Introducing Custard’s Green Champions

By Natalie Blachford

Earlier this year, inspired by the Meetings Industry Association (mia)’s ‘Plastic Pledge’ campaign, Custard decided it was time to review the company’s environmental policy and start implementing actions to make Custard a more sustainable business. Already we have reduced overall waste by 30% and cut printing by more than half – this is how we’ve done it.

Along with signing the Plastic Pledge – a pledge to eliminate single use plastics from the business by 2025 – Custard created its own team of internal ‘Green Champions’,  who now meet every eight weeks to review the environmental action plan, monitor progress and come up with new ideas for becoming more sustainable.

After an initial meeting in May, the Green Champions created an action plan to share with the rest of the team, with immediately implementable actions to reduce our impact on the environment.

The response from the Custard team has been fantastic, with everybody getting on board with the new initiatives, and already the results are impressive.

One of the first areas to tackle was recycling, with individual bins at desks all removed, in favour of recycling bins for paper, cardboard, plastic, metal cans and glass, with one small bin for general rubbish – immediately encouraging people to think about which bin they use and whether or not what they’re throwing away could be recycled.

Information on our local recycling regulations has also been circulated to the team, with explanations of different symbols, and plastic drinks bottles have now been banned in the office. As we already have a water cooler, the impact on staff has been minimal but has helped reduced overall plastic waste. The coffee drinkers in the office have been encouraged to carry reusable cups on Starbucks runs, and we even have spares in the office if needed.

When it comes to paper waste, our previous output was high – every weekend, we purchased copies of every national newspaper, which was essential to keeping on top of travel trends and monitoring coverage for our clients but was producing huge amounts of waste. We also received subscriptions for trade magazines, many of which were sending up to 6 or 7 duplicates of the same issue that would never be opened.

Now, we monitor newspaper websites instead, with subscriptions for those with a paywall, and have cancelled the magazines we don’t need, with just one copy to circulate amongst the team. We have also drastically cut down on how much we print – the majority of meetings are now managed on laptop or iPad rather than printing plans and materials, what we do need to print will be on recycled paper, and we are sharing our environmental policy with clients to explain why we’re making the change. We’re also changing to a digital payslip system, so monthly payslips are managed through an online portal rather than being printed. Overall, we’re now printing over 55% less than before.

Tackling food waste has been another key issue for us, especially as being an office of foodies we love to bring snacks to share and get creative in the kitchen at lunchtimes, but often come the weekend we would find lots of food heading for the bin.

Our snack box (yes, it’s an essential office accessory) now proudly boasts a ‘Don’t feed me if I’m full’ label, and quickly perishable items like cakes and doughnuts have been swapped for chocolates and biscuits that last longer. Birthday cakes – another staple of Custard life – are now baked according to how many people are actually going to be in the office, rather than producing multi-tiered wonders that will never be finished.

Weekly fridge clear-outs mean that any items heading for their use-by date can be donated to other team members, and items like bread and condiments become communal so they don’t go to waste.

All of these efforts combined – across plastic, paper and food – mean we’ve been able to reduce our total waste by 30%.

Not everything is within Custard’s control – as a leased office within a managed building, we don’t have the freedom to switch to a 100% green energy supplier, for example, but we are in talks with the building management to ask them to review their suppliers, and make the switch to eco-friendly energy and cleaning products, as we have done in our own kitchen. We’ve also reduced our own energy use by ensuring computers are turned off completely at night, lights are only on when necessary, and heaters are used efficiently.

We spend a lot of time out and about, visiting clients all over the country, and we are acutely aware of the impact travel has on the environment, so where possible we now travel by train or lift-share when we need to drive. We’re also working to educate our clients and help support their sustainability objectives, by discouraging the use of short shelf-life printed promotional materials and coming up with alternative ways of capturing attention and making a lasting impression.

Our green journey has only just begun, but it’s exciting to see how small changes can make a big impact, and how members of the team are implementing some of the new practices in their home lives as well. We hope that some of the steps we’ve taken may inspire other businesses to do the same.