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Celebrating Earth Month with our climate partner, Inhabit: Here’s their story and some tips they’ve picked up along the way

CEO of Climate Strategy Agency, Inhabit, Cameron Epstein: ‘There is no Chief Save The Grandchildren Officer in businesses’

This Earth Day (22 April 2024), we’re celebrating our partners Inhabit. Here’s their story and some useful tips they’ve picked up along the way.

In 2018, Cameron Epstein and his brother-in-law Sam McKay, both coders, watched Blue Planet together and found themselves riled by the problems they saw. Inspired to learn more, they discovered that the majority of our negative impact on the planet actually comes from businesses. And while, at the time, some of the world’s largest organisations had some strategies and regulations in place, for small businesses there was little or no support. As over 99% of businesses are SMEs this presented a huge problem but also a huge opportunity.

Last year we partnered with Inhabit to develop The Clearing’s climate strategy. We’re working together to become net zero by 2031. As April is Earth month, we sat down with CEO and co-founder Cameron Epstein to learn more about the journey they’ve been on and what they’ve learnt along the way.

- This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity –

 

To start us off, can you tell us a bit about what you do at Inhabit?
Yes, we build watertight climate strategies for the build and branding and design industries. We’re the climate strategy partners for branding and design agencies like yourselves, D&AD, UsTwo, and product designers like RaspberryPi, and architects and building developers like Studio Egret West and BDG.

Our climate experts Dom Clarke, Zuzana Spicova and Ed Bale have developed carbon strategies for Ikea, M&S and ITV. Now, working together, we’re applying their knowledge and experience to SMEs that want to follow suit and build industry-leading carbon reduction strategies.

It’s a really exciting time for us because people are really waking up to the need for climate strategies and businesses know they need to act now. It’s absolutely on the radar for bigger businesses and they in turn will be looking to suppliers and partners with strategies in place – so it’s a real growth opportunity for them too.

In your opinion what makes a good climate strategy?
A climate strategy is about understanding your impact on the environment in real detail and having a plan to either reduce or improve your impact.

A good climate strategy, in our opinion, is about decarbonising your business and reducing your impact. That’s the most important part. It’s about taking steps to generate less carbon in the first place - rather than focusing on offsetting what your company creates to neutralise the impact.

There are three aspects to a really good climate strategy. The first is individuality. A good strategy isn’t developed using a cookie cutter approach - it needs to fit the business it’s for, and that starts by understanding the business, its drivers, goals, and the people within it. The second is education - helping people within the businesses understand what they’re doing and get them excited about it. And the third is climate science. Because it needs to be built on robust frameworks that comply with regulations and are going to work long term.

Unfortunately, there are lots of strategies out there that aren’t fully understood by the people within the organisation, and plenty of carbon measurements that don’t comply with GHG protocol, which means it’s easy for businesses to accidentally make claims that sound good but aren’t actually making a meaningful difference to the climate.

What’s your process for creating a good climate strategy?
What we do differently to others, is we like to partner particularly closely with our clients. We like to talk to people across the business, especially the people who have opinions – good and bad – about climate strategies. This gives us an understanding not only of their business goals, drivers and operational complexities, but also their appetite to make changes and stay on top of targets. We use this insight to build a realistic climate strategy that complies with regulation but also - more importantly - actually decarbonises their business and improves their bottom line through the process.

The whole process typically takes about four months from the first conversation to getting to a carbon reduction strategy – but it does vary across businesses. After the initial conversations, most of the work lies in data collection and supply chain engagement (which we do), and there’s also about 12-15 hours of work on their side. Then we keep iterating until everyone is comfortable with the plan.

Do you have any advice or tips to get started for people reading this?
My advice is to get started by talking to well-versed climate strategists or scientists and just asking them a bunch of questions before you get too bogged down – we offer this and it doesn’t cost anything. It is possible to do some research yourself, but the landscape is pretty complicated, and it can take hours if not days to get your head into it and to find information that’s actually relevant for your business. People have difficulty with different terminology and can get tripped up by it, so it’s much easier, and more enjoyable to start with by chatting to a professional.

It’s important not to just push the problem out to the wider team, but to really think about what drives the people within your team on a day-to-day basis at work and then think about how a climate strategy might help them achieve their goals. That tends to be an easier way to engage people in this – because there is no ‘Chief Save the Grandchildren Officer’ so just saying it’s the right thing to do unfortunately doesn’t always motivate people enough.

We also want to reassure people that developing a climate strategy doesn’t have to be a painful process, it’s a journey of momentum and progress and not about perfection. It’s always better to just get started and take steps – even if they’re small at first – than do nothing at all.

So, if you’re interested or ready to take those first steps towards a climate strategy, get in touch with Inhabit who we can highly recommend, or speak to us and we can tell you about our own first-hand experience.