19th, 2024
personElla Yarrow
clock8 minute read

I’m now 3 months or so into my Sustainability Manager role at Zedify, and it’s clear to me that we’re making some great waves with the impact of last mile deliveries in cities. This, of course, was one of the main reasons I wanted to work for Zedify in the first place. I’ve come from quite a different world having been in construction for the past few years, and before that, mining. So this is my first experience of logistics, not to mention my first experience of a disruptive sustainable start up. I’ve found that I’m in the minority having known what space I wanted to work in since my mid-teens, so sustainability has always been the common and unbreakable thread running throughout my career.

But today, I want to bring the focus on navigating our own internal sustainability strategy and how we voice it,  for two reasons:

  1. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to look back on this in a year’s time to be able to reflect and update on our progress and learnings; and
  2. To foster an honest and pretty candid dialogue to inspire change. I think we’re crying out for a bit of transparency, genuineness, and even vulnerability in the sustainability space.

 Something that particularly resonated with me on this topic of openness and honesty, was a blog from Hubbub I read back in April called Walking the Walk – a really refreshing take, sharing Hubbub’s  progress on measuring environmental impact. This  piece struck a chord, which got me thinking…  because, ideally, this sort of honesty should be the norm – right?

I think a lot of this has to do with how often we’re exposed to companies simply only sharing the things that have gone right or sugar-coating their environmental impact journey with a very commercialised façade consisting of a lot of words but not a lot of content, i.e. quantity over quality. Not to mention a heavy reliance on the same stock ‘green’ imagery, language, and cliches. 

However, it’s obviously easy for me to sit back and point the finger; this is a tricky landscape to navigate. For companies that genuinely want to do the right thing and make a positive difference, sometimes you feel as if you’re damned if you do share your achievements, through fear of greenwashing, but also damned if you don’t, and accused of greenhushing. It makes you wonder how much we’re missing out on here as sustainability and impact teams.

 Walking this tightrope is combined with the risk of sticking your head above the parapet and unintentionally inviting criticism in other areas you’ve not yet perfected. What I mean by this is shouting about something honestly great and impactful to inspire others, but instead of receiving a bit of kudos for getting something off the ground, you’re met with having holes picked in everything you haven’t got right yet. 

Well, it’s certainly true that sustainability comms in 2024 isn’t easy, but this level of scrutiny is so important for our profession. I think success here comes from picking your battles, doing a few things really well and steering clear of ‘green token’ actions without substance.

What I’ve never understood, though, is this element of competitiveness and secrecy when it comes to sustainability practices – as far as I understand, we’re all tackling the same climate and biodiversity crises which will impact everyone. We’re all on our collective journey towards living within planetary boundaries, so surely it’s in our best interest to share and collaborate on what we’re doing if something works.

At the moment I can’t say that our work at Zedify offers a panacea on impact strategy and how to communicate it, but I can start to practice what I preach and share with you all today what we are working on. Currently, it’s a super exciting time for us. We’re swimming in pretty unchartered waters, but ultimately we know what we want to achieve – we want to make a positive difference – so that’s our guiding light.

Measuring our emissions

2023 marked our first year of completing a full greenhouse gas inventory with Greenly and naturally,  I’ve been passed the baton to complete 2024’s data. Just like Hubbub, we’re really focussing on refining accuracy by making the switch to activity based data as the majority is currently based on spend. This means asking for information that’s never been asked for before, which is a challenge in itself when it comes to getting the answers! Whether that’s been across our 12 hubs on electricity, waste, or water, or understanding in greater detail how  our inbound freight is managed,as well as our growing  fleet of cargo bikes and electric vans. Not to mention the real beast on data and decision making: Our wider purchased goods and services. Not only is this the first step for when we eventually undergo science based target setting to align with a net zero future, a greenhouse gas inventory just makes business sense as we’ll have our ducks in a row for when we’re subject to future legislative reporting requirements.

Evaluating procurement

Let’s not beat around the bush; the balancing of financial viability and sustainability really comes into its own here. We’re having to think strategically about how we can achieve the most impact with our purchasing decisions, i.e. how to go about getting the most bang for our buck. Fortunately, some decisions like buying refurbished phones, IT equipment and other supporting DSE furniture is a no-brainer because this helps us meet both margin and impact goals, and as such is something we’re starting to properly formalise and implement. Circular principles are very much front of mind when buying goods. For instance, when it came to evaluating the merchandise we use at events, I had a great discussion with our marketing team on how we could pare back our freebie offerings and how we could perhaps achieve the same objectives with less ‘stuff’ as well as prioritising reuse. However, looking at clothing for rider uniforms isn’t as  straightforward – this is a decision with so many other factors at play which, honestly, requires an entirely separate blog in itself!

Our B Corp application

We’re amidst our B Impact Assessment (BIA) which has been a super useful tool in bringing everything together. Interestingly, (and I could be wrong here) I don’t see many others shouting much about B Corp until they’ve achieved it, probably for obvious reputational reasons! However, I think this could be a missed  opportunity to be more transparent about what’s going on behind the scenes. My top 3 insights, complete with tangible examples so far being:

  1. Working through the BIA questions has been a great driver for policy implementation and recognising the importance of embedding sustainability more formally. For instance, amending our working from home policy to also include virtual office environmental stewardship guidance and resources.
  2. It’s allowed us to identify any blind spots and a bit of a wakeup call on what we could be doing a lot better on which has been flying under the radar where focus has been on the mammoth task of decarbonising last mile logistics. For example, tracking our waste management practices at each of our city hubs.
  3. The prospect of becoming B Corp certified is a really good ‘way in’ to engage colleagues on sustainability, as everyone’s becoming increasingly aware and familiar with the big B logo and what it means. I remember when speaking with one of the riders, mentioning B Corp triggered several questions and greater engagement.

Of course, none of the above can be achieved if people aren’t on board, which is why I’m trying to make this a collaborative and engaging process. Fortunately, being an impact business means that coworkers are generally more aware and do care already, which is a fantastic start. However, more needs to be done to explicitly formalise sustainability requirements and tie in considerations for decision making so that it becomes second nature when working on every day operational performance metrics. 

I also recognise the importance of educating others on sustainability concepts, very helpfully summed up by a timely UN Global Compact webinar I attended last week. This is why we’re working on a training resource covering the social and environmental issues material to Zedify and our mission so all staff can fully understand our impact. I’ve been pulling together an interactive session for our team to understand what topics areas are most important to them, why they think sustainability is important, and how I can best support their learning.

Because it’s so rare to get the chance, when I can, I always love a chance to peek behind the curtain at what other brands are up to. So maybe that’s what got you all the way to the end of this article: a little bit of a nosy! Or perhaps you’re starting to think about honesty and transparency, and this caught your eye. In which case I wonder if you’re nodding along or completely disagree with me. Either way, we’re all in the same (earth-shaped) boat and I’d love to kick off an open dialogue and hear what you have to say.

Feel free to reach out directly to me at ella.yarrow@zedify.co.uk, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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