In February 2021 the team and I at First Wealth have offset of our scope one and scope two carbon emissions. It has been on our agenda for a long time now, but the project seemed so vast it was almost overwhelming. Though, like with many things, we realised it was easier once we got started. One of the real blockers for us was the lack of credible resources, so we were overjoyed when B Lab released this guide part way through our project, confirming we were on the right track.
We became a B Corp Certified business in August of 2020. We have previously found a lot of initiatives lack detail, but the same cannot be said for the team at B Lab, as their screening and certification process left no leaf unturned. You can read more about our journey to certification here.
We are focused on improving our business and our score for our recertification in 2023. One of our principal areas of focus is improving our environmental score which looks at the impact our business has on the environment both directly and indirectly. As part of the B Corp commitment, we are required to become #NetZero by 2030, but in true First Wealth style we plan to do this much sooner.
Calculating Our Emissions
Our offsetting project commenced by partnering with a stellar organisation, C Level, led by Daren Howarth and a team of experts who helped us to calculate our carbon footprint. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing major disruption to the way we do business, including the closure of our office from February onwards, we chose to calculate our emissions for 2019. This looked at everything from energy suppliers, how the team commute to work, the number of deliveries we receive and our recycling policy (amongst many other metrics).
Reducing the Footprint
Once the data was compiled and sorted, C Level gave us a detailed breakdown of our carbon footprint and areas we could improve on. Some of these were obvious and had already been addressed in the months since, but others were more interesting. It was great to hear our direct emissions, totalling 19.4 tonnes of carbon for the year, were one of the lowest C Level had come across. Direct emissions are emissions from owned or controlled sources, such as office facilities and business travel.
To reduce our carbon footprint, we looked across our business, the suppliers we were working with, and made an action plan to move towards a more sustainable ecosystem. Here are some of the companies we now work with:
- Bulb – Renewable energy suppliers and fellow B Corp
- Docusign – Digital signature software
- Red-Inc – Sustainable office supplies and fellow B Corp
- Sustainable Supermarket – Client gifting
- Who Gives A Crap – Sustainable toilet roll and fellow B Corp.
We also made changes to the way we do business such as moving to a remote based workforce to cut down dramatically the travel our team needs to undertake and eradicating the use of business cards.
Once we were comfortable our reduction was in motion, it was time to offset. As per the recommendation by Daren and the team at C Level, we decided to offset the full 19.4 tonnes by funding tree planting via The CommuniTree Carbon Program in Nicaragua. The program uses reforestation to create long-term income opportunities for farmers in the Central America who are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
It was surprising to learn about the Plan Vivo Standard, as we had originally envisioned planting trees somewhere closer to home. We had been unaware of the requirement to fund an internationally recognised and registered project, but upon learning about their comprehensive approach to tackle climate change and poverty in unison, we needed no further explanation.
“Anthony and his team at First Wealth are great to be collaborating with. Ideas get bounced around, and then decision get made and within no time we are taking action together. They are the first client to embrace ‘Balance My Team’ and encouraged us to get this moving as a way for any business to carbon balance their people who are working from home.” - Daren Howarth, CEO and Founder of C Level.
Mission Complete? Not Quite!
As we have moved to fully remote working since the outbreak of the pandemic, we realised that while the footprint of our business in 2019 is accurate for that period of time, it has become less relevant in 2020 and 2021. After considering this and knowing the precedent we want to set, we decided to go one step further and offset the carbon footprint of each member of our team, using the average emissions for an individual living in the UK. We believe this will become a more common approach to offsetting to help deal with the rise in home working.
The next stage is to consider our scope 3 emissions, the biggie! To do this, we need to calculate and offset our indirect carbon emissions, which for us means the funds and portfolios we invest in on behalf of our clients.
Passing A Good Thing On
Our business has always put our team and our clients at the heart of everything we do. We have introduced a new client programme where we plant thirty trees in the name of every new client who comes onboard. The number thirty is symbolic, as it reminds of us our B Corp commitment to be carbon net zero by 2030, but it also means we are offsetting six tonnes of carbon which is just over the average emissions produced by a UK citizen every year. This replaces the usual welcome gift of branded pens and other useless items with something meaningful, whilst spreading the word about important projects that have the power to make a real difference in tackling the climate change emergency.
There has been a major shift towards ESG (environment, social, governance) and ethical investing in our profession, which is a step in the right direction for us all. Our inhouse experts led by Daniel Evans (Head of Technical Analysts) and Caroline Johnpulle (Technical Analyst), have just finalised our new ESG portfolios which are now available for all of our clients. Amongst other things, these portfolios will avoid companies who have a significant carbon impact on the world. Your Financial Planner will discuss the new portfolios, and your ESG views at your next forward planning meeting.
“We are really excited to have launched our ESG Portfolios and are grateful for the positive response we have had from our clients so far. It's great to see clients align their personal beliefs with their investments and take a holistic approach to their financial planning.” - Caroline Johnpulle
We still have many things on our list to check off before we announce our fully offset status, but we have a plan in motion and a team of capable experts on hand to get us there. Nonetheless, this is an exciting step for our business that allows us to proceed safe in the knowledge our environment is not suffering at the expense of our activities. Most importantly, I am proud to tell my daughter that our business is one that is looking out for her future.