Elodie – Russ, Dr Birgit and Ingemar

Season 3, Episode 087: Elodie

Sustainable Communications Consultancy | May 4th 2020 | 35:24


The Story

Russ Avery, Dr Birgit Memminger-Rieve and Ingemar Hunold are the founders of Elodie, a sustainability and creative communications consultancy that puts purpose over profit. 

They bring together their research, education, consulting and marketing expertise to help organisations to follow in their footsteps to create a healthier, more sustainable planet.


Highlights of Russ, Birgit and Ingemar from Elodie

  • ‘A new consultancy today for a better world tomorrow.’
  • Blending their individual expertise to supply clients with the correct solutions.
  • Educating to ensure everyone reaches the same level of understanding.
  • The importance of applying solutions in order to see results.
  • Applying positive storytelling to fight the negative attitude towards climate change, as a change in behaviour does not necessarily mean a lower quality of life.
  • Being sector agnostic in order to have the greatest possible impact.
  • ‘We’re all in this together’ – Why the are combining different backgrounds to create greater networks.
  • How is real estate having an impact on climate change?
  • Why it is important to be authentic in today’s age of social media.
  • The future of Elodie and the potential to grow in the UK and Germany.
  • How running events will grow their brand and support an important cause.
  • Why they have chosen ‘Elodie’ as the name of the brand.


"Applying positive storytelling to fight the negative attitude towards climate change, as a change in behaviour does not necessarily mean a lower quality of life"

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Will  0:08  

Welcome back to the Green Element Podcast where we feature business leaders and innovators transforming their operations to be more environmentally and socially sustainable. I’m your host, Will Richardson, and I can’t wait to meet our guests today and help you on your journey of sustainability. Welcome to the green element podcast. Thank you so much for joining today. We have on the show, Russ, Ingemar and Birgit. And you guys run Elodie. And your catchphrase is a new consultancy today for a better world tomorrow. I would love to know more about it. And who wants to just give me a bit of background. Would that be you Russ?


Russ  0:54  

Sure. I’m happy to take that, so briefly. Back in November 2018, Birgit and Ingemar came to me, we grabbed a coffee together, I was over in Berlin with them as EnviroSustain, which we’ll come on to a bit later. And they just said, Russ, we’ve got a new idea for a new consultancy new business, which will really help to tackle the climate crisis head on. In a nutshell, it’s about blending sustainability consultancy, research and education, with marketing and communications. In principle, would you be up for exploring that with us? I said yes, straightaway. And over the course of the next 12 months, we further developed the idea every time we met up and saw each other, kept ticking things along because we both got obviously our day jobs. And then a year later, you know, we were founded and Elodie was a real thing. And as I said earlier, it really is about doing something different to what we’re both what we’re all currently doing in our sustainability fields at the moment by blending knowledge and expertise together to create a consultancy, which does all of these things. So sustainability research, education consultancy, and then crucially, combined with marketing and communications, because I’m sure I’ll talk about this a bit more later. But without good marketing and communications, sustainability can never really, truly come to life. And it will never really become adopted by the masses. And, you know, it’s thanks to good marketing and communications that the climate crisis has become real for a lot of people because it needs to be communicated in a good way. And that becomes adopted by the masses through good storytelling and stuff. So, in a very brief nutshell, that’s how Elodie came to today.


Will  2:46  

Okay. And I think maybe what would help is understanding a bit of background of how this all came together. Maybe Ingemar you could lead or Birgit I’m not sure from an EnviroSustain point of view, and from a background or maybe both of you, actually because it is a personal journey for both of you. So maybe Ingemar, if you could start and just explain where you fit in and how this is important to you.


Ingemar  3:16  

Yeah, absolutely. And I would probably also cover a bit of Birgit’s background because we’ve come a long journey together. So we’ve been both in the real estate industry for quite a while and dealing with sustainability there, Birgit mainly as a consultant, and sometimes on the contractor side, but also on consulting. And what we’ve discovered over the probably past 15 years, was that the real estate industry is moving kind of slowly when it comes to sustainability and that we always had to go back talk about the basics of the climate crisis of sustainability. And that never really changed over the years and therefore we have the desperate need of coming up with something like Elodie, which which has the goal of, as Russ said, blending, consultancy, and marketing, but we really thought we need to educate better on a very low level in the first instance just to get everyone up to speed in our understand urgency in the actions necessary. So we’ve come a long way. And we think that there is a lot of experience, which we would also like to carry outside of the real estate industry. So there is a lot of knowledge to share. And a lot more journeys we could start together.


Will  4:37  

And Birgit, your journey on this because you’re managing director of EnviroSustain, aren’t you? And so you, you run quite a large consultancy in Germany. And what is it this driven you towards where you’ve got to and then helps you pivot into Elodie?


Birgit  5:01  

Well, maybe I can start from. Yeah, well, for my studies, mainly an environmental engineer, and what I’ve learned that there are solutions to every problem we have in the environment. And the problem is with humans, they don’t apply those solutions. So I thought maybe I found my own consultancy. This was back in 2001. We started with environmental services contaminated site mainly, and then environmental and technical due diligence services. So we inspected buildings and energy efficiency. And yeah, the climate crisis only came up like 10 years ago. And as I said, our clients move very slowly. They don’t really understand the urgency and also we provided them with a lot of help and solutions. So we gave them ideas how they could improve their buildings, how they could use renewable energy. And the frustration came relief from the never apply those solutions. So and it was Ingemar’s idea to say, Well, why don’t be set up Elodie to really educate them and market sustainability. And we hope that this consultancy, we can motivate them to finally apply the solutions that are at hand. So in a nutshell, so it’s a really long journey for me, because I’m a little bit older than my two partners. So I started in the 90s. And it’s a long way to go and with all the knowledge we have acquired, we think we have the right skills to provide our clients with solutions and help them to apply them.


Will  6:50  

And I think that’s really important because having the experience and the breadth of experience that you have within the industry does help enormously on that communications because we are. I just I just think they experience is massively important with that. We can see that across the board and I can only particularly speak in the UK. But yeah. What I’d like to explore is a kind of I understand the research, education, consultancy and marketing side of things for Elodie. But if I was a potential client, um what is it? What’s the journey that I would go on? With you? Would I be choosing one of your parts of the business? Or would I be having all four parts of the business work on my clients?


Russ  7:56  

Ingemar do you, Ingemar do you want to take this one?


Ingemar  7:59  

Yeah, sure. I can. Well, ideally, you would want to take all four parts of the business, for sure. But not necessarily. All right, but our initial attention was that whichever of the four pieces also a client would choose that together, we would develop a positive story about his environmental actions. So whatever we would do in in in any of these, of these four business areas Russ has mentioned in the beginning. The aim was really while doing, for example, a consultancy job or research project for any kind of client, that we would still as Elodie come up with a storytelling concept around this and help the client either to tell the story internally to all staff has kind of a change management activity, as well as to the public world, and to show them that whatever action we have taken here, whether it’s just, you know, a very, very small research project or just a bit of work show by education for the staff, that you actually take this shout it out to the world in a very positive way, because what we see when you read the news, that typically you become very frustrated when when you read about climate change and all the actions necessary. People think they have to limit themselves, they have to restrict themselves, and their quality of life might, you know, be restricted. No, that’s actually not the case. So whatever extra we take in any of these, these four business areas, we want to give it a positive drive and and show people that Yeah, you might change some things, of how you act in your daily business in your projects. Whatever it may be, but that ultimately, it will lead us to something better than before. So we kind of saw and that’s, that’s really the concept. So if you say, yeah, to make it holistic, it would be good, you know, to go through all four business areas, but it’s not necessarily required. So for us, we have the, the take on this, that we say whatever we do together with a client, we will certainly provide the storytelling bits in order to make the communications work properly. So and maybe that’s part of what sets us apart from from other consultancies out there. We believe that we also have to talk around it and have to be positive about what we’re doing.


Will  10:45  

I can understand that and I think I’m relating it to say, and you end up relating stuff to your own experience, don’t you? Because that’s all you can relate to, but for in our consultancy, we help organizations become more sustainable. And that within that you’ve got experts in waste communications, the numbers, understanding, you know, that half hourly data, etc, etc. And so there’s a huge broad set of stuff. And when people come to us, they don’t ask just one thing, sometimes they do, but on the whole, they’ll actually get the whole gambit. And it’s really important to have such a broad sweep of all and what you’ve done is you’ve brought four very important parts to that environmental journey together. What, what would you- who would you say your target market is or are you or are you looking at any industry or I mean, what, what is it? That’s um, you know, who are you expecting to talk to really?


Russ  12:00  

So where to start with we’re completely sector agnostic. So we’re not going after one particular niche. However, we are, we are aware that our early, our early wins are coming from European commercial real estate funds because the [inaudible] client base is, is already very interested in the additional services that Elodie can provide. So Ingemar and Birgit have been having some fantastic conversations with with some of their existing clients who are large European commercial real estate funds. But going forwards we are we’re not going after a particular niche or a particular sector because this is about this is about us wanting to have the greatest impact possible. So there’ll be you know, we’re hoping that we’ll have a huge roster of clients from all different sectors and of all different sizes within you know, within the next couple of years.


Ingemar  12:59  

In addition to that, maybe what we what we’ve seen and in our work in the past few years is, no one is really out there who has studied climate change or anything like that. So and that’s why I think it’s important to be sector agnostic. We have to get as many people on the table as possible, with ideally as as many backgrounds as possible, in order to come up with new solutions to face what’s ahead of us. So and this is why, you know, we want to stay in that niche, we all can bring experience to the table. So as an any kind of client. And it’s, it’s gonna be exciting to see what comes out of these different backgrounds, and what could, what other solutions we could develop together because it’s not like us going out to a client and explain to him the world. We have to find the best suitable solution together. It’s about collaboration with different backgrounds to a challenge, which no one really has studied or experience with.


Russ  14:10  

And also to just develop on what Ingemar has just said, you know, our view on collaboration is such that we were also able to draw on our, our massive network that we’ve got between three of us, other sustainability professionals. So you know, we we share a very similar outlook to you at Green Element Will where you don’t consider other consultancies to be competitors, because actually, we’re all in this together. You know, which I love about Green Element, and we share the same view. So if someone comes to us, we’ve got a massive network of other sustainability professionals, each with their own different areas of expertise that we that we’ll be able to direct clients towards if we think that they’re better suited to them, or will end up collaborating with them on a project to deliver to deliver a better outcome for the client


Will  15:01  

And I guess Birgit with your EnviroSustain hat on you, that’s exactly what it is that you’re doing. You’re looking at, you know, new clients or some current clients and understanding that actually they can be helped in a different way as well.


Birgit  15:23  

Yeah. And what I found with with our existing clients, they’re increasingly interested in education, for example, so they now we want to know why we’re doing ESG consultancy. So I really talk to them about the basics. So what does it mean? What does climate change mean and how everyone is responsible for more sustainable behavior. So we’re in the real estate industry, so I always tell them well, buildings are the shell to people. They are important. It’s a Important, how they behave, what they eat, how they travel and everything, because everyone has his or her personal carbon footprint. And I really explain how the carbon footprint is made up. So not only for for their daily life, but the buildings and what they can do about it. So it’s not only about driving efficiency, it’s about changing, so use more sustainable energy. Or we also talked a lot about compensating, we talked about the Paris Agreement. So really some basic and that really, the industry needs to change and that sustainability needs to be easy. So and also needs to be fun. So when I when I go shopping and see if there are more sustainable solutions. We should be happy to apply them. So it’s really about positive thinking. So everybody should understand the problem but should be positive about the change. This is what we try to communicate and also from our existing contracts with environmental sustainability in increasing interest in Elodie that we tell them yeah, we could help you also to market your journey to a more sustainable, real estate world. And this is when Elodie comes in. So I see at the moment, there’s some close ties between our existing clients and yeah, Elodie clients in the future.


Will  17:31  

I can see that I can understand that. Because some of the things that you help on in the offerings, I mean, for example, education, you can help with employee engagement workshops, and help with presentations, etc. I think that’s actually really important because it’s almost what you’re doing is you’re drawing out the skills of, you know, that particular client, and helping them understand how that can help from an environmental point of view. Would that be right to say?


Birgit  18:11  

Yes, I think so. Yeah.


Will  18:13  

Okay. And I think it’s fascinating I think as we explore more understanding the thought behind this and how it work because it’s almost like communications is almost across all of Elodie in one way or form but what you’re doing is you’ve brought in different skills into that communication channel.


Russ  18:43  

Yeah so if you imagine our four service areas, research, education, consultancy, marketing, from you know, although marketing sits there on the far right actually from from left to right there’s an arrow where marketing and storytelling and communications runs through out. And we investigated that a lot when we were coming up with the business model and stuff. And yeah, you’re right, good communication, whether it’s in the research stage or the education, stage employee engagement, workshops, consultancy, obviously, it runs throughout and then marketing at the university. As Ingemar said earlier, it’s to help people communicate the progress they’re making, what they’re doing, making sure that successes are communicated effectively, making sure that challenges and you know, setbacks are communicated effectively as well, because that’s all part of being authentic, which is absolutely vital in business marketing today, because with the rise of the conscious consumer, people are much, much more in tune with being able to spot you know, corporate BS, and you will get called out for it as well in the age of social media. As we all know, it can take years for years for a reputation to be built and it can be destroyed in a matter of seconds. So business leaders and marketing departments are needing to be much more authentic in the way they communicate with their products and services. And it’s great that people are waking up to this fact. And I just think it’s, yeah, there’s there’s never been a better time for, for Elodie to be around as this increases year on yeah, so we’re really excited.


Will  20:23  

Where do you see Elodie going? In the future? I mean, your German British collaboration, currently do you see working across Europe where do you see it going?


Russ  20:36  

Well, we’re I’ll hand over to Birgit or Ingemar in a second as well. But you know, we’re four months old really since we launched properly. I say it’s really early days. Yeah. And like geographically our clients to begin with will certainly be in Germany and the UK, simply from where where we’re based, as you said, so, Birgit and Ingemar are in Berlin and Castle respectively and I’m over here in Farnham in London. But you know, broader than that we’re, you know, sky’s the limit really


Will  21:07  

Farnham that international hub of


Russ  21:10  

sustainability [laughs] Three, three sustainability consultancies that I know of have now been founded in Farnham.


Will  21:19  

That’s very true. That’s very true. I was taking Mickey but yeah, you’re absolutely right.


Russ  21:24  

And we’re, you know, we’ve got, we’ve got extinction rebellion, Farnham chapter as there’s a Farnham carbon neutral campaign. So it’s actually a really good hub of sustainability around here.


Will  21:37  

I wonder if there’s something in your water, maybe we should all be drinking Farnham water. Birgit, what are your thoughts on this?


Birgit  21:47  

Well, I mean, in Berlin, there’s, I mean, definitely international community. There are a lot of startups so it’s a great place to be and our clients they they operate internationally. So when we look at real estate so we operate on [inaudible] but what’s what has really driven our sustainability or ESG market is, this has come from from the UK originally. So the motivation to have a more realistic look at things. This was was driven by our UK clients. So I think the combination of our consultancy and the location Berlin, London, I mean, this is just ideal, I think, and then we go from there. So, I don’t know what the future will bring but at the moment, there’s a lot to do both in Germany and the UK and I think [inaudble].


Will  22:57  

And Ingemar, with your I’d like to explore with your contractors hat on and your consultancy hat because you’ve actually been both purchaser and consultant in some for want of a better way of explaining it. How do you, I’d love to know because you’re now working, you work in a consultancy and work with Russ, who works in the UK. We in the UK look at Germany as one of the leading environmental countries, I think in the world really. And I’m just curious with where you feel that Elodie can go and you know, using that experience and


Ingemar  23:58  

Well, it’s a hard one, but I would give it a try. So, one has come across both worlds actually is, is again, so we come back to this bit is, is the continuous storytelling in a positive way. So wherever I’ve been, it’s always very important to get the people on board and to get the momentum started. So it doesn’t really matter on which side of the table you’re sitting. You just have to manage the momentum problem properly. So and that’s probably the core and that’s why the storytelling bit has such high importance to Elodie. And when when we take this and now I would move it over to maybe a geographical question you had [inaudible] Birgit, I think it’s very important, whoever the client is or the collaborator, if you will. I think we are more than willing to go wherever it takes us. And that has been my my experience, especially in the US, to be honest, there I’ve worked for companies who mainly started setting up offices or business areas, wherever their clients went. And that was quite a smart move to be honest and it managed to keep this this momentum up because it created this feeling of achieving something together, really. So this is why I’m not like, really restrictive when it comes to geography. But and that’s maybe the third part of the question, seeing Germany as one of the leaders in sustainable development worldwide, maybe going through Europe, working together with a lot of people in the US, especially in the last two years again. Yeah, people outside Germany might think that but there are developments in other countries which, which go way beyond what we are doing in Germany. And sometimes the Germans don’t realize that which is kind of interesting. So for example, just you in the UK, you started very early with having a CO2 tax in the build environment. In Germany, we are very far away from that. So this is just a tiny example. So I wouldn’t consider the German market being the leader when it comes to sustainability. Yes, we’ve done a lot. But it seems that we have taken kind of a break and and others are picking up which is which is good because others have new ideas. And then it would be very fruitful, like to combine these ideas with the experience we’ve been having. So it’s gonna be an exciting journey, I guess.


Will  26:56  

Good at marketing and communications by the sounds of it [laughs] Is there anything more that you’d like to add Russ on what we’ve been discussing?


Russ  27:13  

Lots, but you probably haven’t got time for it.


I just really want to say that the, you know, what’s what’s so exciting for me is that with everything going on in the world, and the climate strikes, you know, the galvanization that people like Greta have managed to achieve around the world. It’s a it’s a really exciting time for us doing what we’re doing because every month every year, there are more and more businesses waking up to the fact that actually to operate sustainability sustainably, and to be as sustainable as possible is about far much more than say, you know, their energy usage or you know, their waste management. And it’s a it’s so much bigger than that. And people are beginning to realize that, which means that they’re going to need the support of, of consultancies, like, like Elodie. And more and more people are realizing that communications is massively important as well, which is where the blend really happens. And, and in us, you know, the reason I think we’ve got such a great formula is simply because of the three of us and our backgrounds. So in Birgit, we’ve got a massively experienced environmental engineer, in Ingemar we’ve got an architect and climate designer, with extensive experience, and you know, I’m just some guy that does marketing but you know, I’m pretty handy at that as well, so [laughs]


Will  28:43  

Brilliant. Is there anything more that you can, you’d like to add Birgit?


Birgit  28:52  

To me?


Will  28:53  

Yes, yes. Yes. Just wondering if there’s anything you’d like to add.


Birgit  28:58  

Yeah. Not really. Maybe Ingemar can take this, he’s more familiar with your English than I am. I’m always a bit nervous.


Will  29:11  

Your English is coming across incredibly well. So I really wouldn’t worry about that.


Birgit  29:17  

I’m sitting at my kitchen table and I’m sweating


Will  29:21  

If we were conducting this in German, then I’m pretty much it would be a very boring podcast because I wouldn’t be able to speak for a start


Russ  29:33  

I guess before Ingemar jumps in, something else well, I guess I’d like to say is that we’re really excited about our plans for all the different things that we’re we’re now involved in. So we want to do more events. So you know, that might be something that Green Element and Elodie can look at together Will for example, is running an event in collaboration, Ingemar just ran our first event a few weeks ago in Munich. Which was about smart cities. And for our first event, as Elodie, it was a huge success. We had about 40 people in the room, a great panel, which Ingemar was moderating. And we’d like to do more free events like that for building the community and getting like minded people in the same room together. And having really important conversations or not just like minded people, people that maybe see the name of the event, whether it’s smart cities or something different, and simply just want to learn more about it, hence, the education piece. So they’re able to come to free events have a really good, interesting discussion with a panel of experts. And, yeah, we’re really excited about doing more of that more of our own marketing, which will take many different forms over the course of the year. And just getting our names out there really.


Ingemar  30:48  

And touching on that what Russ has said, educational pieces quite important for us. Yes, sure. We have to, you know, run a profitable business, if you will, but in the end, it remains about collaboration. So whatever like we as Elodie, and as the three founders can invest in order to make that work, like starting off with here, free events as an example, we really want to donate our time to, to, to have these discussions and to bring people on board and like to create the momentum we were talking about already. So, you know, it’s a bit of both. But we I think all three of us think the topic is very urgent, and we need to find solutions. So we all have to move together and quickly. So and I think that’s, that’s what makes it so interesting, carrying this Elodie idea forward. Now, on the one hand, we all have to buy our bread, but on the other hand, you know, we need to act and interact together. So it’s going to be exciting.


Will  31:50  

Well, thank you all so much for being on today. It’s been really interesting, and I think actually really useful to understand more about Elodie and who you are. One thing we didn’t touch upon actually, which is and Russ, you’ll be able to explain more is where Elodie came from because it’s actually it’s a rather unique story that you guys have come up with. And it’s quite a sweet story and I think that finishing on that would be quite a lovely little finisher


Ingemar  32:26  

Tell the truth Russ [laughs]


Russ  32:29  

Yeah, I will because so people can find the truth on our website so I better I better not lie so, it’s kind of a sweet story with a darker side to it. But in so, how did we come up with Elodie so in our discussions, we knew that in wanting to create a radically different consultancy, everything about us had to be radically different as well in terms of our name, our visual branding and stuff so, I please do check out iamelodie.com so that you can see our logo and our branding, but the name came about through the sense of urgency of what we need to do to tackle the climate crisis, and how it essentially boils down to the fact that it is a life or death situation. So we were playing with lots of different names. I won’t go through some of the ones we came up with now. But basically, when we started exploring the idea of urgency in life for death broke down into the letters L O D. And then the name Elodie, which is a very common French girl’s name, sprung to life and we suddenly love this incredible contrast of the name of a young French girl representing innocence and youth contrasted with the life or death situation that we’re facing with the climate crisis. And before we knew it Elodie was born and then it snowballed from there in terms of our branding, so Elodie and the little girl herself is our brand, so she is our brand. That’s why we are iamelodie.com and that’s why our social handles are elodies_story, because it’s all about a young girl growing up exploring the world around her realizing the dire state that we’re in environmentally, so, plastic oceans, toxic air, burning forests, etc. And we fell in love with it very quickly. And then when we were working with our partner agency, when we were exploring our branding, you know, we came up with this with this graffiti style that you see on the website. And before we knew we had, we had our brand. So that is, in a nutshell, that’s the background of how Elodie, the name came to be.


Will  34:40  

Awesome. Yeah, no, it’s really, really interesting listening to you guys and talking to you all. Thank you so much for being on the show. And I wish you all the best in the future. And I hope that Elodie goes from strength to strength and hopefully we can work together in the future and I will certainly be talking about what it is that you’re doing, because I think it is unique. And I think it is also not necessarily only unique, it’s actually really important to be doing what you’re doing. So thank you for that.


Russ  35:12  

Thanks for having us Will.


Will  35:15  

Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode of the green element podcast. Do take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues to rate and review the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. I’d love to know what has been your biggest takeaway from this conversation? What are you going to do differently? Please share your thoughts across social media and tag us so we can see them too @ge_podcast. For links and show notes for this episode, visit our website greenelementco.uk/podcast. Thank you again. I hope you’ll join me on the next episode and together we can help create a better world

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