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Interview: Sustainability and SMEs

To celebrate London Climate Week, we discuss with Stephanie Salguero, Marketing Manager at Mer UK – Public Charging, her interest in sustainability and the way Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can start tackling the subject.

Sustainability and SMEs

First, can you tell us what sparked your interest in sustainability?

About 5 years ago, I became interested in reading about climate change and the devastating effects of plastics, amongst other environmental issues. At the time, I decided to start an Instagram page and a blog called ‘Sustainable warrior’. My aim was to document my journey towards living a more sustainable life and potentially help others do the same through this blog. Whilst work commitments meant I could not keep up with the blog, I was still committed to making changes to my life; I also chose to spend more time in nature rather than in front of my laptop screen after work hours!

 

When did you become involved with sustainability?

I self-appointed myself as the sustainability volunteer officer at my previous company! I engaged with our facilities manager, helped with reducing waste, and encouraged people to recycle. It wasn’t much, but it made me want to do more. That’s when I decided to leave my job and the industry to work for a renewable energy company. At the time, recruiters told me that it would not be good for my career to change industries, as the IT sector was and is thriving, but I was determined to make the switch. From the moment I joined the electric mobility sector, I knew I wanted to be involved in sustainability projects alongside my marketing role.

 

Isn’t sustainability too much of a giant task for SMEs?

It does not have to be perfect from the start – at Mer UK we are at the beginning of our journey! You can focus on one area at first, such as environmental (tackling waste, energy efficiency, carbon emissions…), social (employee parity, working with the community, charities…) or economic (for example adopting a circular economy model).

As a small company, some of us wear multiple hats. For example, I split my time between my marketing role and sustainability. You may have employees passionate about the subject that would love to get involved.

Sustainability and SMEs

Knowing my interest on the subject, I was offered to take on sustainability at Mer UK. I set up an internal sustainability group and work with volunteers from each department (operations, sales, customer management etc.) to have a systemic view of the business. This way we can all contribute from the perspective of our department and come up with informed ideas (big and small). We meet on a regular basis to brainstorm and discuss the management of ongoing projects. It is an extra task, but we manage it and work at our own pace.

I really recommend anyone tackling sustainability in their company to follow a short formal training to understand the link between People, Planet and Profit. I am currently studying for a short Business Sustainability Management qualification with Cambridge University – Institute for Sustainability Leadership. This course has broadened my knowledge of the wider aspects of sustainability including the opportunities and challenges, the regulatory framework, innovation & sustainable business practices and the importance of stakeholders’ involvement.

 

What projects are you working on right now?

  • We are calculating our carbon footprint including hardware and employee data to understand what we emit and how can we reduce it.
  • We started working with a partner that plant a tree for every EV charger we install.
  • We are looking at ways we can minimise our impact on the environment.
  • We also have social projects in the pipeline.

 

What are the challenges?

As a company grows, it becomes harder to keep track of data such as employee’s mileage for carbon accounting. Coming up with robust processes early on helps.

Another challenge is communication, making sure that the whole team knows what you are doing, including them in your mission and keeping them motivated to do their part, as it requires small involvement from everyone.

 

Do you have any advice for SMEs that want to tackle sustainability?

Incorporate it into your business strategy. Sustainability should not be a siloed task – your decision-making process should include sustainability.

Find sustainable champions in your business that will elevate your mission and train them to maximise their potential.

Regularly communicate with your employees and take them on the journey with you, as they will feel committed and be inspired to help.

It is ok to start small. Go for the low hanging fruits to give you a head start, acknowledge where you are, and be transparent about your progress and your ambition.

 

And finally, what actions have you taken personally?

I try to ‘vote with my wallet’. I am conscious about where and how I spend my money. I am also into minimalism – I always ask myself the question ‘do I really need it?’ and most of the time the answer is no.

Lastly, I often go litter picking on weekends with my boyfriend. He is the Environmental Response Officer for our local council, and it is nice to share this passion with him!

Sustainability and SMEs

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