Episode 8: How to reduce the carbon impact of your surveying business with Elliot Poulter, Consequence

In this weeks episode we look at how to reduce the carbon impact in your surveying business.

We speak with Elliot Poulter from Consequence about:

✅ What is the difference between carbon neutrality and net zero
✅ The business opportunity of taking action vs risk of inaction
✅ How do you determine what your carbon footprint is?
✅ How do you mitigate that footprint?
✅ Is offsetting just a cost or can it bring an ROI?
✅ Looking at the overall carbon lifecycle when making decisions

We discuss everything from how to get started and calculate your emissions and how to decide the best way to offset them. Should you switch to electric cars or is it greener to get the full life out of your existing car fleet before switching? The total carbon impact is important to consider when making changes as there are big carbon costs to producing new vehicles, tools, and more. It could be better to continue what you\’re doing and delay switching to greener alternatives until a certain point to be greener over the total life of each product you buy. Listen further to learn more.

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Matt Nally, Elliot Poulter

Matt Nally

On today’s episode, we have Eliot, who is the co-founder of Consequence. So thanks for coming on today Elliot.

Elliot Poulter  00:51

Hi, Matt, great to be here.

Matt Nally  00:54

Can you give us an overview of what consequence is and how you got started with it?

Elliot Poulter  00:58

We help businesses achieve Net zero. So that’s sort of the short story of what we do. We’ve been doing this business for two and a half years now. And even then, it was pretty deliberate. And Consequence is something actually broader than even Net zero. And what do we mean by Net zero? This has to do with carbon emissions and the stuff that we hear in the news all the time. I started this business with my brother, James. We were thinking about how we could help businesses take accountability for what we call externalities of doing business, and one of them is carbon. But we focus mainly on the environment, but we know that there are also social and other externalities of doing business. But carbon, water use, land use, and impacts on biodiversity—all these things have an impact and, sort of, a social cost. And our approach was to be supportive of business leaders to take accountability and be able to do something useful with that information. So yeah, we started the business two and a half years ago. And yeah, I’ve been helping and focusing on the carbon issue to begin with, and then helping businesses get to Net zero.

Matt Nally  02:38

I suppose that’s a nice segue into: is it worth covering what Net Zero is, certified Net Zero or carbon neutral because there are lots of different terms that get sort of spouted about?

Elliot Poulter  02:48

Yeah, absolutely. There are lots of different definitions. And they’re changing all the time, like you say, and I think the most important thing for people to remember is that when we talk with our customers, it’s actually about the story that you build around, like the claim that you make, like we are carbon neutral, or certified Net Zero, whenever that is going to be because there are different authoritative sources that run different definitions. And so just because you’re doing it one way doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing it wrong. But it’s really important to know the difference. So carbon neutral has been around for a lot longer than Net Zero. And carbon neutral really means like, are you offsetting or are you basically putting emissions out by driving your car around, heating your office, or buying equipment that you use for surveying sites? Are you then offsetting that or mitigating it with like a carbon offset project? And so to be carbon neutral would mean that all the emissions you put out, minus all the emissions that you mitigate, would be carbon neutral. Again, there are a couple of different definitions here. And I’ll give two different ones. So the addition to carbon neutral, and one of them was looking at all of the indirect emissions of your business. So there are things that you don’t directly control. So it’s like looking at the emissions that come from the products from your suppliers, for example, and then offsetting and mitigating those so that you could consider yourself to be Net Zero. And then I think the one that’s most prominent now and the one that, say like the UK Government is signed up to really is Net Zero 2050. And then short term targets at 2030. These are all around like a science-based target approach to net zero that talks about it. We need to limit global warming by a certain amount—one and a half or two degrees. And Net Zero says that we need to actually reduce our emissions by a certain percentage and then mitigate or offset the remaining amount. So, if you’ve got a 2050 target, it would require you to reduce your emissions by roughly 95% from what it is today and then only offset the final 5%. So that’s the big difference between the two. If you’re actually going to sign up to net zero, it’s going to put a lot more pressure on you to actually look at what you’re doing in your business and actually change it rather than just purchasing offsets.

Matt Nally  05:46

Do you think there’s going to be a move towards, I suppose, more businesses going carbon neutral, or do you think there’s going to be a big shift towards net zero? Or is it really quite onerous to achieve?

Elliot Poulter  05:59

It’s a good question, and I think the way that I talk to customers about it is that you’re going to do carbon neutral first. Because Net Zero is something that you can’t do alone. Because it’s designed in a very particular way, such that it relies also on your other stakeholders that you do business with, your suppliers, and also your customers, as well as what you do yourself. So, if you’ve got a big office that you rent, and the landlord isn’t using renewable energy for that, it’s going to be very difficult for you to get down to net zero. So I think carbon neutral is sort of like a more achievable early step; you can pretty much achieve that from day one, as you can purchase these offsets to mitigate. And that has a lot of good advantages. However, I just think where the world is going, the reasons for getting into carbon neutral and Net Zero in the first place, you’ve got the sort of global social good that you want to do as an individual and a business. But then there’s also the business opportunity that comes with taking action. And there’s also the risk of inaction in the space and carbon offsetting. And carbon neutrality is certainly like coming under more scrutiny and fire. So Net Zero is a lot more ambitious as a goal. But it’s something that, if you’re sort of making progress towards it, when you come under that scrutiny, you’re likely to come out better than if you’re just doing carbon neutral. I say all that because, like, if you’re a small, growing business and you’re growing, or if you’re just a small business, like, achieving Net Zero can be very, very difficult for you. Because you need to influence your suppliers, you need to influence other people. And if you’re an SME, you only have so much power to do that. So, it’s difficult, and that’s why, right at the beginning, I think it’s really important about the story that you tell. I’ve talked to companies; actually, it was a construction company in the US; they were up in the Detroit area. And they’ve been doing this stuff before Net Zero came into vogue; they’ve been doing it for 10 plus years. And they don’t really have a badge or anything that says, Hey, we’re carbon neutral and Net Zero, but they’ve got all the data in there, they’re doing all the reporting, and they are doing offsets. And they’re also, you know, building a story about how they’re choosing different materials or making different design decisions in order to reduce the impact of these buildings that they’re constructing. So, from this perspective, it seems like you’ve got a really strong story. And if you do that, you can almost worry less about these certain certifications when you’re of a certain size organization like that, if you’re a bit smaller.

Matt Nally  09:20

It’s a good point in terms of where you start if you’re an SME; it potentially seems quite daunting, because there are a lot of different options out there in terms of planting trees, or setting up one tree for every customer we might be or work for. And then there are platforms like yours, where I find it very, very easy to come onto them. It is just very easy to plug in your accounting feed or bank feed, and it just gets calculated, and then you’ve got your figure at the end. But is there a better route, or are there some routes that aren’t as beneficiaries to suggest it might be. Because we hear lots of things about trees getting planted, but how many actually survive?

Elliot Poulter  10:07

I think there are two sides to the question. One is, how do you determine what your carbon footprint is? And there are different methods of doing that. And then there’s: How do you do mitigation? When we talk about mitigation, we’ve already talked about reduction. So it’s like changing what you do. And then there are carbon offsets, which are used to net out the emissions that you haven’t been able to reduce. On the calculation side, it all goes back to what your goal is and what the claim that you want to put out there, because especially as an SME, right, and I think if you’re less than 100 people, I would have different advice for that sort of size business versus, you know, someone that’s over 100, or 250, or 1000, even if we still consider that to be a medium-sized company. So based on that claim, what do I mean by that? Are you putting it out in public? Or is it internal? What kind of claim are you making? Are you saying carbon neutral net zero? Or are you just saying that you want to take accountability, and it’s something that’s more vague? Are you using it in bids to win business? So, it’s like a compliance thing. Based on that claim and that goal, that really drives and guides both those other two things that we do, like when it comes to measurement and when it comes to mitigation. So, on the measurement side, there are solutions out there that are great in that they require absolutely no effort, you’ll just go in and put in how many employees you have. And it does an average estimate, based on the carbon footprint of the average person in the UK, which is roughly 10 tonnes a year, and then it will allow you to start planting trees. That’s great, because it’s easy, but the downside of that is that you have no visibility into your carbon footprint and, therefore, no ability to make any changes. And so I would say that’s only suitable for a very light claim that you’re going to make, or maybe it’s not even useful internally. It’s a bit of smoke and mirrors, frankly, and, in my opinion, you can’t really make any positive changes. So, a tool like consequence allows you to go very deep into the data. But what we try and do is bring in a lot of automation to help save time. So, it’s still easy for you, like you’ve said, and so you’ll bring in these different data sources and do these calculations. And with bigger companies, there are also all these other steps that you can also go through because you need to be that much more rigorous based on the claims that you’re making. I can go into that in more detail. If you’ve got a follow-up question on that, and then there’s the mitigation side; that’s the whole thing. That’s sort of the question that says, “Can you explain how you do calculations?” Asking about our offset portfolio or just asking for advice on offsets is the number one question that we get because we see it in the news all the time. And so it’s like a high-risk thing; you might be putting a substantial amount of money into an offset. Offsets cost anything from, let’s say, 10 pounds up to well over 100 pounds per tonne. So, if your business has 10 people, let’s just say your carbon footprint is 200 tonnes. You might be talking about several thousand dollars or even over 10,000 pounds, I should say, which is a significant amount of money. And then, when you get the scrutiny on what you’ve done with it, you’ve got to be careful. So, there’s a framework for sort of assessing carbon offset projects. And there’s also, as with the carbon-neutral Net Zero piece in the definitions, not like complete agreement on offsets, so it’s very difficult for people. So, the approach that we’ve taken today is to have a portfolio, so we’re thinking about the risk to our customers and spreading that risk amongst multiple projects. So, one could be about planting trees. Another could be about renewable energy. One could be about direct carbon capture from the air, using some sort of like new technology. And by having a mix of projects, you’re sort of protecting yourself from some of the risks, because, like you said, it has happened that someone at a big corporate spends a million pounds on planting a forest. And then, five years later, it burns down; there’s a forest fire. Then, technically, you need to spend that money again, because carbon offsets from planting trees are based on the life of the tree. So, a tree lasts several decades, so if it burns down after five years, then you’ve got to do something about it. So, it’s a tough one.

Matt Nally  15:57

But yes, the one I find fascinating, as far as there’s a lot of stuff about; they’ve been good projects, but equally somewhere, finding out 1000 trees have been planted, and then three survived because they weren’t properly looked after, and so on. So, if you write it, but it must be a challenge—finding the right projects, and so on—you touched on people having different motivations for why they would do it. So, whether it’s internal or external, and so on. What do you find when people come to you with the reasons, they are looking to do it? Is it a PR tool? Or are there genuine reasons behind it? Sort of why they’re looking to offset.

Elliot Poulter  16:36

With all the people that we’re working with and talking to, there is a desire to do good to reduce the impact on the environment. But I think with most companies, if not all companies, they are still looking for an ROI on this because it does require time and money to understand what’s going on in your business and then to do all this mitigation stuff that we talked about. So, there are costs involved. So people are trying to see, how can we get a return? And today it can be really powerful for your branding and your messaging to integrate into that carbon neutrality, or some sort of net zero. That’s backed up by rigorous, like, calculations that you’ve done so that people can obviously trust what you’ve done. So, we are very much seeing that the individuals that we’re talking to in the businesses really care about this. And that’s why, and we see this with a lot of founders of startups and SMEs today, they are thinking about this, like, out of the gate from day one, but thinking about, okay, how can we approach this in the right way, which is great. But even in those bigger organizations, the individuals are thinking, and they really care. But they also are cognizant that the business needs to get a return because money is going to have to be spent on this problem.

Matt Nally  18:25

It is a fair point. And I think my main motivation for doing it was just wanting to be consistent with it; if I’m washing out a tin can at home and putting it through cycling events, then it’s pointless to completely mitigate that with bad practices at work. For me, it’s about being consistent with what we’re doing personally. And then what we’re doing as business. What are the types of things that surveyors might not think about in terms of the types of things that are sort of adding to their carbon costs as a business? I think the very obvious one might be driving a car to get to appointments, but what are the ones that people don’t think about as much?

Elliot Poulter  19:04

I think the big one that we see is technology that’s being used. Because a lot of the new cycle around carbon is to do with things like manufacturing, cars, transport, and flying and planes. And we forget that for every piece of technology that we’re using, it’s being hosted in a data centre somewhere. And that’s like a massive facility that’s being air-cooled or water-cooled, and it’s pumping out tonnes of heat, and there are tens of thousands of observers, like burning loads of energy for the electricity that they need. So, if we’re spending a lot on all the different software packages that we have, if you’ve got a fleet of cars, it’s not going to be as much. It’s still going to be a contributing factor, and the bigger you get, obviously, the bigger that can be. So, that’s been a common one that we’ve seen. And I think more broadly, it’s just like everything in your supply chain. I can’t remember what the tools are, but you’ve got the setting out, the machines that will point the lasers to do like the layout of a site and things like that. Those pieces of equipment were produced in a factory. So, very commonly, when we talk to customers, they think, well, my carbon footprint comes from how I use this product. It has a battery in it, and I recharge the battery. Okay, there’s some electricity use there. But that may only be over the life of that product, say, 50% of its overall carbon footprint; the other 50% comes from extracting all of the metals and other materials that needed to go into making it and then transporting them. And then assembling this piece of equipment that you’re using every day for your job right when you go out on site, and that has what you call an embodied carbon footprint, because by the time you’ve got it, all that carbon has already been expended. But the way that carbon foot printing works is because you purchased it and you use it. Essentially, that carbon was created by your choice; it was your choice to purchase it, and you needed to use it for your business. And therefore, that’s why, when it comes to carbon footprint reporting, you have to take accountability for that impact. And that goes all the way back to the start, where it said, it’s about your supply chain, these other people that you’re working with. So there are some of these that are less in your face than sticking petrol in the car and driving, or heating and lighting your office. There are all these other impacts as well.

Matt Nally  22:10

I suppose two things from that: first, we’ll have to make sure we’re offsetting all of our pocket podcast views as part of our carbon offsetting. Because it’s true there. Obviously, that’s a lot of what we’re offsetting as data centers and computers and newspaper coding and all that kind of stuff. I think the other question I’ve got from that is, if you’re working on Net Zero, where you’re working with suppliers and customers to offset costs, everything Is there an element, and this probably isn’t necessarily a bad thing but, where you’ve got sort of companies, and I suppose offsetting the same thing because the company that’s made the product has offset the carbon cost there, but me as a business, who’s bought that, and then offsetting to or does that happen?

Elliot Poulter  22:56

Yeah, it absolutely does. And that is why you’ll see some of the bigger companies choosing not to offset these parts of their supply chain. You can look up like Walmart, for example, where they just buy billions of products every year. So the carbon footprint is absolutely gigantic. And so, from a cost perspective, they just cannot afford to pay for the offsets for that. So they will just do things like direct energy use for heating and cooling their facilities. And they’ll do things like business travel. So, it absolutely happens. And again, that goes back to the story that you want to tell. But the standards and where like scrutiny are going is that these impacts were caused as a consequence of a decision that you made in your business. So, if you don’t buy those products, it reduces demand. And that would ultimately reduce the production of those products. And so, the carbon released would be reduced. But I explicitly on your question. There’s this thing called double counting. And the actual standards of the work that we’ve done with Survey Booker or on your carbon footprint are split into three sections: scope one, scope two, and scope three. Scope one is basically like direct energy use in facilities and vehicles that you own. So like putting petrol in the car and running your car. That’s scope one. Scope two is electricity for the office. And then scope three is everything else in your supply chain. And then it’s how your customers use your own products. And so, by the very nature of that, all of that is double counted, as is your electricity in Scope 2, because they’ll go into too many details. So it’s designed And to be all sort of double counted, like from a measurement perspective, the reason for that, and what’s neat about it, is that if you pick any position in the supply chain or the value chain, you can see all the emissions if you’ve done it, well, all the emissions that came before and all the emissions that come after from where that business sits in a value chain. That’s how it’s designed. But that builds in double counting. And then the other half of the problem is like double spending, which is, okay, do we offset that impact? And that really is a decision for the business to take. So if you want to be a leader in the space, then it’s a very simple decision to just offset the entirety of scope three. But what it also does is that it helps encourage you to look at, “How can we change our behavior?” “How can we change the decisions that we’re making?” Can we work with our suppliers to see if there’s a different piece of equipment that is much like a less carbon intensive manufacturing process or something? And ultimately, the way it’s designed is so that, like, you start talking to certain key suppliers, and you put pressure on them. And then, when all their other customers are also putting pressure on them, obviously, there’s enough for them to make a change. And then produce less carbon in the first place. And then I guess, like, the final thing to say on it is really, really difficult, because of the nature of how complicated something like a supply chain is, to pinpoint who is responsible for what bit of carbon that has been released. If you’re buying a piece of equipment or a car, is it the Toyota that’s responsible? Or is it like the 1,000 different suppliers that they have? And then those suppliers also have 1,000 suppliers. So, one of the things that we’re working on a consequence is a way to package up the carbon emissions and then to be able to share that up and down supply chains, so that you can drive true accountability and transparency in the supply chain, so that when you do come to purchasing offsets. I know for a fact that these impacts were offset, and so we’re not going to spend that money; we’re going to do something else with it. With that cash that we’re saving, maybe we’re going to reinvest that in more reduction strategies that we’re working on, like taking trains rather than flying or something that has an increased cost. So yeah, no easy answers to these ones from app.

Matt Nally  28:01

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to many things around this. There are a lot of nuances and complexities to it. But as you said, it’s about at least starting somewhere and taking small steps to begin with. On that note, then, if you are an SME, what are the first things you can do to start reducing your impact or offsetting it? Because you’re driving a car, you’re using your iPad and your phone when you’re out on site and your laptop when you’re back home. You’ve got your tools—your laser scanners, your thermal imaging cameras, and your drones. And with all of that going on, customers are also reading reports on their phones. And so, what are the steps that surveyors can take to potentially start to mitigate that, or at least reduce its impact?

Elliot Poulter  28:52

It’s a great question. And this is a very difficult one to answer. What it requires is to actually measure what’s happening, because we know that broadly, thats probably going to be the vehicles, and some of the equipment that we’re using is going to be like running the office. And maybe that’s going to be the biggest part of the surveyors impact. I mean, the first thing I recommend, if people are serious about it, is actually doing calculations so that you can really get an insight into what’s going on, because it might surprise you. So, once you’ve got the data and you’re tracking the data, obviously, that allows you to make decisions, and if you’re doing it blind, it’s like, super difficult. And that’s where, once you get the data, you know your business, you know what’s practical, you can talk to suppliers, and then you can make plans. If you don’t track any of the data, then all you can ever do is have a very high-level conversation about, “Hey, I think probably if we drove the vehicle fleet less, it would reduce emissions.” But how are you going to do that as a business? Because that’s what’s driving the top line as well. You’ve got to get out to the site. But it may be a medium-to-large organisation where you’re going to conferences and things. How do you get there if the average carbon footprint of a person in the UK every year is roughly 10 tonnes, and then if you fly back to Los Angeles from London in business class, you’re going to be roughly 10 pumps which could be multiple tonnes just for one flight. So if you’re going to a conference somewhere and you’re flying 5 or 10 salespeople there, obviously, that can have a huge influence on the overall carbon footprint in the business and massively outweigh everything else. But if you look at professional services firms, like the Big Four, and just everyone, typically, business travel accounts for over 80% of the carbon footprint of that business. So that might be a practical way. So what companies start to do is start travelling by train rather than flying, and they try to do more stuff remotely. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of sexy ways of reducing your carbon footprint; it does require things like behavior change, and some of that stuff can be a bit painful.

Matt Nally  31:58

That’s a very good point on the data side, because you can have things that might be more obvious in terms of the biggest things that you’re aware of, but there are lots of little things you’ll do that you don’t realize how much they’re adding up to. But not only from a general cost perspective, if you don’t know the actual carbon cost of each activity, then you don’t know which ones have the actual biggest carbon impacts, rather than you might think, which is one thing that could be completely different.

Elliot Poulter  32:25

One controversial thing that can be controversial and something that I believe absolutely is like, right now, I can see challenges on both sides because it’s a little bit controversial. I live in Austin, Texas, for one thing. So, I drive around in quite a large vehicle, like a Nissan Pathfinder. I think the engine is like a four-liter engine; it’s like a V-10. I think it does 14 miles to the gallon or something. So, it’s not very fuel-efficient. But it’s like a 15-year-old car, as well. There are a lot of businesses doing this, where they replace their vehicle fleet with fully electric or hybrid vehicles. But just when we had the example of, like, the piece of surveying equipment whose 50% carbon footprint was from manufacturing it, hey, guess what? It’s the same as running a car. Because it’s a highly complex thing that you’re buying and has a massive supply chain where stuff’s being shipped all over the world and dug out of the ground. And that has a carbon footprint, and so that’s why I’ve still been around with that car. But when I buy the next car, when I’m going to replace it, that’s when I’d look at an electric vehicle or hybrid vehicle because that is going to be on balance versus buying another full-combustion engine car that is going to have a lower impact. So, I think that’s like, obviously, something that’s more medium-long term for businesses, but as they look at their fleets and look at renewing them. You can look at hybrid and electric vehicles as one way of reducing carbon footprint.

Matt Nally  34:26

It’s funny you bring up that point because I’ve been having the same conversation actually around here with one that is planning to expand, and so where I am at the moment, a lot of the cars will no longer meet the standards and therefore will have to be paid for each day or gotten rid of. And then there’s been that whole debate as to whether that’s better for the environment—yes, it’s slightly cleaner out here. But you’ve now got to scrap that cost. There’s a carbon cost of the machinery and processes to scrap it, plus building a new car, just to be slightly more efficient on carbon when you’re driving. It’s very hard to make that decision. Should you actually just wait a bit longer because it’s better for the environment overall, just to get better and more use out of what’s already been produced? Or do you switch over to something else? But on that way, if you’re looking to try and make changes, I suppose a lot of what we’ve looked at so far is reactive in terms of getting the data and then reacting to what you’re seeing. And then you make a change. If you’re looking to do things next, and therefore, a more proactive element is that data, which you can look at to see the impact of the potential purchase, you’re going to make it easy to find that data, or quite difficult.

Elliot Poulter  35:36

The nice thing is that you can do it using the same reference data. Because the way that carbon measurement works is that you take a piece of input data, which is like I drove 10 miles, or I used 10 litres of petrol. And then there’s a piece of reference data that says 10 miles is equivalent to this much carbon, or 10 litres of petrol is equivalent to this much carbon; they call these emissions factors. You can use those same pieces of reference data to do things like forecasting as well. So, you could be saying, Okay, well, if I’m about to buy a vehicle fleet, I’m going to buy 10 vans. Okay, I could run them on diesel or electric hybrid; this is how we expect to use them. And then, when a system like consequence comes along, among many others, you use the same reference data that you would for historical reporting to say, what’s going to happen in the future? And then that can help you make a decision before it actually happened.

Matt Nally  36:48

And is it possible to do that with other things, like the type of software you’re using? Or the type of tool you might want to buy? Or does that get a bit too complex there?

Elliot Poulter  36:57

The availability of data is like, Wait harder in that space. Because it’s certainly software, a lot of the time, what you’re looking at is like a piece of reference data; that’s like the baseline average, so comparing one piece of software to another, you’d be using the same average reference data. And so you can’t differentiate some of the work that we’ve done, which is working with the major companies around the world to understand their carbon footprints, and use that to generate reference data that would allow you to compare. like Zoom versus Google Meat. And it will allow you to look at, okay, if I spent 100 pounds with Google, if I spent 100 pounds with Zoom, to actually see a different impact on those two decisions that you could make. So a lot of that ultimately means that you’re looking at the suppliers, data. And that is where that can become very difficult, because it’s not easy to find. It’s not accessible. But sometimes, when you find it, it’s not in a format that you can understand. I have a team that works full time on researching, doing quality assurance checks on, and then building this reference data from companies all around the world. So we look at their carbon footprint reports, we check that they are of a good enough quality, and then we build them into these reference data that gets used when we do calculations for customers. So no silver bullet there. But there are ways, and what we found is that the longer that companies are actually tracking their missions and looking at dashboards that have like real data in them, like new solutions and new ideas of what you can do, what will come to you? If you’re not measuring it, then you’re never going to be able to do anything about it. But if you start, then you can start making those incremental steps. You’ll probably start with the really easy things like looking at energy, and that goes to driving behaviour changes in the office, like turning off all equipment when you leave, which can actually have a material impact over the course of a year, and changing commuting habits for your staff. Some of those things are like low-hanging fruit. But as you’re tracking all the data, you can start to see more insightful things that you could do that might take a bit more effort and are a bit more complicated as well. And so that’s why, when you’re looking at the data, it is backward-looking. But based on that, you know your business, and you know that typically you’re running it the same way next year, right? So you can use it for forward looking decision-making, like before these things have actually occurred. So it can still be really helpful for that.

Matt Nally  40:17

So, there’s a couple of interesting bits; there are some simple things you can do in terms of like turning lights off before you leave and maybe even changing when you go to work. So, you go before rush hour after rush hour, so you’re not sitting in traffic and burning fuel. But one of the things you touched on was that you have a team of people who look through all the data. And kind of calculate everything. I know that, at the moment, we offset 150% of our carbon usage that we’ve calculated just to be safe for us; we’re building up an accurate picture, but how do you ensure that the calculations that are being made can be relied upon, that they’re accurate or as accurate as you can be?

Elliot Poulter  40:54

Yes, that’s a great question. And I think it’s supported by there being a global standard. And so we build our software in compliance with that global standard. And, the way that the standard is designed, it does actually give you flexibility. So, there are multiple ways of calculating the carbon footprint of a given activity, like driving your car to the office. That flexibility is there. Because everyone knows that people have different abilities to get access to the data, based on the type of company and the type of activity. So, what we always say to our clients is that it’s about thinking about the claim that you’re making in terms of: is it public? Is it internal? Is it carbon neutral? Is it Net Zero? What are you using it for in terms of, like, are you using it very strongly as a sales and marketing tool? Because all of that reflects on the scrutiny that you’re going to get, and therefore the detail and accuracy that you need to go to where the system Consequence will work at all levels of accuracy. And so, one of the things that you might do is do an initial calculation; that’s more high-level, it’s faster, and it costs you less to get the results. And then you’ll be able to identify them. Okay, here are certain spots in our carbon footprint that are very impactful. And those are ones where you want to spend more time, more effort, and more investment to collect more data, like we’ve done by looking at how a customer of a software company uses their product, the energy use profile of that product, because it’s sort of a black hole. And then actually doing energy calculations based on that, which is, from a standards perspective, like being in full compliance with what you have to do. So, mitigating 150%, as you’re saying, is like this extra step that you can take to safeguard yourself, both in the short and the long term, because there’s always uncertainty, and there’s also the data that you’re collecting. Especially as your business grows, is your entire team actually tracking the amount of fuel that’s being used when they’re driving their cars? Or when you’re doing the commute, do you actually know the distance that they’re travelling? There are all these parameters and things; there’s a lot of information. So, you’re trying to make it easier. So, there’s some uncertainty there. And then the reference data that you’re using to convert it into a carbon footprint is also based on lots of different calculations that were done by scientists to go with all that different type of data that you’re using. So, there’s always some uncertainty inherent in the process. And so I guess there’s leaving advice for people, like even companies that have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds a year on doing their carbon footprints often build in a buffer when it comes to mitigation because of this uncertainty. And that’s why I think building the story is so important. Because even if you make a mistake, do a calculation incorrectly, or underestimate something, if you’re building a story around it and you’re putting your foot forward in the right direction, what we found is that people will tend to be more forgiving of that versus being opaque about what you’re doing, not bothering to tell a story, and then people finding errors. And then, obviously, you can have issues there. So, our software takes the standards and puts them into code. So, you can’t do any more fiddling around with how calculations are done. So, it can be very trustworthy for our customers to know it’s going to be done repeatedly and accurately. And then there is that decision that you make around mitigation and just adding a bit of padding in just to take account for the very likely uncertainty that there is because it’s not an exact science; this is more of an engineering task that you’re going through.

Matt Nally  45:26

Yeah, that makes sense. So, I suppose my final question, maybe slightly putting you on the spot, before we go is: if someone wants to get started with this, what are the top tips for your journey? I don’t know where to begin or how to get into it.

Elliot Poulter  45:42

If it were me, I would find a software platform that was going to automate as much of the work as possible. Actually, the calculations, like all these methodologies and things, are very long. They can be quite confusing. What you want to do, or what I would want to do, is focus on building my business. So, I want to find someone who has a software platform that’s going to make this easy for me. And I want to look at something where I can get quick wins. So bringing in data that I hold centrally, for example, from my finance team, because they’ve already done all this work on formatting it and reconciling it and noting it and rotating it, can I bring that into a system that gives me a very, very quick picture of what’s going on in my business and my carbon footprint, and then based on that I can then start making some decisions around what I want to do, including what my next steps will be. So, I would just say, Get stuck in. I think you can get started a lot quicker than people think and get to that point within a couple of weeks of starting, maybe even faster. And then you can look at going into more detail on those, like, really impactful areas of your business, or, based on your goal, you might choose not to do that at all, but at least you’re tracking something, and you have an idea of what’s going on in the business. So, Consequence is a software platform. I’m sort of plugging it there. But even if you didn’t work with Consequence, I think a software platform is the right way to go. Because the last thing you want is to be going back and forth on hundreds of emails with consultants or hiring people internally to solve this problem. And think it can be solved with a minimal investment in time and money using a software platform.

Matt Nally  47:57

But I agree that it was super for us; it was very easy to get started, and you don’t have to do much each month, maybe upload the stats and stuff, and then the dashboard gets updated, and the offsets are provided and all that kind of stuff. So, it’s super easy, but as you say, check out any of them. But I certainly would say you’re right—it’s easy to get started. Thanks for coming on today and sharing your insights. If anyone wants to get in touch with you, how do they do that?

Elliot Poulter  48:27

Yeah, the best place to go is the website. So that’s “Consequence.world”. And you can get in touch with us there. You can find us on LinkedIn again; just search for “Consequence.world” there. Those are the two best places to find us.

Matt Nally  48:43

Perfect. Thanks again. Speak soon.

Elliot Poulter

Thanks, Matt. Appreciate it.

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