A provocative, but fascinating way to think about climate impact in a services or consulting business

In 2008, after graduating from university, I saw a talk by Ed Gillespie at the Hub (now the impact Hub) in Angel Islington, London. It really stayed with me, and one result of me coming to that lunchtime talk was that I met someone Jamie Andrews, who was working on an idea called Loco2, a low carbon train transport service.

It seemed worth doing, and I worked with a friend, Fred Fix, to go from paper prototypes, to Photoshop mockups, to a Ruby on Rails prototype that showed you could piece together journeys across different rail providers in Europe, and show a combined journey.

Jamie put in front of Ed to raise some funding for the concept, and as I understand it, that began the journey properly than ended around ten years later, when Loco2 sold to Rail Europe for a low 8 figure sum.

I’ve followed what Ed been writing about since, and I just came across piece by him, The Omertà of Consultancy, that I know I’ll come back to again and again.

It’s about being complicit as a consultant when companies talk about sustainability, and this passage really caught my eye:

…every agency could and should in my view now do the following:

1. Measure the actual total carbon footprint of it’s entire client portfolio. This is relatively straightforward to do from client environmental and sustainability reports and CDP data. This gives every agency a ‘bundle’ of emissions they have influence over and are arguably indirectly responsible for in some way.

2. Track the carbon intensity and productivity of this portfolio. How are client’s businesses growing, how are their emissions changing, are they achieving absolute not relative decoupling of profitability, turnover and emissions? Crucially are their absolute emissions coming DOWN year on year in line with Science Based Targets and a 50% reduction by 2030?

These two simple steps would give us a benchmark for every consultancy that would tell us very clearly and transparently whether they were really making a difference and bending the curve.

Ed Gillespie

Lots of this information is in the public domain, and after working with Wikirate on a recent transparency project about Net zero targets among tech firms, I’m now wondering how this could be be done without waiting for large consulting firms to agree to tabulate up their stats by themselves.

If firms knew that taking on a polluting client and not achieving changes risked monstering their stats, I’m now wondering what the impact of this might be in terms of aligning incentives to acheive meaningful, instead of just positive change.