Written by Dani Cervantes, Research Manager

Reflections from the MRS Sustainability Summit: Getting our house in order

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“One of our responsibilities is to get our own houses in order. Otherwise this undermines our ability to include the sustainability angle when we’re pushing it with clients.”

Dr Nick Baker, Global Chief Research Officer, Savanta & founding member, Insight Climate Collective

One of the key messages that came out of the recent MRS Sustainability Summit, was about us as research agencies getting our own houses in order. (Apologies if I’ve para-phrased a bit there, Dr Nick!)

At IFF Research, we’ve taken the MRS Net Zero Pledge, because we’re serious about doing this. We’re taking responsibility to cut our emissions as a business. But as Ben Page, CEO at Ipsos MORI remarked, changing behaviours and culture isn’t always easy!

Luckily, we have a couple of advantages on our side when it comes to this challenge.

Firstly, we’re researchers. We know how to do our homework when it comes to what’s required, and how to quantify what’s going to make the biggest impact. (One thing that struck me was how important it will be to measure our emissions as a business. Commuting, central heating when working from home, the travel involved in face-to-face fieldwork and printing are a few things that come to mind.)

Secondly, we have experts on attitude and behaviour changes in-house. We can draw on this knowledge as we encourage our colleagues and leaders to take the plunge, making some changes to our habits and ways of operating together.

For those new to the term net zero, here’s a handy definition:

“The term net zero means achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. This balance – or net zero – will happen when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed. To reach net zero, emissions from homes, transport, agriculture and industry will need to be cut.”

Energy Saving Trust

The road ahead feels a bit daunting to be honest. Where do we start? And what should we tackle first? But, as any good project manager will tell you, break the task down into manageable chunks (Gantt chart anyone?), and just get started!

With this in mind, let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. As a business, we’ve already put in place movement-sensor lighting, policies on being a paperless office, and incentivizing clean travel. First thoughts on our next quick wins could be: changing our office light-bulbs to be energy efficient, switching to more renewable forms of energy, having a dairy free milk alternative on offer (but properly researching what this should be i.e. plant based foods can be highly processed), and encouraging working in the office over the winter months (I was surprised to discover that working from home is only more energy efficient in summer. This will be harder for those of us who like working from home!)

The next steps will focus on aspects which may require a bit more thought and consultation to get in place. For example, a policy on face-to-face fieldwork travel; reviewing our pension provision; introducing tighter environmental criteria for our suppliers.

Key to our success will be quantifying where we can cut the most emissions as a business – what will make the biggest difference? And tracking the progress of our new ways of operating. With my attitude and behaviour change hat on, this should inspire us to keep going, to celebrate our wins, and to stay positive about what we can do (our sense of agency), in what can feel like a complicated and intractable problem.

So that’s my key take-away from the summit. Stay positive, create some SMART goals, and just start somewhere!

To find out more about our sustainability research, or the efforts to become Net Zero, contact our Head of Energy & Environment research, Andrew Skone James