Our green journey and the Festival of Sustainable Business

Gordon Mackinnon

Gordon MacKinnon
Specialist Client Director
Financial Services
07594 511339

Ahead of the Festival of Sustainable Business Exhibition this Thursday, we spoke to our Specialist Client Director Gordon MacKinnon, who will be exhibiting at the festival.

Gordon is our financial services specialist, and has consistently championed our commitment to the environment since joining Latcham a year ago. He has presented our webinar on carbon-neutral member communications and featured on a sustainability panel with the Financial Services Forum.

How did you hear about the Festival of Sustainable Business?

I heard about the festival through our Managing Director, Mike Hughes. Mike did an interview with Action Net Zero a few months ago, who are a sustainability organisation local to us in Bristol. They originally approached us to talk about our experience implementing electric vehicles to replace our transport fleet, but the interview ended up being far more wide-reaching. Mike was able to talk about a lot of the things we’ve done to make our facility as carbon neutral as possible, plus share some expertise on making your communications greener and the relative impact of print versus digital. Action Net Zero were promoting the Festival of Sustainable Business, and it seemed like a natural fit for us to exhibit there.

Sending out customer comms, be it print or digital, does not have to be a dirty business.

Last Thursday, you were at the festival’s gala dinner, where Mike presented the Sustainable Buildings Award – could you tell me about that?

We were honoured to present the Sustainable Buildings Award to Snug Homes. It made sense for us to present this award as we’ve done a lot of work on our own facility in terms of upgrades to windows, heating and insulation to make it energy efficient. Snug are a carbon-positive home builder, and a really worthy winner.

 We really enjoyed the opportunity to talk about our own sustainability journey and our local focus, and the chance to speak to other South West businesses who have sustainability high on their agenda. As Mike said in his intro at the dinner – sending out customer comms, be it print or digital, does not have to be a dirty business. We’ve made a lot of positive changes to our organisation, and it’s great to see we’re not alone. 

Mike with award winners SNUG Homes at the Festival of Sustainable Business Gala Dinner

Could you talk a bit more about these positive changes?

We’ve invested in a lot of upgrades to the equipment we use to print – this has produced massive dividends both in terms of energy reduction and replacing microplastic-based inks. Our new Canon i300s use water-based inks, and are far more energy efficient than the printers they replaced.

As well as this, we use both recycled and FSC/PEFC certified paper, and as I mentioned earlier we’ve upgraded our facility and our vehicles to more environmentally friendly options, and switched to a green energy provider to power our facility. There is a huge drive to recycle at our facility too – we recycle 94% of all our waste products, and single use plastics are banned from our facility.

We discovered during this process of reducing our carbon footprint that you really do have to think of everything – how locally your equipment and supplies are procured, where your servers are hosted, how your staff are travelling in and out of work. It isn’t something you can do with half measures – it takes real commitment.

An email can have a lighter footprint than a letter, or a heavier one – which is why simply switching to digital is not the magic bullet that people think it is.

You said customer communications do not have to be a dirty business – what about switching to digital?

I’ve been running webinars on this topic since January, and people who attend are routinely surprised by some of the things we explore in these sessions. Probably the thing that surprises people the most is that digital is not automatically more environmentally friendly than print, and I have to admit I was surprised when I first found this out.

There has been some research into the carbon cost of sending a standard letter. Our research found an average of 26g CO2 equivalent, most of which comes from the transport network used to send it. What this means is the size of the communication sent by mail matters less, as it costs the same in carbon terms to send a small letter or a large mailpack via conventional post.

 However, for emails, there’s a lot of variance, and it depends far more on the size. A simple, transactional email weighs in at just 4g CO2 equivalent, but add any attachments or images, and it rises to 26-50g. As well as this, people send far more emails than they would letters – OVO highlighted the carbon cost of unnecessary emails in their ‘think before you thank’ campaign. So, you can see why it isn’t that simple. An email can have a lighter footprint than a letter, or a heavier one – which is why simply switching to digital is not the magic bullet that people think it is.

We offer both print and digital communication services to our customers, and we try to make both as green as possible. For us, it’s important to be transparent with clients, who often come to us expecting to undergo a digital transformation journey and for that to automatically make everything greener. It isn’t as simple as that!

Gordon will be at the Festival of Sustainable Business Exhibition at the Paintworks, Bristol on the 23rd of June 2022. It is free to attend, and you can register via their website.