OPINION26 January 2010

Going green


Kadence International was the only research agency to make it on to the Sunday Times ‘best green companies’ list in 2009. The firm’s UK managing director Kieron Mathews offers some tips for agencies looking to go green.

We were proud to feature in the Sunday Times Best Green Companies in Britain List 2009. The survey, which aims to offer a definitive guide to organisations with the most improved environmental performances, is a clear indication that the business community is taking positive steps to implement and commit to green working practices.

Did the market research sector receive good representation in the 2009 list? Regretfully, no. Kadence International was the only insight agency to be recognised. This surprised us. Although there is no specific environmental legislation within the MR industry, there are many positive benefits to going green. So, what drives an MR company to implement an environmental policy, and what can realistically be achieved?

“Demand for insight into the importance of having green credentials was coming from FMCG companies, insurance, automotive, manufacturing – everywhere, in fact”

We had recently been working with a number of clients to investigate the importance that stakeholders place on green credentials, and the general impact of going green. Demand for insight in this area was coming from FMCG companies, insurance, automotive, manufacturing – everywhere, in fact. Our B2B studies in particular highlighted again and again that when a firm establishes a green culture and starts to make small yet effective operational changes, the results are improved brand loyalty, higher staff morale and ultimately a rise in profits.

Inspired by these findings, Kadence’s UK team voiced its desire to create its own green company culture. The team had to get board support to ensure that any policy changes were enforceable and sustainable long-term, and any investment in staff resources and initial spending would have to demonstrate tangible returns. 

The team presented three key points from their research:

1. Reduced operational costs
With rising energy costs a green policy can considerably reduce power bills. This can be achieved by enforcing common sense actions such as stipulating that all electrical appliances not in use are switched off, including computers, minimising the use of heating and air conditioning and switching to energy-saving light bulbs. Encouraging staff to use resources more efficiently increases recycling while decreasing how often things are ordered from suppliers. This not only offers further financial savings, but also reduces carbon emissions through fewer vehicle deliveries.

2. Increased revenue and loyalty
Consumers today are environmentally aware, with many eager to support green products and services. Business is recognising this and is finding ways to create an environmentally sustainable working environment, with many of the larger brands leading the way. As the green agenda continues to gain momentum in our client companies, suppliers that can positively present green credentials will be viewed more favourably.

3. More engaged staff
Staff are also becoming more environmentally aware and eager to support the green agenda.  Enabling them to engage with this mission at their own place of work, and empowering them to contribute to a shared vision outside a company’s core business activity, helps emotionally bond staff to the organisation, driving a sense of belonging and connection to its brand.

Initiating organisational change and keeping the momentum is always difficult. The Best Green Companies List gave us a key focus and timeline to get activity moving. A green committee was formed to evaluate how our environmental policy could be implemented, communicated and enforced.

The small, simple steps outlined to the board were implemented and activity was undertaken to raise Kadence’s status as a green company to both existing and potential clients. To keep green issues at the core of the business the following initiatives were also introduced:

  • A compulsory green training programme for existing and new staff, to highlight green working practices.
  • A separate agenda item for environmental issues at all monthly departmental and board meetings.
  • A staff self-evaluation online questionnaire.  Completed quarterly, the survey tracks positive environmental behaviour changes and suggestions.
  • Signage in all areas reminding staff to turn-off lights and computers when leaving rooms or work stations.
  • A recycling initiative. Recycling points were set up all over the place, increasing the number of recycling bins while notably reducing the number of non-recycling bins.

Long-term goals
The impact of the green company culture has surpassed all expectations. Despite the company growing by 40% last year and headcount rising by 30%, the volume of paper we used went down 17%, recycled waste went up 40-50% and our energy costs fell by 6%. We also raised money for a green charity by taking part in a London fun run.

Although tough economic conditions can often result in companies pushing ‘green’ issues off their agenda, Kadence has gained significantly from its decision to become a more green company, and ensuring that its policies are more than skin-deep. A green policy is not yet a ‘must’ for the MR sector, but the demand for research in this area clearly indicates the importance of establishing guidelines as more and more consumers and businesses adhere to green values, requiring their suppliers to do the same. With the ability to gain from both an ethical and economical perspective the rationale is strong; the challenge now is to inspire action. 

Five tips for going green

  • Little things quickly add up
    ‘Going green’ requires not one huge initiative, but a number of small ones. Encouraging staff to switch off lights and electrical appliances when not in use for example can make a difference very quickly.
  • Don’t dictate, collaborate
    Set up a formal green committee and organise surveys and forums were staff can communicate ideas, set targets and report on feedback. This will share ownership and responsibility.
  • Teach green
    Integrate ‘green training’ into induction or learning programs to get people involved.
  • Signpost your green culture
    Market your green culture to your staff via signage to remind people what you are trying to achieve and the behaviours you want them to adopt.
  • Set a target and get focused
    Decide on a goal. This could include decreasing your utility bill, raising money for a green charity, or getting recognised on a green companies list. Having a target which is measurable and recognisable helps focus the team and allows you to celebrate success as your efforts start to make a difference.