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042 Digital Footprints



Polly Buckland sat on the client-side in a marketing manager role at BMW UK Ltd before founding what is now The Typeface Group (TFG) in 2010. She’s an ideas person blending creativity and commercial awareness to ensure the delivery team at TFG do just that. The Typeface Group is on a mission to give ambitious businesses robust websites that not only help achieve growth but are carbon considerate.


Katherine Ann Byam  0:03  

Polly, welcome to Where Ideas Launch. 

Polly Buckland  0:54  

Hi Katherine!

Katherine Ann Byam  0:55  

What inspired you to make your marketing firm eco-friendly?

Polly Buckland  0:59  

In 2019-2020, we were working with a couple of businesses that were really heavily focused on zero carbon targets, primarily with regards to UK housing stock and smart homes. We were already working in that space. And then we met with Nancy Hyne from True Horizon and did our first environmental assessment for our own business. At that time, we were looking very internally at what we could do and our own responsibility as a business. At that point, we weren’t really looking at what we could then offer to our customers. In early 2021, we did our B Corp assessment.

And alongside that, I was doing some research and stumbled across an article from Wholegrain Digital on digital carbon footprint; and subsequently bought the book by their founder, Tom Greenwood on Sustainable Web Design. And I think our eureka moment was as I was reading it. And I said to my co-founder, Natalie, we already do 90% of this. We’re already there. Because we’re following best practices for web builds, we optimise our websites from the ground up. And that is largely what best practice is for sustainable web design. So we committed this year to give all web builds that we produce for our customers a carbon calculation for their homepage, and actually an accessibility score. And what that does is it keeps us accountable. And it raises awareness with clients that might not necessarily have asked for that, they might not have even really computed that. But they were going to have a digital footprint anyway. So that’s how this all began.

Katherine Ann Byam  2:34  

What elements of the whole design of eco-friendly service businesses are important for other service businesses to understand? I mean what things did you take into consideration from your B Corp to web design to make your business more eco-friendly?

Polly Buckland  2:50  

So I guess the one that ties both together is choosing suppliers that carefully fit within the B Corp assessment. There are quite a few questions that are tied to the suppliers that we use. And certainly from a website owner perspective – Who’s going to host your website? Do their data centres run on renewable energy? It’s a very, very quick and easy decision to make actually but it can have quite an impact. So look at your suppliers and look at your content. I think certainly with digital communications, previously sort of more was best for SEO, as well just get the traffic in by producing more and more and more content.

And I think that needs to be more considered. Now there needs to be more of an essentialist approach. So if you’ve still got blogs on your website announcing your Christmas party from three years ago, if someone stumbles on that there is going to be a carbon output and why it’s not relevant. So I think having a clear down in your business of your blog post or your junk folder in your email or your Sent Items. Sort of clear everything down because if it’s being stored is having an impact.

Katherine Ann Byam  3:59  

Yeah, that’s so important. And I think a lot of people underestimate the actual size of this; and especially in this uber digital age that we’re in right now. I mean, I have some email accounts that are overwhelmed with emails from marketers, etc. How can we better control it?

Polly Buckland   4:17  

You just need to schedule some time. I think you need to delegate within your businesses. So everyone needs to be personally responsible for their own inbox. There are also some nice little extensions, there’s an extension on Google where if you’re going to send an email that’s less than three or four words, there’ll be a pop-up and it’ll go, “Do you really need to send that?” And I think making it part of your daily routine is quite important. I mean, there’s no two ways about it. People need to shift how they’re working. I spoke to a client recently who’s producing content for their website. And she said, “I was thinking about four blogs a month.” And I said, “Well, why?” Like why you need to kind of push back and start questioning.

Well, if you’ve got only four things to say, it would be better to write one rich piece of content that ‘s gonna answer the questions of the people that landed on your site. And it’s going to be more sort of searchable, more discoverable, because it’s rich, rich content in line with Google’s principle. It’s going to be relevant to people that land on it. So it will be worth the output that it has. And it will make the business seem more authoritative as well. So it’s like a more considered approach and a more essentialist approach to producing content, I guess.

Katherine Ann Byam  5:36  

How do we measure and track or footprint data? Are there really good websites, processes that we can use? Tell us about that journey?

Polly Buckland   5:45  

The answer is, it’s really difficult. And again, all rates for me at the moment in terms of research that I’m doing and the authority within the industry lead back to Whole Grain Digital. They have produced a website carbon calculator, and what it does is it measures data transfer, energy intensity, the energy source, how the data centres are powered, the carbon intensity of the electricity, and the website traffic. And it’s this engine where you put your URL into it, and it will come out with basically a performance percentage of your website and the carbon output. Then it will give you which is really nice, based on 10,000 visits a year, this is the equivalent of carbon that you’re producing. So it makes it relatable.

Yeah, that’s a single web page, there is nothing that I found that would give you a whole website carbon calculation, which is something that I’m in the early stages of trying to work on. But what people can do is read up on what the best practice is and employ it. I mean, I’ve always had a thing against stock imagery, I just think it doesn’t really say much about the personality of your business if you’re using stock imagery, but more so that image will have like images really, really slow down your page loading time, which in line with Google’s core vital updates this year, is a key consideration that page load and content delivery. But it also is often the thing that has the most negative impact on the carbon output of that page. So even if you don’t have a whole website, carbon calculation, you can absolutely be removing images that actually don’t have much purpose on your website. It will make a difference. It’s tricky to find the measure right now. But it will make a difference.

Katherine Ann Byam  7:36  

Yeah, that’s really interesting. I think it’s a lot of things that we think about, but we don’t actively think about the impact we’re having by being slow to react. And that’s what’s key. So from a B Corp perspective, what else do we need to be messaging, for example, on our website.

Polly Buckland   7:53  

I do think more and more people are looking for Corporate Social Responsibility statements. I do think that that is a consideration in both B2B and B2C buying. Now, I think I read a stat like 70-80% of people are now considering the values of a business before they purchase from them. I think it’s important to also recognise that B Corp isn’t just about the environment. It is about governance, your workers, community, and the environment and customers. So I think it is a more holistic measure of a business. So I would really recommend anyone pick up their phone, get on their laptop, go to the B Corp assessment and do it. It’s no obligation, it’s free to do and just see where you’re coming out. The reason we went for B Corp (we’ve already spoken to Nancy about it) I sat on the sofa on a Friday night with a glass of wine and I did the B Corp assessment on my phone, and that was the beginning. Unless you start measuring, you can’t improve. And I think that’s a really important message. If you want to be more environmentally considerate, you need to find your baseline.

Katherine Ann Byam  9:11  

Tell me a little bit and I want to dig into something potentially controversial here. So just recently, we witnessed what’s happened at BrewDog in terms of their treatment of employees or employees who are pushing back against some of the culture of the company about sort of manipulation, etc, that’s been going on, or that the alleged has been going on, I should say. And there’s been a question coming up around what B Corp’s role is in ensuring that companies stick to what they’ve pledged in their assessments, etc. What are your thoughts on this and whether or not B Corps should respond?

Polly Buckland   9:49  

It’s really tricky, isn’t it? So when you’re doing a B Corp assessment, you need 81 points to become accredited, which means you don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to even answer every question. We’ve submitted our assessment at this point. So we haven’t been assessed. So I can’t speak in kind of firsthand experience as to what the assessment looks like and how deep they delve into your evidence and how you’ve answered the questions. I’m not sure it’s for B Corp to respond. I don’t think the fact that BrewDog is accredited yet not perfect reflects badly on B Corp. I think the message is very much working towards being better for your people, the environment and communities. It’s definitely for BrewDog to address the assessment.

Certainly, the interrogation of the assessment and the production of evidence by the companies that have submitted could be more thorough, maybe.  Then I would imagine the price of being B Corp-accredited will rise because they’ve got to put the people behind it to do the additional check. Part of me thinks if a business is going to go through the time, energy and investment of becoming B Corp, they’re going to go into that with kind of open hearts and full integrity. This could just be a case of the leadership team at BrewDog genuinely not knowing; and therein lies a wider problem for them. It’s about making sure that you’ve got a constant flow of communication even if you’re growing and ambitious and taking over your sector, you can’t forget the small stuff. And we’ve been using a tool called OfficeVibe which is great because what it does is sends a pulse of random questions out to our team every two weeks. So even if we’re busy, we’re still getting that constant feedback. And then it will really flag if there’s an issue. And of course, you need your employees to be really, really open and honest. Yeah, to get the best out of it.

Katherine Ann Byam  12:07  

It’s an interesting discussion because… I don’t know if you’ve seen “Seaspiracy,” and some of these programs on Netflix where they really get into the accreditation bodies for their – let’s call it “limited due diligence” around this stuff. And I think it’s becoming quite a problem. Because even you know that there are a number of instances where accreditation bodies have failed to do that check. And I recognise your argument around the cost, right? Because yes, it becomes more expensive to accredit if you do have to do the work. But we people also need some kind of guarantee that this thing is reliable. Otherwise, why do it? And so I think this is going to be an interesting and continuing debate as we go forward.

Polly Buckland   12:56  

And I too just wonder if it’s almost like the pulse that they need to be requesting of anyone that’s assessed to do it quarterly – submit these three bits of evidence, and we’ll do it at random. And if you don’t submit it, then we suspend your accreditation because that can be automated to a degree. If B Corp chose to respond to it because I think it’s the first big question mark, and I’m not sure it’s a case of I’m not sure the answer is to just make this massive example of bloop for BrewDog, who is doing good as well. And I sort of skim-read the response that they seem to be taking responsibility.

Katherine Ann Byam  13:37  

It’ll be interesting to see how it all evolves. I think this part of the sustainability stories, often overlooked. So we often talk about climates and the environment but we don’t talk about decent work.

Polly Buckland   13:49  

100%. And I think there’s that degree of greenwashing. Right. I was on a call recently and someone who is part of a wider group basically said, “Well, you can call it what you want but people really only care about the bottom line.” And I thought, “Well, actually they don’t. I’ve met a lot of people that really, really don’t and they do take this holistic view of their business and their impact and doing good for the community. I think it would be really sad to just credit all the good work and positive energy that businesses put into their B Corp journey to at least write about cancelled culture. I don’t I don’t think we discredit all the good because it may be one question mark.

Katherine Ann Byam  14:35  

So I absolutely agree with you. What are you currently working on? That’s going to probably change the game again for your business and for this whole idea of carbon neutrality.

Polly Buckland   14:47  

At the moment, I am in conversation with our web host who’s an independent UK business. They’ve already got a pretty strong Corporate Social Responsibility policy themselves which is why we chose him as a supplier. They run their data centres on 100% renewable energy. But the reality is they don’t have a measure at the moment for site-on-site energy usage. And I would really like to be achieving the fast carbon measure on the dashboard, on the back end of a website. I think that needs to be the norm.

From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t exist at the moment that locally to us within three enterprises, I believe there’s like an Environmental Innovation Fund. So I believe that there’s potentially some funding there. I feel like I understand what the customers want and need and can help in communicating that and I’m trying to marry that up with the technical team at the web host. Hopefully, we can all come together and produce something that could be rolled out eventually to anyone with a website. I think people need to understand that their websites have a carbon output first, see that measure, and see how they can improve it. So that’s what’s in store for us as well as working with a number of clients on web builds.

Katherine Ann Byam  16:04  

How can people keep in touch with you or get involved with the work at The Typeface Group?

Polly Buckland   16:09  

So we’re at the typeface And I am pretty active on Twitter at my username is @typeface. See, all our contact details are on the website. We’re always interested in being part of the conversation. Wonderful.

Katherine Ann Byam  16:25  

Thank you so much, Polly, for joining us today. I think this was a really enlightening session. And I do hope my listeners get something and take something away from this session or even get in touch with you. Thank you so much. 

Polly Buckland  16:36  

Thank you very much. 

Katherine Ann Byam  16:40  

This episode was brought to you today by the Eco Business Group Club by Katherine Ann Byam and by the space where ideas long the Eco Business Growth club supports positive impact SMEs with coaching new health, and community support toward achieving the impact and reach they set out to meet. You can find out more by connecting with where ideas launch on Instagram or following the hashtag where it is launched across all of your social media.