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How the PR sector plans more sustainable ways of working post-pandemic

There have been some environmental benefits of all the lockdowns, and many PR agencies are determined to carry on reducing their carbon footprint once this is all over (if it is ever all over!). Here they share some of their wisdom to help make the world a better place.

Change events and meetings
Lucy Hagger, sustainability group lead at agency AXON Communications: “Being physically forced apart by the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to evolve how we work to ensure a more sustainable future.

“We envisage international travel will return at a reduced scale as borders reopen; personal interactions still have value. But events will incorporate a virtual element – ‘hybrid meetings’ – to allow more people to access meeting content, reduce their carbon footprint, save money, and adapt to the ever-changing global travel scenarios. We can be smarter about their impact, too, and so we have launched our AXON Sustainable Events offering, which includes partnering with change-making suppliers, and reducing waste.”

Carbon offsetting is key
Lucy Hagger: “As a business, we have committed to minimising our footprint through a policy that carbon offsets any essential flights. We have already achieved 100% renewable energy and zero waste to landfill in our London office. And we’re empowering our team to work with sustainability in mind, through education, diversity and inclusion training, and offering pro-bono opportunities to give back to communities.”

Go for B Corp certification
Jack Ashton, client assistant at agency Milk & Honey PR: “As a B Corp business (a business that has certification of its social and environmental performance) our focus on sustainability and behaving in an ethical, environmentally sound and socially responsible manner has deepened during the pandemic. Since lockdown we have added a further 40 hard won points to our B Corp score. 

“We’ve grown a virtual ‘forest’ with Ecologi, helping us offset our carbon and continue achieve our goal of being carbon neutral.  

“Recently, we’ve signed up to the Terra Carta Initiative, the Duke of Wales’ sustainable markets programme for the private sector- informing our roadmap towards a sustainable future. 

 “We’re also really happy to work pro bono with RePurpose, a plastic repurposing business who helped us reach our plastic neutrality goal in 2020.”  

Cut down on travel
Jack Ashton: “Coming out of lockdown, we’re all expecting to travel for work much less, as video conferences have reduced the need for in-person meetings."

Jessica Pardoe, senior PR at agency Source PR says: “For us, the possibility of working from home long term will help to reduce our carbon footprint (I was doing circa 60 miles each day to get to the office and back pre-pandemic).”

Set clear targets
Niki Hunter Ekins, managing director at agency Splendid Communications: “The pandemic made us reconsider our company purpose and responsibilities in the wider community. In 2021, Splendid has introduced triple-bottom-line reporting on people, profit, and planet. By setting targets and reporting on these, we aim to drive more impactful results, faster.”

Carry on with lockdown wisdom
Niki Hunter Ekins: “Working from home revealed certain efficiencies, for example, that in-person meetings aren’t always necessary. Face time builds relationships and helps for strategy meetings, but general meetings like status updates are arguably more efficient done virtually and reduce both the carbon footprint and wasted time from travel. It’s also enabled us to drastically cut our dependence on printing. We use digital tools to proofread and feedback on documents and this is an approach we plan to continue.”

Look at your suppliers
Niki Hunter Ekins: “We’re now reviewing all suppliers to ensure they also meet our sustainability goals and we will be comprehensively offsetting our own carbon footprint. The aim is to be net zero.”

Go for greener clients
Jenny Mowat, managing director at technology specialist agency Babel: “Babel has a strong track record of working with companies that are harnessing technology to reduce environmental impact. We are working with GenCell, a pioneer in the hydrogen energy industry, which is developing fuel cell solutions that deliver clean, reliable and cost-efficient power from hydrogen. Other Greentech clients include Circular Computing, helping to extend the life of enterprise laptops and support large businesses in its efforts to become more socially responsible, and Sabien Technology Group, which is focused on reducing CO2 consumption in heating, cooling and transportation. We strongly believe that PR has a vital role to play in helping raise awareness of such initiatives, and we are looking forward to working with more clients whose goal is to help other businesses become greener.”

Clients do their bit

Millers Home North West
Jessica Pardoe: “I think the best example of sustainable change enforced by Covid-19 is our client home builders Miller Homes North West, which has relocated its office and has changed the structure so that hot desking is in place. The change in office has given the business the change to go entirely paper-free, which is a big change and one that I’d hope to see other clients adapt to where possible in the future! You can read more here.”

Mandira’s Kitchen
Mandira Sarkar, founder of Indian food producer Mandira’s Kitchen: “During lockdown, with all catering and events cancelled, Mandira's Kitchen moved to selling the dishes online with distribution to any UK mainland address.

The packaging of the dishes has always been sustainable and eco-friendly with the cardboard sleeves unlaminated.  MK is a plastic free environment. However, the freezer boxes that the food was delivered in contained lots of polystyrene and this was an issue. For a small business it’s difficult and expensive to create custom-made transit boxes but MK discovered so now all packaging is recyclable.”

We are never able to accurately predict what the future holds, but at least we can play our part in making the future a greener one.

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