Striding forward towards net carbon zero

At Westcotts, it’s incredibly important to us that we focus on our sustainability and environmental values. So much so that we have a well-established Environmental Social Governance (ESG) team. For us, it’s all about the long-term and so ESG is absolutely key to who we are.

Before the lockdown, we were making steady progress on reducing carbon, plastic, and general waste. We were reducing consumption wherever it made sense to do so. Then, when Covid struck, many of our plans took a bit of a back seat. This was in favour of short-term survival and getting ourselves back in the office.

We are now 100 per cent committed to renewable electricity suppliers. Of course, our use of sustainable resources means that others don’t have access to the same. It is, therefore, essential to get ourselves to zero carbon and that is our aim.

So, what have we actually achieved in the last 12 months? Well, quite a lot.

This year we have been locking in some of the carbon reductions we started (sometimes, almost by accident) during the pandemic’s lockdowns.



Our achievements

We’ve reached several sustainability and environmental milestones over the last year that we’re very proud of. Below are just a few of the initiatives that we’ve put into place to make sure we’re operating in a socially responsible way.

Remote working

Our team can work effectively from home, cutting car journeys, which in turn reduces our carbon footprint.

Fewer cars mean more space for bikes, which means people may feel safer to choose this form of more active travel. Virtual meetings also reduce travel time for conversations between teams and with clients too.

Office refurbishments

We have made positive changes to our offices, with the largest refurbishment plans we have ever carried out. These all help towards Westcotts focusing on sustainability by needing to use less energy sources.

At all 17 of our offices, insulation, windows, and heating are up for grabs. This is a long-term project, and because our offices differ in age, it means some adaptations will take longer than others. However, in the long run, these changes will mean we don’t need to use as much heating. As part of the refurbishments, we’re also installing energy efficient lighting across all our offices.

Waste management

Effectively managing waste is another approach we’re taking to make sure we’re operating in a socially responsible way when it comes to ESG. So, recycling efforts are taking place in every office to work towards our environmental values. Our aim is to get to a point where we send “nil to landfill” and so sorting through our waste is a key activity.

Plastic has its place in the world and not everything can be replaced. However, we have also made a start to using less plastic and our teams are keen to push this on. One of the small steps we have taken is to no longer bind accounts in plastic. We’ve estimated this will save upwards of 10,000 sheets of A4 plastic every year as well as 5,000 plus binders – a huge amount!

The outdoors

At Westcotts, we attend many agricultural shows around Devon and Somerset and always try to give something back to those who come and  see us. This year, in the interests of sustainability, we introduced oak tree saplings as a gift for the first time. They were incredibly popular, admittedly more so for those with bigger gardens, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Trees are great for absorbing carbon dioxide, too much of which contributes to climate change.

We also took part in many activities in the great outdoors to encourage active travel. One of these included a Devon-wide walking challenge. We also now offer a cycle-to-work scheme and have installed bike sheds in offices where the need exists. Should fewer cars on the road contribute to more people cycling to work, then these can be added to offices as and when.

What next?

We now talk about both sustainability and environmental values internally far more than ever before. Our ESG team is headed up by two senior partners and has a regular agenda point on all staff and board meetings. They are always developing and reviewing our ESG activity and making sure our wider teams are equally involved. People are a great resource and engaging with them makes all the difference when trying to be creative and proactive.

Next Steps

Strategically, we need to fully understand our carbon footprint if we’re ever going to really make a difference in society. Our key project now is to benchmark and find projects to help drive carbon out of the equation.

Operationally, our next steps include a few things. The first is to double down on everything we have started so far. We’re happy with the progress we’ve made towards sustainability, but we recognise that more still needs to be done.

We’re looking for small, team-led projects that can make a surprising difference. A recent calculation suggested that we make 200,000 plus hot drinks every year. Nobody is ever going to persuade an accountant to give up caffeine—but each drink has a carbon footprint. Therefore, it is important for us to make tea and coffee in the most carbon-friendly way possible.

In some circles, carbon offsetting is seen as an unsavoury concept. It’s not perfect but changing the direction of the world was never going to be simple. It may well be that offsetting could buy us some much-needed time. So, one of our partners is exploring options for our teams to look at their own positions and what could change.

Westcotts’ mission statement is that ‘We’re Here’. Our hearts and minds tell us that we can only achieve that if the planet is here as well.

You can read more about our ESG work on our website, here.

By Partners Stuart Carrington and Ian Huggett.

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