How are you planning to reach net zero?

How are you planning to reach net zero?

World leaders have now gathered in Glasgow to debate and agree a united response to the climate emergency. There is a lot riding on COP26 – the fate of the world.

And yet, while our governments thrash out potential targets and goals, many business owners still have their heads in the sand.

The Institute of Directors today revealed that only a quarter of UK leaders have a fully formed plan for reaching net zero.

The vast majority have made little or no progress. Less than three in 10 even measure their carbon emissions.

How can this be?

Back in the summer, I wrote about the role that business must play in tackling climate change. Entrepreneurs are brilliant at finding solutions to impossible problems – and the climate emergency is certainly that.

But I also believe that the greener you are, the more viable and profitable your business will be. 

Every business must set targets

Today I want to lay down the gauntlet for all business owners. It’s time to stand up and be counted as the world moves towards net zero.

This means having targets and a plan for reaching those targets. And these need to be decided now. 

I am not just talking to leaders of mid-size or large companies here. Even one-man bands need to be thinking about this. 

This is why I have been working closely with Business in The Community, The Prince’s charity, to extend membership options to small and even micro businesses, so that they can leverage the wealth of support and resources that the BITC offers companies moving towards a greener future.  

The UK is home to 5.5m small businesses, representing 99.9% of the business population, and accounting for three-fifths of employment. Small business owners will be pivotal in the battle for net zero. 

My commitment to net zero

The Institute of Directors has found that just 16% of leaders have set a date for reaching net zero. I feel extremely proud that BigChange is one of these ground-breaking companies, and that we are on target to reach net zero by 2022.  

I know that it’s far easier for a technology company, which produces relatively low emissions, to make progress on this front. But we have also engineered our entire business model to save trees, reduce wasted journeys (thus saving fuel), and to cut speeding, which helps to reduce emissions.

This year we have saved 60m sheets of A4 paper. That is roughly equivalent to 7,200 trees, or 1.5 forests, through the use of our technology.

Our sole purpose is to improve lives by accelerating growth and sustainability in our community, partners and customers to become more sustainable and reach their own net-zero targets while helping them to grow and employ more people.  

Let’s do this together

But we still have further improvements to make. We believe that by adding even more features and functionality to our scheduling software, we can save even more wasted journeys and incorporate the Internet of Things into our system, so that connected machinery and systems can say exactly which part needs replacing, we’ll be able to reduce visits by engineers.

The Queen summed up the need for action in her COP26 address yesterday. “None of us will live forever. But we are doing this for our children and for our children’s children and those who will follow in their footsteps.” 

Tell me how you are planning to reach net zero. Let’s do this together.

Let’s do it. Let’s save the world

Lets Cut Carbon

The global small business community needs to turn its attention to the climate change crisis.

What do you do when you want to solve an impossible problem? Give it to an entrepreneur.

The people who create businesses from nothing know how to overcome every barrier and think of a way through every challenge.

That’s why the global small business community needs to turn its attention to the climate crisis.

We have eight years – just eight years – to radically change humanity’s impact on the planet before the planet enters climate change catastrophe.

It would be easy to read something like that and feel paralysed. Feel like there’s no point trying. Not the entrepreneur.

The business owner instead thinks of the small, incremental changes they can make to turn the tide.

At BigChange, we are committed to saving the planet and helping all of our customers do the same.

We are saving more than 5,000 trees from the papermill each year through our technology. We are helping customers to radically cut their carbon emissions by having fewer vehicles on the road and operating more efficiently. 

Our users’ mission

Today, we have 40,000 users on our platform. This community can take the lead on sustainability, to go further and faster, well beyond simply going paperless, cutting carbon and minimising waste.

They are delivering so much more impact than BigChange could accomplish on its own, amplifying the environmental benefits in all that we create, and creating a halo effect by educating their peers and industries on how to operate more sustainably. 

We work with some of the pioneers in the field of sustainability.

Fleetsolve, which provides renewable energy solutions to help clients reduce carbon emissions, is now one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of biofuel Combined Heat and Power.

Recycling Lives provides a total waste management service which supports the circular economy and increases the volumes being recycled.

Smart metering company Providor empowers people and businesses to make better decisions about when and how they use energy.

Companies like these prove that it’s possible to truly consider people, profit and planet in the creation of phenomenally successful models.  

We must take action now

It’s impossible to ignore the facts anymore.

I’m not trying to scare you. I know that these things can be hard to read. I’m just trying to explain why sustainability is now an absolute focus, both for me personally and for the company.  

When I started writing this blog, I wondered if it was a mistake. Who am I to tell anyone to do better? We aren’t perfect.

But no company is perfect. We shouldn’t let that stop us. Let’s just make sure that every decision we make, every action we take, from this point onwards, creates less of a negative impact in the world and – ideally – generates environmental benefits instead.

Every action – any action – is better than doing nothing. It will take 40 years for the impact of emissions today to be felt. Even if we miraculously fixed everything this year, we’ll still have to endure 40 years of climate change before things start to get better. It’s a sobering thought but one that should galvanize us all. 

I’m looking at you, my fellow founders and leaders. We are at the helm, and it is our responsibility to lead our organisations and set the example for others.

We don’t have years to change course. We must be nimble now and make decisions today that we execute tomorrow.

Let’s use that to the planet’s advantage. We all need to play our part in saving the world. Let’s start today.

Flying the green flag – why we highlight exceptional performance

BigChange flying the green flag

BigChange wants to help business owners make their teams feel valued and important, which is why we’ve launched a ‘green flag’ tool.

Employees who feel valued are more productive, happier and will go the extra mile for their managers.

This sounds obvious but when you are running a business, and have a lot on your plate, it’s not always easy to find the time and opportunity to congratulate your people on their accomplishments, and thank them for their hard work.

Yet studies have shown that feeling valued ranks alongside pay, benefits and time off as a major contributor to job satisfaction.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), receiving expressions of gratitude can have a massive effect on workplace behaviour. In a field experiment, the authors found that a message of gratitude from a manager led to a significant increase in the number of calls made by a team of university fundraisers.

A separate study by the Journal of Applied Behavioural Science also found that when treated with respect, and trusted to make decisions autonomously, workers’ performance significantly improved.

The key takeaway was: “Positivity can foster team member engagement and performance.”

It recommended demonstrating “appreciation, affirmation, and respect”.

My incredible BigChange team

I am in awe of my incredible team here at BigChange but it’s not enough for me to say that in this blog, I have to show it consistently, every day. This is why, a few years ago, we created our Green Flag Report.

Everyone knows that red flags are a bad thing. We use red flags when we need to resolve an issue outside of our service level.

But we have also turned the concept on its head, using the BigChange platform to assign green flags. These are used to highlight exceptional performance, great customer service, or people simply being a great team player.

We are super-users of our own platform, so it has been straightforward to train colleagues to use green flags to tell me and managers about the team’s achievements.

Every Sunday, I read each and every one, and send an email to the whole company sharing the highlights and thanking everyone who went the extra mile that week.

It’s been extremely effective at motivating my colleagues: they know that I see how hard they work, and their contribution to this company.

It also helps to drive home the vital role that every team plays here: for example, people in sales hear about the incredible work done by engineers out on the road – these individuals may rarely meet in person, if at all.

People can be seen, heard and valued

There are no financial incentives connected to the green flag initiative; it’s separate from our benefits and bonuses.

This is about showing people that they are seen, heard, and valued. But it certainly sticks in my mind when I see the same names coming up again and again – those people are likely to go far in the company.

We have made this functionality available to all BigChange customers, free of charge, to help them create the same kind of engagement and culture of gratitude in their teams.

There really is nothing like the buzz when people see all their colleagues applauding their efforts. Especially now there is no office and we are all working remotely.

We want to do our bit to help other business owners make their teams feel valued and important, and help unlock productivity now, when it’s needed the most.

CEO’s Blog – Cutting carbon for all the right reasons

BigChange cutting carbon trees

For a while, in the early 2000s, it seemed like every company was planting trees or offsetting its carbon. It was all a ploy to convince consumers they were environmentally conscious when, frankly, they weren’t.

The consumers have wised up. Between the Volkswagen emissions scandal and the backlash against bottled water companies claiming to be ‘environmentally responsible’, there is now a lot of scepticism out there about companies’ green credentials.

I don’t believe in greenwashing. I believe in doing your absolute best to consider the environment when making business decisions. More often than not, the greener choice is the best option for your bottom line.

Here at BigChange, we have gone paperless. Come to our office here in Leeds and you won’t see a single desk printer or filing trays full of paper. Everyone works off their laptop or tablet. That’s better for the environment because we’re not cutting down trees for paper but it is also great for keeping overheads down; no paper means no stationery.

We are also helping our customers to go paperless. We estimate that the 1,000 plus clients on our JobWatch system have saved 13,000 trees from the paper mill. Working with BigChange also helps these companies to cut down their emissions because our job scheduling and tracking technology reduces the miles travelled and saves on fuel. That has the potential to have a big impact on the environment.

I don’t believe we have gone far enough to reduce our carbon footprint. We already recycle and collect food waste separately. Staff are encouraged to take public transport instead of driving to work and to meetings. We are switching our lightbulbs to LEDs, and looking into green energy options for the office. We try to procure sustainably and don’t provide unnecessary plastics like cutlery or cups. But I want to go further.

I’m not kidding myself. BigChange is not going to be carbon neutral. Not unless we employ a consultant to do all the offsetting and tree planting. We are expanding internationally and that means I need to get on planes – hardly the most ecological way to travel. Being paperless means more devices, which also consume electricity – it’s not a perfect solution.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite on this issue but I believe it’s important to stick your head above the parapet on issues you care about. I want to encourage other bosses to do what they can to reduce their environmental impact. It’s not about being perfect, or greenwashing your image. It’s about doing your absolute best to minimise the negative impact your business has on the planet.

Let’s all support each other to make the right decisions for this world and the next generation. If anyone has some suggestions on how I can make BigChange a greener business, I’d love to hear them.

Martin Port
Founder & CEO