Sustainability is one of Piquant’s core values (along with design with purpose, equality, creativity and community). Sustainability and environmental awareness are something that the company directors and everyone on the team believe in, but belief alone won’t help reverse climate change. This year we committed to developing a Sustainable Operations Policy for Piquant, to pin our flag to the mast and set a course that will reduce our carbon footprint and reduce our contribution to climate change.
Must we change?
Can we change?
Will we change?
What level of change?
Where to start?
Figuring out where to start and what a policy for a media and design agency would look like was a real challenge. We decided to follow ‘Design Thinking’, as this is a really effective approach to problem solving and encourages a strategic creative mindset. We mapped out a timeline of the Design Thinking phases tasks and deliverables, to plot out a clear journey and milestone for each phase
As part of the empathy stage, we signed up to a series of free masterclasses provided by Skillnet in getting Irish businesses climate-ready. The sessions were provided by experts in the area of climate change, environmental impact and energy management and were really helpful in developing a structure and framework for a policy relevant to Piquant. What became obvious very quickly was that in order to set targets for reducing our carbon emissions, we needed to know what our actual emissions are, and so we needed an energy audit.
There must be government grants for that.
Energy audits are costly (they take time, expertise and are bespoke to each business, so the costs are absolutely justified), so the next step in the journey was to research grants and government supports. We were really excited to learn about the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Micro Green Grant which contributes to the cost of energy audits for SMEs–perfect, right? But, no. After several hours of research, emails and a few phone calls later We discovered that LEO only support businesses with less than 10 employees; we had 11 employees and so were deemed not eligible. We were encouraged to reach out to Enterprise Ireland, and again we got excited when we found out about their Climate Action Voucher available for companies with more than 10 employees–perfect, right? But again, no. Enterprise Ireland only supports businesses with an international focus. Piquant provides services nationally, and while we have some international clients, we are not ‘internationally focussed’, so again we were deemed not eligible. At this stage, we weren’t very hopeful when we approached the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), and so weren’t surprised to find that we were also ‘not eligible’ for any of their grants and supports.
Doing It Anyway
It was frustrating to find that despite all the awareness at governmental level that every citizen and business in the country needs to contribute to reducing carbon emissions, there is no financial support for businesses like Piquant who want to make a change. However, we were committed to realising a Sustainable Operations Policy and so decided to invest ourselves in an energy audit. We hired KRA to undertake the audit and in the meantime continued to work on our Sustainable Operations Policy.
Vision & Mission
We developed a mission and vision for our policy that states what we want to achieve and makes a clear commitment to how we will activate change. The first page in our policy states our sustainability mission and vision: Piquant’s vision for our Sustainable Operations Policy is to combat climate change through the integration of transformative sustainable practices into every aspect of our business. Our mission for the Sustainable Operations Policy is to implement the three point sustainability approach to measure, reduce and restore our carbon footprint in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Identifying The Issues That Matter
In this journey it was important to ground ourselves as to why we want to do this, why is sustainability important to us as a business and why are we bothering to invest in this? Our policy identifies the issues that matter and our reasoning for embarking on this journey.
No Planet B: Exponential growth cannot exist on a finite plant.
Climate Change: Last 5 years have been the hottest in record. 3.5 trillion tonnes of ice mass lost in Greenland since 2011. Two billion hectares of land on Earth are degraded, affecting some 3.2 billion people and driving climate change.
Biodiversity Breakdown: Globally we are facing a 6th mass extinction event. The biodiversity problem is a social, moral, economic, environmental risk.
Medical Emergency: Climate change is also a medical emergency – diseases & mosquitos & species migrating and moving due to change in climate – this means diseases are spreading out further.
Solutions Exist: We have a lot of the solutions; wind energy is performing better than expected. Solar energy is also delivering higher values than had been forecast 20 years ago. Higher rates and reduced cost of installation.
Our Sustainability Priorities
We know that sustainability needs to be applied everywhere and we know that carbon emissions need to be considered at every turn – the reality is overwhelming. We wanted to be sure that our policy would be motivating, we wanted to avoid the paralysis that can come with fear and develop a policy that was realistic, achievable and relevant to a small design agency in Ireland’s mid-west.
The top priorities that we identified for Piquant as a business are:
● Healthy Team
● Reduce Carbon Emissions
● Encourage active travel
● Consider full life cycle of all objects
● Increase biodiversity
UN Sustainable Development Goals Alignment
The Sustainable Development Goals* (SDGs) are a set of universal goals and targets adopted by 193 UN member states in 2015 that outline a vision for the future for people and the planet. There are 17 SDGs, and Piquant’s policy sets out clear objectives and targets that align with 5 of the UNSDGs.
Objective 1: Healthy Team
Aligned SDGs: Good Health & Wellbeing and Responsible Consumption and Production
Target: Provide healthy, locally sourced food for lunch
Result: Achieved. Healthy lunch is provided for everyone working in the office. We have made a supplier switch, and now buy our food from the Urban Coop instead of Tescos. The Urban Coop is a non-profit food store that sources organic food from local producers.
Target: Provide health insurance to the Piquant team.
Result: Achieved. Piquant employees are now offered health insurance funded by Piquant for themselves and their children.
Objective 2: Reduce Carbon Emissions
Aligned SDGs: Affordable & Clean Energy
Target: Reduce carbon emissions by 10% from baseline of 2019
To achieve this target the first step was to undertake an Ashrae Level 1 energy audit of the business premises(costly but necessary). Through the audit we learned that data storage was responsible for the largest percentage (37%) of our annual carbon emissions. Data storage can be considered a hidden polluter. The energy required to keep the servers cool, along with the toxic cooling agents and high battery usage is increasingly becoming an environmental concern worldwide. And for a business like Piquant, that captures and edits large photographic and video files, it is a significant cause of carbon emissions. To achieve our 10% carbon emissions reduction target we are now developing a data storage practice that investigates steps and processes we can take to reduce the amount of data we store. Other actions that we are taking include measures such as ‘switching off’ where everyone in the company is responsible for switching off lights and technology when not in use, ‘Supplier switching’ where we switch to greener suppliers for example from Bord Gáis Community Power, and implementing a company-wide waste reduction policy.
● Identifying sustainable / green pension options
Like data storage, pensions are a hidden contributor to carbon emissions. We pay money every month into our pensions but most of us don’t consider where that money goes – is it supporting wind farms, or is going to oil and mines industries? We are now working with our financial advisor to find ‘green’ pension options that are in line with our Sustainable Operations Policy.
Objective 3: Encourage active travel
Aligned SDG: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Target: In-company commitment to active travel
Result: Following initiatives have been implemented.
● Bike to work scheme is available to everyone in the company
● Carpool when travelling to shoots
● Take public transport to meetings where available
● Flexible remote working is available to reduce commuting
Objective 4: Consider the full life cycle of all objects
Aligned SDG: Responsible Consumption and Production
Target: Implement effective reduce and reuse policies company-wide
Result: Following initiatives are being implemented.
● Implement a best practice policy for equipment, including reduce and reuse policy and sourcing sustainable equipment options from suppliers.
Objective 5: Increase biodiversity
Aligned SDG: Responsible Consumption and Production
Target: Purchase land and plant trees
Following initiatives being researched.
● Identify land for sale
● Identify optimum approach for increasing biodiversity and reducing carbon
● Purchase land
● Plant trees
With the UN report on climate change being released just this month there can be no doubt that human activity is causing climate change; our carbon emissions are having an irreversible destructive impact on our climate and biodiversity. And while a small Irish media and design agency is not the biggest contributor of carbon emissions, we are all part of the problem and we all need to make changes in how we live and how we work to try and slow down climate change. Piquant is committed to reviewing our Sustainable Operations Policy and our carbon reduction targets every year. We are open to suggestions and recommendations on other actions and processes that we can take to improve and enhance our Sustainable Operations Policy and ultimately reduce our carbon footprint.
Blog written by company director & producer Róisín Buckley