S2E18 - Lauren Wiseman, Environmental Manager at WWF UK
Lauren Wiseman is the environmental manager at WWF UK. In this episode, Lauren shares her experience managing a 350 people UK offices to walk the talk to be more sustainable.
- Living Planet Center in Woking, Surrey
- How they have implemented a sustainable travel policy with a strict carbon budget
- Suffering from climate anxiety and climate depression
- The True Cost – documentary of fast fashion
- Ellen MacArthur foundation estimate that the environmental cost of the fast fashion industry, so the greenhouse gas emissions in total is larger than all of the shipping and air travel combined on this planet.
- Red Inc – sustainable stationery supplier
- How to transition into plastics free by 2020
Intro: (00:08) 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 guest today and help you on your journey of sustainability.
Will: (00:28) Lauren, thank you so much for joining the green element podcast. I am looking forward to hearing all about what it is that you do at WWF and how you are greening up the most environmental charity?
Lauren: (00:43) Yeah, well I don’t know, we’d probably get some criticism for organizations like Greenpeace or Friends Of The Earth. So not going to thread on anyone’s toes, but we are the world’s leading conservation organization. That’s our job title to the organization. Yeah, we’re active in almost a hundred countries globally, so that’s under the WWF name and I work for WWF UK, which is a independent organization. So it’s an organization in its own right, but we also still operate under the WWF names. So once a year we report into our the WWF parent company, um, well parent charity. But it also gives us autonomy to develop our own programs, to set our own goals, monitor our own targets. And it also allows roles like mine to exist. So my role is environmental manager and I’m responsible for making sure that we are walking the talk and practicing what we’re preaching essentially. Um, we all know that WWF is really great at going around the world and trying to stop deforestation, trying to protect vulnerable species and species on a danger of extinction.
Lauren: (02:01) And that we’re also good at pressuring businesses, but it’d be very hypocritical if we were then funding a load of fossil fuels and buying unsustainable paper and pumping a lot of plastic into the ocean. So my role is to monitor all of our environmental impacts like water, waste, energy, carbon emissions, procurement plastics, um, all of those. And yeah, make sure that we’re doing the best that we can. Um, because we are a larger office compared to some of the WWF offices around the world. Um, so we have about 350 staff at WWF UK, so it makes it a bit more prominent for my role to, to exist. And we get a little sort of, um, pressure for them from the public and also from the press and, and other organizations expecting us to do the best and to be doing the right things.
Will: (02:48) You also are in a very cool sustainable building, aren’t you? Come and visit as well, I believe and have a look and see how you run the building.
Lauren: (03:00) Yes they can. You should work in the sales for our building. We are, our headquarters is the Living Planet Center in Woking in Surrey. It is quite a large building and as you say, it’s open to the public to come into. Um, we have a visitor’s experience which is open Monday to Friday, nine to five, which anyone can come in between those hours and access. And it has these four pods which people can explore and they’ve got touch pads and there’s a quiz and they can learn all about WWF and the issues that are being experienced around the world. So the four pods are freshwater forests, oceans and wildlife. So you can learn about those. But we also have a school classroom. So if there’s anyone listening that knows people in particularly primary schools, I’m also open to sort of secondary age level. We’re trying to expand into that age bracket now because there’s a lot of teenagers that care about the planet and want to do something.
Lauren: (03:56) So previously we’ve been focused on primary aged children, um, but we run a variety of different workshops and they’ve all got, they’re all designed with the national curriculum. So there’s educational value if you do come along and have some playtime. And then we also have this, we do public tours of the whole building, so we have our sort of desk spaces and meeting rooms and we hire those out as well. So just seen in the calendar. Do you know Ted talks? So Ted have Ted X Woking. That always happens in our building. So we hosted them in December. Yeah. So it’s a big auditorium space, which is available for hire if anyone wants to use that. And we can also do tours and things. But yeah, it’s, the building itself is amazing. I really love this building. I’m very passionate about it and trying to encourage people to learn about it, to appreciate it, and to also raise awareness with external people to get some ideas for how they can take things away and implement them in their own buildings. So we’ve got like rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, FSC certified wood and engineered timber in the construction. And we’ve got solar panels, ground source, heat pumps, natural ventilation, all these fancy, fancy things.
Will: (05:08) That’s perfect. And would you say that you are doing, and not you, but WWF to take, taking control, managing their environmental impacts? Um, is it the building and because of everything else, right?
Lauren: (05:19) Yeah, I think so. When I first came into this role, I didn’t fully know what we were doing as an organization. I knew that we were doing well, but I didn’t fully appreciate some of the things which now I’ve come to have as a job. Obviously I’ve learned more and appreciated more of that. Just how much effort and thought and time and dedication goes into making sure that we are doing as best as we can and that we are monitoring every single little impact. And that we are striving to be ahead of the game and to be leading the way in terms of monitoring, reducing all of our impacts and making sure that we’re doing right by the planet. So I think the best thing that we do at the moment is probably travel. So we get a lot of interests from external organizations asking how do you monitor your travel?
Lauren: (06:11) Do you have a travel policy? What are you doing about your carbon emissions? And we have, so first of all, we have a sustainable travel policy. So it’s very extensive. And for some people who come from the private industries, private sector, they can find it like being thrown in the deep end in a little way. So they come from private organizations where they’ve been able to fly and then they come here and it’s like, no, sorry, you’ve got to get a train for most of your journeys. So we say within great Britain you have to take public transport as new flights. Um, but we will make certain exceptions. If your journey time to like a remote Scottish Island is going to be about 20 hours or something, then we’ll make some exceptions. So there, there is always flexibility but in general, no flights within Great Britain.
Lauren: (06:57) If the Eurostar exists in the destination where you’re going, you have to take years thought there and back. If you’re going into Europe from departure to destination, if your journey time is six hours, you have to take the train there and back. If it’s 10 hours you have to take the train one way. But we always give people the option to take it both ways if they like. And then also it includes our head office in Switzerland, in Geneva, which is about 11 hours. But because it’s all head office you have to take the train at least one way. And we have a strict carbon budget as well. So each year we set a limit, an upper limit on how much carbon we’re going to be producing as an organization for that year and we reduce it year on year. It’s based on sort of an average baseline from our previous strategy period.
Lauren: (07:40) And then we’ll reduce it depending on what we think is achievable and also our ambitions where we’re trying to get to. So online on our website we have a, an environmental page which contains all of this information. If people want to find it later, I’ll give you a link you can put up in the notes. But in our goals we say what our carbon target is for the strategy period. So currently it’s 286 tons of CO2 equivalent. And for this year our carbon budget is about 330 tons. So we’re trying to work down across the strategy period to achieve that. And so each year we’ll set a different target.
Will: (08:20) And you’ve been working on that carbon budget for quite a few years now, haven’t you? Do you know how many years it’s been?
Lauren: (08:25) The first carbon budget I think was set in 2012. Yeah. And so what’s that?
Will: (08:41) Yeah, I know that we’ve had a budget
Lauren: (08:48) At least from then. I don’t know if it was before then, but, um, so each year when I’m doing my calculations and doing our environmental reporting, which also goes up on our website and is publicly available to download. So when I’m trying to figure out how much carbon we’ve used for our air travel, I have a historic sort of spreadsheet with all of our previous dates are on there. But with changes in systems where we move over, we’ve moved over to be digital now. Um, there are some records like from quite a while ago that like a miss. So occasionally I find odd records in drawers and things and I can figure out, Oh, we used to have a budget for that back in the day, or I know copies of our procurement policy or something. So, yeah, definitely from 2012 maybe earlier, but we’ll go with that.
Lauren: (09:33) So forward thinking, or do you find that carbon budgeting works for you? Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think although you can sometimes have hesitations from staff, particularly programmatic staff who really do need to travel, and I completely appreciate that there is a need to be traveling. Like sometimes you have to get out in the field to make sure that the programmatic work is happening the way that you want it to be happening, to liaise with colleagues, to go and research the animals, to be able to be there in the field that’s completely understand that and also that people need to network. People need to be at these important events like the General Assembly with UN and other important events throughout the year. But at the same time I think there’s a fine line between going and being necessary and having a presence there between also having too many people going to certain events and every time you are in another country when you’re from the UK, you’re automatically going to be looked at as well.
Lauren: (10:36) WWF UK have sent someone here and so you’re going to have to justify your being there and taking that travel because we know that carbon emissions from air travel is a huge portion of well off global carbon emissions and also causing climate change. It’s an action that we’re directly taking that has a consequence, so we should justify it and we should be frugal and really be analyzing it and assessing whether it is necessary to travel. So when we are budgeting in the beginning of the year, we do have kickback from some staff that are saying, well, this is a really tight budget. We might not be able to take all the trips that we need to take, but every year there’s always that hesitation at the beginning because people think, Oh, I’m going to need to travel here, I’m going to need to travel there. But then by the end they’ve thought about it.
Lauren: (11:24) They’ve actually cut down on the amount of travel they’re taking and for several years we have come in under budget. So it’s always a case of people are really hesitant at the beginning and don’t want to be impacted, but at the end of the day, it’ll balance out as long as we’re all being frugal and we’ll have enough carbon to go around. But I think it’s really important for us to be setting that example and saying to people, you can run a business and you can travel around the world, but just be sensible about it and be thinking about it.
Will: (11:54) Um, do you set those budgets departments or is it across the organization?
Lauren: (11:57) Yeah, so we set one carbon budget for the whole organization and then we split it out by department. And so our executive directors are responsible for liaising with the heads, the unit directors, the people in their teams to manage their own budget. So each department has their own budget spreadsheet, they have a list of forecasted flights that they’re going to be taking throughout the year, and then it’s the responsibility to work with their PA or the support admin person to manage that budget to make sure that they’re always keeping on top of, okay, well we’ve gone in, we’ve spent like four months of the year so far. Where are we up to with our carbon budget? How much have we got left? Okay, well this person can go on that trip. That person’s not going to go there. We’ll cut that out. We’ll make space for this and just buying into the process. I think the issues can arise when people don’t monitor it throughout the year or don’t take an active interest because we’re all working together to make sure that we’re achieving this, this change and reducing our impact. So it requires everyone to be invested in that process and to be monitoring it and making sure that it’s up to date and that they know how much carbon they have left to use throughout the year.
Will: (13:11) Cool. I mean, you guys do so much from listening to you and one of the reasons why we really wanted you to come onto the show is to talk about, you know, everything that you’re doing. What I was really worried about before this was missing off stuff. Right. I’ve got to remember tomorrow, but that just goes to show and be great to try and explore some of the things that you had fashion week
Lauren: (13:39) Yeah. Yep. So last year around, I think it was about October, November time, I think it was October. Yeah. Last year. Um, we had a screening of the documentary, the True Costs. So a lot of the time it happens because I watch Netflix and I just love what she got commentary’s so other brands are available. I sit there at home and I watch all these documentaries and I’m like, how can I get this to happen at work? So I watched the True Cost and then we had a screening at work and then we decided to do a closed swap shop. So people brought in good quality clothes like you have to stress please, no holes and nothing that’s soiled or dirty or any of that bring them in. Everyone got given a little token, which was just a little scrap of paper. So I’ve got a little press cut holes out paper with, so you get one coupon per piece of clothing and then at 12 o’clock we put it all off on rails and on tables downstairs.
Lauren: (14:41) And there was a good mixture of both male and female clothing, but also children’s clothing, accessories, shoes, random bits and pieces. So put it all up there. And then at 12, anyone could come over and exchange a coupon for any item. So basically everything’s free. And then, um, anyone who didn’t have any coupons could either make a donation to WWF or at the end of the day it was just like a free for all when there was stuff left over. Um, but the idea being to encourage people to swap clothes or to try and buy secondhand and to reuse clothing rather than keep buying clothes constantly because there’s a lot of, particularly this year, a lot of awareness and media about the environmental impact of clothing and just how harmful it is. I think I was reading ethical consumer last night and they said the Ellen MacArthur foundation estimate that the environmental cost of the fast fashion industry, so the greenhouse gas emissions in total is larger than all of the shipping and air travel combined on this planet.
Lauren: (15:46) And I was like, that’s crazy. That’s massive. But it kind of goes under the radar. So yes. So that’s one of the things we decided to do last year. Um, and this year we’ve got Christmas coming up. And as part of that, we want to encourage people to have a more sustainable Christmas. So we’re going to be running some make and personalize your own things in our auditorium for staff to make, can personalize their own gifts. But as part of that, we’re also going to do a Christmas gift swap. So if you have a new thing that’s in good condition or an unwanted gift that’s kicking about that someone else could re gift for Christmas, then come along, exchange, take those away.
Will: (16:25) That’s brilliant. That’s great. Do you ever switch off? Do you have
Lauren: (16:30) no, it’s, it’s all the time. It’s one of those things. Is it both a blessing and a curse though? Because you know that phrase of once you’ve seen it, it can’t be unseen. So wherever I go, like even if it’s just out with friends and you’re going to a coffee shop or something and you see a straw or you see like disposable cutlery and it’s like, ah, you can’t escape it.
Will: (16:59) I’ve just tried to pull in. I mean some things are just kind of random and that you’ve got your food waste and what you’re trying to do with food waste. It’d be interesting to explore that and how your expense system and what happens there. So in general, we try and order less catering than people have requested. That’s the first step to prevent the waste in the first place. People will have a 70 person event and order catering for 70 and we’ll say to them you’ll need between like 55 to 60 cause at a certain level there’s just so much food and not everyone’s going to eat it.
Lauren: (18:28) So why reduce the numbers in the first place. We’ll then also try and encourage people if they want to take any food we can provide containers and things and then if not we just give it away to staff and we put it in our staff communal area and it gets hoovered up by everyone cause we are a bunch of gannets and we’ve also got a whole cupboards and drawers full of Tupperware containers, plastic pots, glass jars, tins if anyone wants to take it home or share it with others. We’re also talking to the local homeless shelter to try and give some of the leftover food, particularly if we know we’re going to have a big event. Trying to give it to them so that someone can come in and connect to it and share it out rather than giving it to staff who’ve probably already, and then risk at throwing it in the bin as well.
Lauren: (19:13) So our catering policy at WWF is that we will never serve meat. We have to have minimum 50% vegan all the time and that’s a minimum. So you could have a hundred percent vegan if you really wanted. And then the other 50% should be vegetarian. So that’s sort of a maximum of 50% vegetarian, minimum, 50% vegan. If you have approval from executive director, you can have the occasional bit of fish provided at sustainably source that we have a lot of rules and regulations on sustainably sourcing food like free range eggs must be RSBC assured and MSC fish and all of that. And that’s what we use internally for meetings and events. We also try and encourage external hires to follow that policy too. But we do find mostly people are getting more and more on board with that policy, but you still will get the odd event where they, they’re flabbergasted that they can’t have meat so they insist on having seafood.
Lauren: (20:13) So we’ve done our best to try and encourage them, but at some point if they are paying to hire, then yeah, we’ll try and find a middle ground with them. So we’re going to have in towards the end of October, we’ve got a food week happening at WWF. So we, one of our big areas that we work on, so we work on habitats and species, we work on climate change and energy, but we also work on food. So our food team are trying to spread awareness of the work that we do around the world and what sort of things we’re trying to achieve. I’m trying to make happen. And then as part of that, we want to try and encourage people to have more sustainable diets. We don’t want everyone to be vegan and like, I don’t want to be, I’m representing this in the wrong way. No one should ever eat meat ever. I know there’s some people who do think that way, but to achieve what we want to achieve, like it just sort of switches a lot of people off. The minute you start saying you can’t eat me. So all we want is people to reduce their intake, like eat meat maybe once a week, chicken a couple of times a week or even less, but eat better quality. So thinking about it a bit more. So yeah, we’re trying to do a softly, softly approach and get people on board with the messaging and just trying to think more about sustainable diets and what that actually means for them. And when they’re traveling on business and representing the brand.
Will: (22:30) And you talked about procurement policy, does that have sustainable elements of it as it as I could put an inverted commerce aggressive as the travel policy.
Lauren: (22:43) It’s not aggressive
Will: (22:47) and that’s what I played into those comments. I don’t really know how to describe it otherwise, you know, environmentally forward thinking.
Lauren: (22:54) Yeah. So the procurement policy is environmental, so it’s technically called the environmental procurement policy. That was one of the things I changed last year. So prior to 2018 it was called the environmental procurement guidelines. So just a guideline, just something that with suggested things that you can follow. And I felt that that wasn’t in keeping with WWF and what we’re trying to achieve. Um, so last year I asked for permission to turn into a policy and that was granted. So it is now a policy and inside it, it sets out what we can do, what we can’t do well can and can’t purchase or procure and what we should be looking for. And every year I update it with our internal and external experts. So if anyone ever wants to see that or wants a copy or whatever or wants to share information, I’m more than happy to share and love sharing. Sharing is caring.
Lauren: (23:50) Yeah, please contact me. Um, but in it, yeah, we set out all these rules and sometimes I think they can be perceived as restrictive and sort of prohibitive to getting things done. Um, particularly for our retail team who are trying to sell things on the shop and make money for WWF. And sometimes it can be difficult to source products that meet all of our criteria, but the criteria are set with good reasoning behind them. Yeah, there’s a lot of you can and you can’t, but at the end of the day there is reasoning as to why. So it’s not just setting these rules for no reason. There is a genuine good reason behind them. Um, but what we can do is permit exceptions. So for items that meet Lowe’s, the other criteria, but maybe they don’t meet one of the criteria, they can bring them to me and I can approve them if it’s a sort of low to medium level risk.
Lauren: (24:51) And then if it’s a sort of high risk product, but it’s meeting other things and it’s almost great, but there’s one element of it that’s not quite so great, but it would be risky to sell it, then we can take it to a group of executive directors and um, discuss it together and try and find a solution to that. So there are always ways to work with it. It’s not just a bunch of rules that are in place that stop you from being able to do what you need to do. And I also personally really believe in it and with a lot of things that I do, I’m very passionate about them. So, and I know all the work that’s gone into setting those conditions. So I will always make time for any staff members who are having trouble sourcing something or trying to find the best compromise for a particular product or service. So I’m always trying to make them work and we’ll do stop at nothing to find a solution.
Will: (25:46) It’s brilliant. It’s brilliant. I know I’m just kind of just taking everything in and I’m thinking about next questions. Would you say that running such a tight ship, so ethically and sustainably, what would you say your biggest struggle so far has been? And can you tell us a bit about how you’ve overcome it?
Lauren: (26:11) Yeah, sure. So I think for me the biggest struggle has been trying to convince people of the urgency to do the right thing. So, particularly people who know about the climate emergency and read and understand and know what’s happening to our world and with the climate emergency and the level of warming that we’re headed on, the trajectory that we’re headed on and what that for those of us who appreciate that, we know that there’s such a tiny amount of time left to change that trajectory and to put us on the right course. And as Gretta Thunburg rightly pointed out this week, um, people are dying and it’s only going to continue. And the fact that we are in such a privileged position and we’re so comfortable living our lives when other people around the world are suffering. So that’s all happening and that’s at the back of my mind all the time.
Lauren: (27:15) And so when I’m trying to get a change put through or trying to change a system or convince people to change business practices or outlooks or ways of living that they’ve had for five, 10, 15, 50 years, that can be very difficult because trying to change behaviors, trying to change minds, it’s a slow process. And not a lot of people like change. But then at the same time you have the knowledge that there is no time to wait for people to be patient with people and to explain and to wait for them to come on board. You really need to get them on board. So trying to balance those two things and explain to pupil, well, when you have natural ventilation in our building for this reason, we can’t just have a load of air conditioning units. That’s not really great for the pioneer. And they’re just sort of looking at me with like, well why not?
Lauren: (28:09) Because it’s just so much easier if we had a thermostat and we could bang on a load of air conditioning. And it’s like, well no, because that has a huge environmental impact and we’re trying to be going forward rather than backwards. So trying to be diplomatic whilst also understanding that there is this ticking clock above your head and that there is no time to lose. It can be a very difficult thing to balance. Um, I think as well because I’m so passionate and it’s difficult to switch off. I’m always thinking about the environment and the planet in ways that can improve not just how we’re working, but try and inspire people that I work with to personally change their lives. And I think it can sometimes get you down and wear you down in a way. And there was a fantastic article in the IEMA magazine.
Lauren: (28:58) Do you get that transform a couple of months ago where they were talking about climate anxiety, climate anxiety, yeah. Climate depression. And they were saying, yeah, that with all the news and the media and all these reports that you read and just knowledge and awareness. Like I said, once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it and you know, okay, well I need to drive to this destination cause there’s no public transport. And the minute you get in the car you think, Oh my God, these emissions are going to kill someone. And it’s always there and grinding you down. And even with the Greta Thunberg’s amazing speech this week, just look at the comments. Just look at the things on Twitter. Look at the journalists, the adults writing in the newspapers and dismissing her as a mentally ill child or some naive little girl who doesn’t know anything about economics. And it’s just like you’ve missed the point so far and these are the people that have power and they just, they still won’t listen and they still won’t change. And it just can really weigh you down because you realize, yeah, yeah. I’m trying to be optimistic when all around you, you just know that the reality is pessimistic is yeah, it can be hard and wear you down, but I really have to try and stay positive.
Will: (30:14) I had dinner last night and I sat next door to this, um, woman. I’m, I kind of started off the evening and actually, you know me, I’m not a negative person for some insane reason, I decided I just started becoming ready. Hello. No, the world is nice and this poor woman was sitting there and I was just like, I didn’t what I was saying. I’m like, man, I’m coming across really negative at the moment. I can recognize in myself. You know what? Honestly, I’m actually not positive, but to be honest with you, for some reason over the last couple of weeks I’ve just been thinking about things and I’m starting to kind of worry a bit more. And I guess it was up 10 are all about climate action and what we can do in environment and how the Scottish government, are try to move things forward. So we had a colleague of yours that didn’t table. Robin and I guess yeah, it’s remaining optimistic isn’t it?
Will: (31:08) Because actually you can’t get yourself down and you can’t because that’s not going to help anyone or do anything be as environmental and sustainable professionals have to be continuously going. We can do it, we get that, we can reduce that, we can help with this, we can, you know, et cetera, et cetera. And I think that’s really important. And I do worry about climate anxiety cause I get it having, I’ve never suffered from it before to be honest with you. And I couldn’t sleep the other night. And I texted a mutual friend of ours, Adam from Junxion and about literally 4:30 in the morning, quite a long text. Cause I knew these understandings just not sound like me. But
Lauren: (31:55) yeah. And it comes in source. It goes in like cycles as well. It’s like sometimes you’ll be feeling so good and so up and so positive like yes we can make this happen. Something great has happened. We can really change things. And then the next minute you’ll realize, Oh what is even the point? Cause there’s people like, like when Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement and it’s like, Oh great, well that goes that well what’s the point? And so, yeah, exactly. So it’s all a big balancing act isn’t it? And sometimes it can be really hard to keep perspective and stay positive and to try and be optimistic I think. I think as well, for those of us who are passionate about sustainability and environmental impacts and issues around the planet, a lot of our friends and family look to us for information, for guidance to be doing the right thing. And we are all kind of influential and we inspire people just by doing these right things and these sort of good environmental things. And so when, if we are seen to be being negative or being pessimistic, then it’s like, Oh well clearly there’s no hope. Cause if they’re being negative then what chance do I have? And and so it’s like you’ve got to stay positive for them as well.
Will: (33:11) Yeah. It’s funny. It’s funny, I listened to, I think I listened to myself and then I listened to the podcast or think about the past that I’ve done and the amount of inspiring people like yourselves I have spoken to and listened to and realize that there’s so much going on. That’s actually what brings me out of it is actually, you know what, there’s an awful lot of people out there that are not being talked about but also aren’t shouting about what they’re doing. Well, they’re just quietly just getting on with things. That’s actually, I mean they are the people that scientists cannot measure I because they’re just getting on with things. And I think there’s an awful lot more people doing that than we recognize and know because I don’t think we do shout and not all the good stuff.
Lauren: (34:02) Yeah. I think that’s always what surprises me at work. So I do a lot to try and encourage people to be, to think environmentally and to live sustainably personally. But there’s no way I can sort of go around and quantify that or like ask people, Hey, like what are you doing at home? As much as I’d like to, um, when some really random person comes up to me in the kitchen and says, Oh, Hey, I’m just going to take this Tupperware container that I’ve got out of the bin and I’ve washed, I’m just going to take that into town and have it filled up with some pasta so I don’t have to get a disposable box and it’s someone I would never in a million years would be doing that. It’s just so inspiring and so it makes me so happy because it’s like, Oh my gosh, this person, you’re amazing.
Lauren: (34:55) Try not to scare them too much. Um, Oh, I also wanted to say that when I last saw you, you passed on information about Adam from Red Ink, the stationary company. And that was an example of something where I was feeling really doom and gloom before. And then I had this amazing meeting with him. So we’ve just signed a three year contract with Red Ink. Very, very happy with them. It’s such a refreshing change to have a green stationary company that actually gets it and is actually practicing what they preach and walking the talk. And it aligns so well with WWF. So after we’d have this big chat and I showed them around the building and just left feeling so happy, like things can change and all it takes someone to stop doing things. The old and an old fashioned way, like, Oh, we’ll just put up with this stationary company because they’re a little bit green, but they can’t really achieve much change. And that’s just the way it is. Well, there’s no space for that anymore. Just change it and try and find something better. And so the minute we’ve done that is better for our business, it’s better for our wallets. It’s better for the planet. It’s like just makes sense. So much sense.
Will: (36:03) And plastic free. Trying to push them said reminded me, because I questioned, I’m friends with the guy that used to own walls Greenwells Toby who’s now ops director for IEMA. And I, and I don’t mind me saying this, I, um, a questions that plastic free. They, because I said they’re not really plastic free. Are they [inaudible] Adam about it? And he said yes, because they do, they take off acting, don’t they floor, they give you all the station and they actually send it across in the most sustainable fashion and you only get it, um, you know, you only get certain deliveries and, and I suppose for speaking solely about, and he said it’s absolutely brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Because what he’s done is he is able to take all of the packaging and recycle it, all the rights, waste streams and that’s the most important parts of that thing. And that’s the reason why he’s doing it. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I hadn’t actually thought about and possibly had but hadn’t put together big myself. I’m very much too stupid. But what else are you doing to be plastic free? Yeah,
Lauren: (37:18) So as an organization, WWF have made a commitment that by 2020 will be single use plastic free for all avoidable single use plastics in our products, operations and supply chain by 2020, which is like three months away. So I’m going to try to get it happening. Um, we’ve made some really great changes. So we’ve done simple things like getting rid of plastic milk bottles because even though they were recyclable and that’s perfectly fine. What we’re trying to aim for is higher up the waste hierarchy, so reducing, reusing before recycling and rotting or throwing away. Um, so we’ve replaced them with glass bottles, which get collected up by the milkman. Milkman comes in electric delivery vehicle. So that kind of makes sense. Although it’s a little bit more expensive, it actually, we’re willing to pay that increased cost because we can make savings elsewhere from something like changing to a plastic free stationary company.
Lauren: (38:17) So it kind of, you have to, when you’re trying to convince organizations to do something green, try and put it forward as if we’re going to offset that cost. It might cost a little bit more, but we can make a saving somewhere else. Um, so I very much tried to do that with our plastics initiative. Um, we’ve changed tea bags, used to come in a huge plastic bag. So we used to buy 1,100 at a time in a big massive bag. And now it comes in a paper bag from Cafe Direct, which is really great, really useful for us. Um, our tea bag rappers and now recyclable, we’ve got rid of individually pacted sugar and sweetness, which no one needs. The planet does not need that. And instead of got sugar cubes or glass jars or paper bags, communications wise, the biggest saving of plastic for the whole organization has been windowed envelopes.
Lauren: (39:12) So on the journey, I’ve had a lot of different suppliers coming to me saying, Oh, but we may call it glass windows out of cornstarch or we use this kind of biodegradable material or blah, blah, blah, blah. And it’s just so unnecessary. So why have that makes material, which is going to have to be separated out. It’s going to have to be processed. It’s just unnecessary when you could have a paper when a paper envelope with no window. So we have, and we send a huge volume of communications. That’s why it equates to the our highest volume of, of plastic waste. Um, so for example, we send out about almost 2.2 million communications, like postal communication. So letters every year. So huge volume. And if you think about that, that’s 2.2 million plastic windows, which is a hell of a lot of rubbish. So yeah, we switched to printing on the envelopes and redesigned all of our communications packs and we have, I think about just under 100,000 left to go.
Lauren: (40:14) And that’s from our fulfillment warehouse. So they haven’t gotten the facility to print onto the windows onto the envelopes and they’re still phasing it out. But by 2020 hopefully we should have achieved that target. We’ll be releasing a report as well available on our website at some point in early next year so people can see how we’ve achieved our journey and where we’ve got to with that. And that has been a big challenge as well. Printing on envelopes because the actual envelopes without windows are cheaper. So we saved money there, but the printing costs to print onto the envelope and then to do matching. So for GDPR you can’t send people’s details to the wrong address. So that also comes with an increased cost, but the two kind of counter balance each other, each other. So yeah, luckily it hasn’t been too much of a cost implication for us from doing that.
Will: (41:05) And because you brought it up and I know that anyone listening would want to understand, you’re sending 2.2 million mails, that does equate to quite a lot of revenue income for you, doesn’t it?
Lauren: (41:19) Yes. Yeah. So
Will: (41:21) me leading that, I already knew that. I really wanted to, just to clarify that because it’s the, I’ve asked you in the past.
Lauren: (41:28) Yeah. So we still get a lot of people ask us on Facebook, on Twitter, social media people ring in or write in and they ask, why are you sending so many unnecessary things in the post? We don’t need all of this. Um, but we do have, whenever anyone takes out an adoption or a membership with us, we make it very clear that they can change their communication preferences. They don’t have to have a cuddly toy. They don’t have to have the updates, they don’t have to receive any magazines. Um, like that would be our preference if everyone just wanted digital communications because we were already making those and sending them out to so many supporters. We do have a lot of young people, so adults will buy, take out a Panda adoption or something for a child and the child wants to sit there and read the little printout and they might not have access to a tablet or a computer or whatever to read that.
Lauren: (42:18) So it’s a popular one for children and also popular one for the elderly too. So we have a lot of sort of retired and older supporters and some of them don’t have the internet. Some of them don’t have computers. They still prefer the written communication. So we might see the in future that does change. And as you say, it’s an important revenue raiser for us. So we always provide the options out there for anyone. If they don’t want to receive any communications, that’s great. That’s fine. We won’t send them. Um, but some people do still prefer that and we have a huge amount of supporters. So 2.1 sounds a lot, but we have more supporters than that so it’s not everyone.
Lauren: (42:58) Is there any advice or learning you’d like to share with us? I was trying to think about this and I was trying to come up with like some wise words from the wise man, but I feel like I’m not quite as staged to have my own pearls of wisdom yet. So my main advice, I’m going to steal Nike’s Just Do It. Yes. It’s pretty cliche and cheesy. It’s an amazing piece of advice if you think about it. And I’ve found that over the last few years while I keep WWF and I know home, whenever I’ve sat there and procrastinated or questioned myself and wondered what’s the right thing to do, am I going in the right direction? Oh, I don’t really know. Should I contact this person? Should I do this? Should I do that? You waste so much time and just endlessly writing it as another thing on your to do list and moving on onto the next week and moving on to the next week.
Lauren: (43:56) Just nothing is getting done and there’s no time to be sitting around waiting right now. So just act on it. Just go ahead and do it and also stop doubting yourself and wondering if it’s the right thing to do. Because you can tell like your gut will tell you if it’s my or if it’s wrong, but go and do it if it’s right, like just stop procrastinating and make those connections. Talk to that person, send that email. Just be proactive and get it done is just has been so much more helpful. And it’s really led to me meeting some great people, making great connections and also having some amazing things like be achieved in not just in our building but outside in my personal life as well. Like it’s just such good advice. So can use that one.
Will: (44:45) And I actually meant to ask this before, what’s the thing that you’ve done that you’re most proud of in your current role?
Lauren: (44:51) Ooh, I think it’s kind of ongoing and it will be summarized by the end of this year and I think it’s been the plastics work. So by 2020, we should be completely plastic, well all avoidable, plastic free. Um, I started off with trying to encourage other people to come on the journey and like working with different teams. And over the two years I’ve been working on it, people have sort of faded out or they’ve done their bit and other often. And that’s been sorted and finished. But largely it’s been my project and something that I’ve been working on, thinking up solutions for and putting the time in to. And that includes weighing plastic. So I made a choice at the beginning about whether I could just do quantity or I could do the volume and the weight as well. Um, and I think that’s more useful when you’re saying to people, okay, well we saved 2 million pieces of plastic.
Lauren: (45:50) Well how big are all those? Will, all of those pieces of plastic at different sizes, different ways, you can’t really compare them. So for me the most useful thing has been to weigh them all, which means that to find the way of a plastic window for an envelope, I had to cuss out 10 windows and put them on a scale until it registered enough weight to be, to be of a type of weight and weight, taking people’s crisp packets out the bin and putting them on a scale and putting a plastic bottles on a scale and just finding out how much everything does way in order to put this report together. So when that comes out next year, hopefully it will be on the website. Everyone can see it and download it and that will be like my piéce de resistance.
Will: (46:37) Brilliant, brilliant. Thank you Lauren. Thank you so much for today. Um, is that a way that we can connect and learn about you more about what you’re doing?
Lauren: (46:46) Yeah. So I’ll give you some links to up. So we have the environmental pages on WWF main website, so you go to about us and then our environmental performance and that takes you to our environmental pages. Um, I’ll give you my email to put up if anyone wants to ever email me. Love talking to new people. Um, so anyone can get in contact. I’m also on Twitter but I don’t really tweet much. I’m a bit of a lurker. Um, yeah, just sit in the shadows, like agreeing with everyone. I’m also on Instagram, which is kind of where I put a lot of things I’m doing. So tips and ideas for being sustainable, sharing information. So yeah.
Will: (47:26) Brilliant. You are an inspiration. Thank you. So for doing what you’re doing and it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, so thank you very much.
Outro: (47:36) Thanks very much. Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode. The green element podcast. Do. Take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues and rate and review the podcast, whatever 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 at GE underscore podcast, the links and show notes for this episode. Visit our website, [inaudible] dot co.uk for slash 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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