Green IO
#12 Vineeta Greenwood and Gavin Shinfield - Digital Sustainability: The view from Agencyland
February 9, 2023
In this episode, Gaël Duez went to Argentina (or did he?) to discuss digital agencies. Guests Vineeta Greenwood and Gavin Shinfield share a passion for communicating sustainability in ways that their clients can connect to. Veterans of the B-Corp movement, they also prize collaboration and honesty, two keys to their success, and indeed our collective success in reaching our sustainability goals. Gaël invites them to play a short game that leads to long and meaningful answers … stay tuned 🤓 ❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!
In this episode, Gaël Duez went to Argentina (or did he?) to discuss digital agencies. Guests Vineeta Greenwood and Gavin Shinfield share a passion for communicating sustainability in ways that their clients can connect to. Veterans of the B-Corp movement, they also prize collaboration and honesty, two keys to their success, and indeed our collective success in reaching our sustainability goals. Gaël invites them to play a short game that leads to long and meaningful answers … stay tuned 🤓

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Gaël  00:06
Hello, everyone. Today we will go to Argentina and talk about digital agencies. Full disclosure, number one digital agencies is a domain I simply don't know. And that I didn't consider until very recently on my journey in the digital sustainability landscape. To be honest, I come from a world where you have in house teams developing your digital tech platforms, not even websites anymore. And I didn't have any interaction with agencies, but Wakey wakey Gaël, this is the exception, not the rule. Most companies rarely have one developer or designer and the in the US only, for instance, according to some estimates, more than 7500 agencies operate on the road to a carbon free internet and more broadly to a digital sustainability. They are the ones setting the pace outside the digital pure players who tend to catch all the spotlights. Now full disclosure number two, we won't go to Argentina this time, but we will enjoy a superb Tango dance. Because our two guests today Vineeta and Gavin are great dancer in the game of seduction, but also pose setback repulsion with their clients to convince them about adopting sustainable approaches, managing their dabs, understanding their true needs, make a compromise while remaining true to their values. And the interesting thing is that they both operate in the UK. They are both labeled B Corp and steel. They each have their own 10 steps. But let's talk about our dancers in more details. Vineeta is a trailblazer in digital sustainability. based in London, she founded Walgreen digital award press agency with her husband, Tom 15 years ago with sustainability in mind from day one. Vineeta also holds a degree in electronics from the Mumbai University and a Master in communication in space environment from the Lancaster University. And she's very active in the impact business world from touring Beco businesses in the UK this year to supporting the business declares Tribune last summer. Gavin is the survivor has he liked to say he has founded kn almost 20 years ago, after a successful career as a creative director. He's based in Zurich, Switzerland, and holds a BA in history of art. He is also a vocal voice in the sustainability world. Welcome both of you. It's great to have you on the show today.

Gavin Shinfield  02:38
Thank you again, wonderful to be here.

Vineeta Greenwood  02:40
Thank you for having me.

Gaël  02:41
It's a pleasure and an honor. I'd like to start with a question I asked to all my guests, which is what did I miss in your bio? Did I forget to mention anything about you?

Vineeta Greenwood  02:53
I don't think you forgot to mention about me. I never told you about it. I'm extremely passionate about composting. And I absolutely love to see what can be composted and how it's going to be biodegradable. And I've got a real interest in it that that's outside my digital world.

Gavin Shinfield  03:14
That's fantastic. Vineeta i Since moving to Zurich for it my my gardening has been curtailed somewhat because I'm now in a fifth four apartments but we still have our window boxes and I and and obviously we we compostable our food waste it just it it goes to the to the stratospheric rather than into my garden right now. I'm a I guess on a personal level girl I'm I'm a keen hiker which again wonderful to be in Switzerland to to do that. And also I love freshwater swimming so equally Zurich wonderful place to be because I'm only 10 minutes from the lake here.

Vineeta Greenwood  03:55
Yeah, I love cold water swimming as well that is an absolute passion of mine

Gavin Shinfield  04:02
you'll you'll notice we need to I said freshwater swimming I'm still working up to the cold part but

Vineeta Greenwood  04:11
yeah, tunic Lake is amazing for that. We've used the special you know the boobs, where you can leave your stuff and then go in Zurich like it's it's a pretty special place.

Gavin Shinfield  04:21
It's a wonderful place, we will have to go for a swim together next time you'll have anything.

Vineeta Greenwood  04:26

Gaël  04:28
And I feel very connected to both of you because in law who knew I've got a big compost unit in my garden. Pretty much everyone does. And well, when it comes to hiking. I heard we've got a few mountains. So it's great to have both your hobbies being explained on the show. And to start the interview. I'd love both of you to describe the journey your agencies took on the sustainability road. How did it start? What did it take? How did you overcome the challenges, and cetera, et cetera, and maybe starting with you Vineeta.

Vineeta Greenwood  05:06
Yeah, happy to Tom, my husband and I were best friends before we got married, and started the business before we got married. So it was it goes a long way back. And the reason we started our own business is because we realize that the people who are doing good in this world aren't getting the right branding assistance, or they're not being presented side by side of a non sustainable option. So when we started in 2007, before that, we used to notice that an eco friendly product was seen as a hippie product rather than a mainstream product. And our intention of working together and coming up with good branding, good websites, and so on, was to give sustainable products an equal stage, and given opportunity to them to present alongside a non sustainable product so that people could make a better choice. That's how it all started. That's how our concept of starting our own business came about. Once we had started thinking about what we want to do, then we started wondering about how we could help people and then it came out in the wash that we'd like to do branding, websites, help people have a good digital presence. And then we came across WordPress, and WordPress was a real hallelujah moment where, because we were customer first, we are customer first, as a team. As our approach. It was important to us for finding a system that the customers feel extremely happy with. And then we can also specialize in. So it feels like a real marriage rather than a something that we're good at. And we have proprietary or something like that. So we became the first London's London's first UK is first WordPress agency. And I remember knocking on many doors and saying you should specialize in WordPress to guys, this is an amazing thing. And lo and behold, we have a lot of competitors now. Great. It also because we were so sustainability minded, it didn't even occur to us to not work or to work with people who were not conscious about sustainability. But it's only in 2009, that we came to a conclusion that we need a formalized ethical screening policy, and for the clients that we take on. So we created one, it's online. And it's, it's what shaped us, I would say that is what shaped our business. And that is when I feel like we really got started because we now had said, this is the type of client we want to work with. This is the sort of service we want to offer. And this is what we're good at. And that sort of shaped the type of team members we hired, the type of clients that came on board. And I can go on and on about our passion for sustainability not just mine and Tom's but the whole team's

Gavin Shinfield  08:10
thanks for Anita. There's a fantastic rundown and the history of wholegrain. With with kindness, that was a slightly different story and a different down step as it said, Gail, we we didn't start out with with sustainability in mind, we started out with building a good business in mind. And we've always been very people focused and always been operating and fair and transparent with our dealings in our clients with our suppliers. So to a degree, I think you could say that we were operating kind of as what B Corp would term as a good business, but not necessarily the purpose driven the you know, the intentional business that the B Corp aims towards. And I think it's really going through B Corp certification. That's, that has changed our mind somewhat on that. And we're now bringing more of that intentionality into it. I think really, it's just sometimes going through these processes that really focuses and you realize that that what what is actually important to you as a business. And I think it bringing the intentionality it's always best to start from the inside. So to get your own house in order to make sure that your operations are sustainable. We know that you start with the core, you start getting the team on board thereafter and it's the outreach to suppliers. And then once you've got everything and you're happy in your own skin as it were, that's when you can start having those those discussions with your clients as well. And that's where we are as a company right now. I feel Um, our businesses is rather than websites rather than than WordPress and content management websites, it's, it's purely on the digital products and digital transformation. So we're a Ruby on Rails team. We have been since 2005, which was when it was commercially, first commercially available, and we build custom platforms that that help businesses improve. And I think that's in the first instance, that's obviously improving on their bottom line that helps them be more efficient. But then I feel now that we can have those conversations around environmental efficiencies. And, you know, just working smarter and and helping them look after their digital carbon footprint as well.

Gaël  10:55
You are boasts privileged witnesses and this disorder sustainably landscape. And we'd love to offer you to do a little game. It won't be a quiz this time that was for Tim, in the Tim Frick in his hip visit, but more keywords race. And I'd like to put a word on the table with just a bit of an explanation and let you react to it. So if you're okay. I think I could start with the first one. You're you're in both of you. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And so the first ones, actually two ones.

Gaël  11:36
In gave in you, you're already spoiled. A bit not not spoiled. Sorry, but you already heard the name.

Gavin Shinfield  11:44
I'm winning already.

Gaël  11:46
Actually, none of that spoiler spoiler alert. You already spoiled a bit the audience because the first word that I wanted to put on the table is sustainable design. So two words, what can be done? When your digital agencies how, what is the leeway an agency has regardless of its client requirements? So who wants to react first to sustainable design?

Gavin Shinfield  12:12
Well, I feel that actually this is this is totally the whole greens, raison d'etre are given that that's the Vineeta is husband Tom totally wrote the book on this sustainable web design, quite literally. It's a fantastic read. I know that it's been mentioned in the in the podcast many times scale, but I will, I'll put my, my stamp behind it as well. So yeah, there are many ways that we can that we can get involved on this. One of the ones that that we're pushing forward at the moment is I'm a member of the Bema Sustainability Council. And we are building on top of a lot of the work that has already been done by Tom, by Tim freq, who's also got, you've got mentioned previously here, and all of the good work from Chris Adams and their green Web Foundation, lots and lots of different resources out there. But what we're trying to do is to distill them into a more actionable set of guidelines, specifically function are focused on on what commercial teams and agencies can do. Because I think sometimes a lot of people feel like there's they don't know where to start with reducing their online carbon. So So that's, that's one of the main things that we're pushing forward right now. And we hope to have those the first couple of those released for the end of the year. So watch this space on that one.

Gaël  13:51
Okay, and could you share already some insights on some actionable tips that are not covered by the seal of secret,

Gavin Shinfield  14:00
reducing waste, making sure that we have, we have low low carbon design patterns in place? It focuses on obviously, all of the good things that have already come out of out of the focus on optimization and accessibility and all and all of the all of the reduced data transfer online.

Gaël  14:26
And Vineeta. I guess you'd like to add many things because, as Kevin said, this is the area of expertise over Wahlgren digital.

Vineeta Greenwood  14:35
Yeah, I love talking about it, and I can go on about it. So you will have to stop me. Just kidding. I try to keep it really short. It's it's a real it's a real combination of how you look at sustainability in design. You think about what performance the in our case or what performance the design is going to have. What performance benefit the code is going to have. And that all plays a huge part in what we do. So the design and content, how the copy is written and how the user experience is created, so that you are giving utmost respect to your user. You're respecting their time you respect the inspecting their bandwidth for their mobile data, you're respecting the location they are by producing information that's relevant to them. But he also then thinking of the benefits that are going to the SEO, because your search engine optimization plays on how fast your site loads, more benefits are brought in from low carbon design, which is sustainable design. They sort of span the whole, what I call it, like the ecosystem that clients want to hear. So they improve accessibility inclusivity, it reduces your hosting costs, it makes your work easier to maintain when you add is sustainable. Of course, like I said, it improves your user experience, and improves your conversion optimization. And most importantly, by stealth introduces low carbon and energy conservation. Sustainable Design is quite a wide topic, and you're doing an entire podcast series on this. So it's not, it's not one thing. It's like it's like a kaleidoscope, you know, one of those kaleidoscopes, which you can just keep seeing new colors. That's how I feel about sustainable design. Every time you look at it, you see a new angle. And that's the beauty that we can engage all of these agencies and freelancers who start who have started to do things in a beautiful way and sort of taking it forward than what we've done. And I'm very excited about that.

Gaël  16:50
Respect your user, that one is excellent in to describe what is sustainable design. And actually, that that leads me to my second word, and it's very related to what both of you said previously, which is clients, and how to partner with them to deliver greener digital products and services, what, you know, what are the main challenges and how to overcome them? And I'd really like to stress that I believe this is one of the core question, you are the one on the front line, or convincing people to put something on the edge in data that might have not been there before. So I'm really curious. And I know that a lot of the people listening to this episode, they want to hear what can be done, what cannot be done, what are the successes or challenges. It's unique relationship that digital agencies they have with clients that will shape the paths toward a sustainable Web.

Gavin Shinfield  17:49
As far as clients go, I think we're with it does feel like we're we're reaching a bit of a tipping point on this. Already, we do see clients coming to us with with this on their agenda, it may not be top of their agenda. In fact, it hasn't been top of the agenda so far. But we're certainly getting getting people coming to us and and referencing that they had certain targets that they want to meet them, certainly internally ESG targets. And they recognize the part that digital plays in that. So it is coming down the line on whether that's because they know that they need to meet some of the coming Carbon Disclosure regulations, or whether it just met meshes with their overall ESG guidelines as well, which whatever the reason, it's just really heartening to see that starting to come when it doesn't come from the client. If the conversation needs to be initiated. From the agency side, then obviously, that's, that's, that's a harder sell. And for some people, it's just not on their radar, I think it was time sort of minded of the bad old days, when we when we had to talk to clients about website accessibility. And you got the responses, oh, we don't need to do that, because we don't have a disabled users. Whereas now I think that that battle has largely been won. And it's largely been won by agencies taking agencies and web creators, web developers, web designers to take it on to onto themselves to to develop at least, you know, a good baseline of accessibility for for them for their websites and for their web applications. And that's just the way we do it. That's sort of seen as normal now, and I think we need to get to the same place with environmental sustainability. So I think to a degree Yes, we can have those discussions with the client and explain why we've taken certain discussions and and how they can help support Look at but to you, it also just has to become, like Anita said second nature and somewhat baked into the overall approach.

Gaël  20:12
Benito, you want to?

Vineeta Greenwood  20:14
I'd love to but I forgotten the question

Gaël  20:18
client and how to partner with them.

Vineeta Greenwood  20:21
Yes, clients, that's my favorite thing in a way, why I'm in this business. It's amazing to have an amazing team. But there's needs to be somebody you serve. And that's where the satisfaction comes from. We all find satisfaction from giving rather than receiving, I think that's something that's human nature. It's a bit like, I don't I sound like I'm digressing. But when the person who gives the present on a Christmas Day, for example, is the one who actually gets more pleasure out of out of it than the person who receives it. And that's something that is forgotten. And that's what we do for clients where we're producing something that we know is of really high quality, and giving it to clients, and then you see the pleasure on their face. And that sort of lights us up that that's how we I see clients in in our business. So the challenge that you talked about, very briefly, we talked about what are the challenges, sometimes the challenge is to make sure that the high quality craft that we have is accessible within their budget and their timeline? And how do you show them the value, sort of giving them a new macro lens and showing them, hey, this is what we're doing. And this is why we're doing it and go along with this journey. And we'll show you how you're going to benefit from it is sometimes a challenge. And although it's a fun experience, at the end, when the product is complete, to get them on the journey, sometimes a challenge to it to get the right stakeholders in the room is sometimes a challenge. Like Gavin said, if the brief already states that they are interested in sustainability, that battle is not a battle anymore, because they are already advocates of sustainability. But if they're if they haven't mentioned sustainability, and have just mentioned ROI, then your return on investment, then then you really need to start thinking about how to explain what the return on investment is by involving sustainability, and actually display on the benefits of improved accessibility and reduced costs of maintenance and hosting and better performance. And then that all plays into nicely with sustainability. So those challenges are real. And you just have to sort of dance around them as they come into your inbox. And I think I think the beauty of having digital sustainability and sustainability advocates on the team is that they find answers on how it's going to benefit the client, I think it's quite important to play on the benefits than just talking about sustainability. Sustainability should be a big, like accessibility standard. So they don't have to question it. So the product always is serving the client to the best and they are excited about it. But then sustainability sort of is this thing that they don't have to ask you about. It just happens in the background. And when it happens, and then they go and check their results on say website carbon calculator. They realize, Oh, my website's low carbon, how brilliant. So it's like, instead of making it a challenge, we try to sort of enroll the client into our thinking and see, see how it pans out.

Gavin Shinfield  23:58
And that's a really good point in terms of not making sustainability a poor cousin, we shouldn't we should never see that. Like, just because we are making your website sustainable, that doesn't mean that we're wearing a hair shirt. Where are you going to know that we're going to have any less of an experience? I think that's where the challenge lies, because I think certainly some of the people working at the fringes of office are trying to produce the most environmentally friendly websites, perhaps may take things a step too far for for certain clients tastes but I think the challenge is for us is to is to is to give deliver these amazing world class experiences and, and fantastic usability and stunning design while still delivering it on on reduced bandwidth presents and that's the those are some of the skills that have somewhat been lost in our heavy broadband age.

Gaël  25:00
But to wrap up, what you've both say is that actually you don't put sustainability on the table as a goal in itself, it rises as an enabler like accessibility. And you really put the benefits for the client first. And then in the way you design things, you incorporate sustainability from the very beginning, I believe, if you need to correct me if I'm wrong, this is what is coined at World Grand digital as efficiency by design. Am I right?

Vineeta Greenwood  25:27
Yes, absolutely. So we talk about efficiency in user experience efficiency in the design process efficiency in the recording process, and, and try to give that the center stage rather than talking about sustainability, just just exactly like Gavin, and you said, efficiency, by design touches on the points of efficiency, because who doesn't like efficiency, who doesn't like things done quickly, efficiently, it's like a new set of magic words that clients want to hear, because it just satisfies all of their needs, whether that be monetary or time. And those are the two biggest currencies we have, right.

Gavin Shinfield  26:09
And also we need to, we need to focus on not just on our outputs, but on our processes and making those the most efficient. I think I read a wonderful article from fellow B Corp, brilliant noise, and a parish that was talking about efficiency and contents and rethinking single use content where she was talking about the need to treat content assets in the same way that we treat our, our digital assets in our, you know, in our design systems. So one of the things that in the web environmental sustainability guidelines is to is about not just not not necessarily purely focusing on reducing page weight and reducing the size of the assets, but also working smarter with those assets, making sure that we follow processes so that we're not re coding and providing the product bloats, particularly in on the on the application development. But what what Adam was talking about is treating, basically having an atomic design system for content, whereby once you get to a large scale content and advertising, there are massive savings to be made from working efficiency point of view, for therefore from, from a cost perspective for the client. And also, by extension, there's a there's a carbon savings by not not producing more content and not producing more designers actually needed.

Gaël  27:48
So all in all, what you're saying is that you've got quite a lot of leeway in doing things the way you want without having to ask your client, yes or no, or any kind of green light in designing things efficiently, that the client should not be an excuse to go pretty far on the sustainability journey. Don't get me wrong, if he if he or she wants five videos, full backup, on the very same page, etc, you will be stuck at some point it still there is still some stuff that you can do like explaining that you you will download an image only first, instead of a YouTube player and it's crazy a webpage, for instance. But anyway, sorry, it's me rambling. But um, but I think that the main message is that you can do things and you've got a good enough leeway to start doing things without really having to convince your client of anything. And then obviously, the next step is, yeah, for some of the challenges that you that that requires your clients to be to be aligned with making efforts to become sustainable.

Gavin Shinfield  28:57
I agree with that. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Gaël  29:00
Okay. Okay. That's very interesting that that's very empowering, I would say, because a lot of designer, a lot of developers like a go, I would love to do things, but I cannot really do it. I can't afford to. That's very interesting. Thanks a lot for the clarification. And I suggest we move on to the next word. And this one, I guess, is a bit more for Gavin than for Vineeta. Because we need that already spontaneously spoke a lot about about them, but it's teams, how to onboard the teams into a digital sustainability journey. And does it impact the turnover? Does it change the recruitment process? How did it go? Gavin because you didn't start with sustainability in mind from day one, I would say

Gavin Shinfield  29:45
no, that's That's correct. And to be honest, I think it's it's a it's a process that we're very much undergoing at present. There are leading voices within the team, who are very engaged on on on in the world of dish for sustainability, and there are there are certain areas where where we need to, we need to share that knowledge more widely. But I think it's one of the areas that that impacts every every part of the process, from the strategy to the UX to the creative design. It's not just something that needs to be implemented by the front end teams and and then the data teams making sure that we've got, you know, everything is compressed as possible. It has to come, right the way through the process, following round to the to the QA teams as well. Yeah, so there's, it really does touch every area. But I think it's it's just a case of learning by doing and, and sharing, sharing information and sharing techniques. As we go, are we we have, we have a fairly well documented process for our strategy, UX, creative teams, and also within the builds thing, so it's a case of bringing those sustainable checks and balances to throughout the entire process. What it can't be, is just, oh, have we have we run this through the sustainability checklist? I think, you know, it's, it's something that just needs to be embedded in the thought and DNA on the project from the start. So that's where what we're doing at the moment is looking at all of the current documentation, and, and seeing where we put these checks and balances in place to make sure that we don't come to the end of the project, and then go, Oh, now we need to start thinking about this. Because that Rescher, that type of retrofitting just isn't going to work.

Gaël  31:49
In my my next word would be B Corp. About the B Corp movement. You know, I recently interviewed another pioneer, Tim Frick, we already mentioned him, he shared his enthusiasm for this label is confidence also that the momentum will only increase? Do you share the same confidence both of you?

Gavin Shinfield  32:12
I think we're both very vocal proponents of the core framework and the B core ethos of using business as a force for good. So very simple proposition. Really, if we if you live there live that. As I mentioned earlier, I think it's been really transformational. And not only from myself from my personal journey, but for the company going through B Corp, it really has helped us focus my onto onto the house how to be incrementally better. And I think that's what a lot of people perhaps when I think with some of the criticism that because it's been getting lately, people, some people have have have highlighted a couple of companies who have achieved certification who they think may or may not have warranted that I think what's what's being missed when people take that stance is that B Corp isn't a beatification for companies. It's not saying, you know, you you've done, you've done everything you can, you've now got this, this wonderful badge and, and your work here is done. It's saying that you've achieved a certain level and are committing to improve on that year on year, day by day, the call isn't in all of itself. A thing it isn't, it isn't, it isn't a thing to achieve. It's, it's a it's a framework, it's a system for running your business and helping to improve it. As you go forward into the future.

Vineeta Greenwood  33:57
I quite agree it's a framework, it's a framework to help each other, see where you're falling short, and learn from each other. The word that keeps coming to my mind when we talk about B Corp is not the framework and the the the B impact assessment, but the community. And the beauty of this community is that they all have been through this rigorous framework, and they know how hard it is. So they want to help each other improve not just their scores, but their businesses. And when you speak to another business owner, you have empathy of the journey they've been through the struggles they've been through, and how hard it is to continually improve when you still try to make finances work. You know, you're trying to pay salaries, and when clients and when trust while doing this other thing, which is improving your social workers, government workers, governance, all of these categories and you Want to speak with somebody who's done it better than you. And the nice thing about the B Corp community is that you can speak to someone, and they are willing to share. And that's the beauty of being in the B Corp community. So even if it's not, it might not be perfect. Like Gavin said, there are some companies that might get through because of whatever reasons. The truth is, that it is a place where you can feel safe and learn from each other and improve not just your business, but your understanding of how other businesses run.

Gavin Shinfield  35:34
Yeah, that's that's absolutely true. The community around around the clock is wonderful. We're just establishing a be local group in Surrey, which is, which is lacking at the moment. So and it's it's just amazing to the connection it gives you to all sorts of different types of businesses. And the willingness to to be open and to share is very tangible in that community. You're absolutely right there Vineeta.

Gaël  36:08
My next word is kind of connected to what you just said. And this is piers, how to make an impact in the agency world. Did sustainability become a topic in the agency Nomex to reuse the name of this podcast given that you were recently invited to?

Gavin Shinfield  36:31
Yeah, yes, no, absolutely. There's, it's I'm just going to talk about B Corp again there. But the whole notion of sustainability is getting massive recognition right now in the in the agency space, I just spoke at the agency hackers agency, good agencies Conference, which is, which is purely purely around this topic, and covered a lot of the things that we've been talking about today. I, as I've said I'm worthy, I'm a member of the BMS Sustainability Council beamer is the British Interactive Media Association is the largest trade group for for agencies and I know wholegrain are our members as well. They have the Sustainability Council, under the auspices of Beamer, I also ran a seven month free program of B Corp boot camps for other agencies looking to become certified. So yeah, it's a it's a it's a really hot topic right now. And the number, it seems that every other agency that you speak to is, is considering the B Corp certification or is already on the journey

Gaël  37:50
Vineeta I just like to bring back this article I mentioned the one that Tolman and you wrote in branch magazine, because that's interesting what Gavin just said, because Tom and you, you've wrote about the challenge of being honest and transparent, open and honest, I remember the words, because you say that there is a lot of bravado and marketing hype in the agency world. And everyone, you know, claims to be perfect, and you cannot really add me to flows, I think use the word, risky marketing strategy. And the problem was the sustainability on days that you make mistake every day, almost every day. And it's really a learning by doing journey. So isn't it hard for a marketing agency to embark on a journey where it might have to admit flows and mistakes in front of others? Despite all of this peer pressure tends to be always, you know, the the shiniest one, etc, etc. How do you deal with such a challenge?

Vineeta Greenwood  39:00
I think people appreciate honesty and authenticity. They appreciate you telling them about that your failures more than you realize, when you tell somebody, this is where I stumbled, you're pointing that stone that you stumbled on so that others don't. And that's the open source community. That's the point of community. That's how we all as humans survived. And therefore, I don't see it as a challenge of telling somebody where we failed. And when I tell somebody where we have stumbled, they have been more empathetic than not, it doesn't make us look the shiniest. But if you've met Tom or me in person, we're not the shiniest looking people anyway, and we're pretty honest. You see me wearing makeup and looking the prettiest but I know what I'm doing and that's what clients see. That's what bears see. And they have mutual respect because you know that they are good at their craft. And that's where I feel the authenticity is what matters. So telling people your true story, even when you fell down and got up, it actually makes people feel like, yeah, you're human, just like me. And we all have been through all this difficult spirals, where you feel like, When is this gonna be better again, but then we come out the other side, don't we? So it's, it's like a sharing challenges on what you're facing is something that wholegrain has done for many, many years through blogs, through public articles. And I think that has won the hearts of other people as well, because they can relate to it rather than going, Oh, they want a shiny Award, which we don't win many awards anyway. It's, it's intentional, because that's not a part of our strategy. Authenticity is a part of our strategy. So we we stay, so we stay true to who we are.

Gaël  41:08
Indeed, you shared quite a lot.

Gavin Shinfield  41:10
Can I just say, Vineeta? I think, as far as you and and Tom go, it's your authenticity that makes you shine? Oh, I think I totally agree. I think maybe what, what Gail's referring to it's gotten somewhat of that the old thinking of, of agency world where ever it was very much competitive to the big mega agencies sort of duking it out at the top, I think we've we've, we feel like we're, we're moving beyond that now. And there is in the, in the sustainability community, definitely. But I also think in, in the, in the agency land, in the community, amongst agencies, I think there is a there is a real network of support, like I've not really experienced elsewhere in commercial life, and I think you're right, the, you know, the, the celebration of our humanity, and the fact that it is it is, it is a struggle, it's a it's a it's a hard business to be in. And if you take your eye off the ball, the adage goes, as you know, you're only three phone calls away from, from the agency going under is very busy, sometimes operating on quite slim margins, and knife edge of profitability. So you know, the fact that we are able to be open and to share these things with each other, and to support each other is actually now a trademark of agencies. Whereas maybe it wasn't in the battle days,

Gaël  42:55
quite a lot of evolution in the way you do business, which is a nice transition with my almost last word, which is regenerative business, selecting clients or selecting missions, to be sure that they do have an positive impact on the world. I know that is something that will drain digital has been focusing from the very beginning, what was the process that you actually open sourced? But um, could you both of you elaborate a bit of how it resonates? This, there's two words sorry, the regenerative business.

Vineeta Greenwood  43:34
There's resilience in our business that's regenerative. And a business that actually can feed not just itself, but its community around is a regenerative business. So you're spreading the knowledge and sort of not becoming just a thought leader, but also feeding the thing that you're trying to promote through everybody else. So that's how I feel about digital sustainability. So with with the way we run our business, it has helped become regenerative because people have also put their effort into talking about the things we're talking about. So I feel like the regenerative is is a very involved term and so many different angles that you can talk about how you regenerate, but I'm gonna give Gavin Gavin the opportunity because I think he'll be better at answering this question.

Gavin Shinfield  44:35
I don't know about that beneath I'll give it a go. I think for me, the regenerative level is helpful. It's positive. Because I think if you if we just take it from a pure linguistic point of view, sustainability is that doesn't really feel like a goal. In the same way that net zero doesn't really feel like a goal you're moving toward to the to this status quo you're moving towards where things should be. But that's just equilibrium, I think to, to then tip over to the next positive round of business, the next way of thinking about things is to say, Yeah, sustainability is one thing, but we do need to be regenerative. And that doesn't mean necessarily, you know, it's not like a whole transformation piece and you're moving from a sustainable business to a regenerative business, it's more to just to do with the mindset of thinking about business in the round. And the fact that if the world is a better place, because your company exists, then you are regenerative business, in whatever way that is, with what you're able to give back to the community to share on on a wider, wider, wider basis to to improve the health and well being of your employees over and above just providing good employment that makes you a regenerative business. It's a term that's being bandied around a lot in regenerative farming regenerative industry, but I think it's a it's a helpful and aspirational label. But it doesn't mean we should stop thinking about sustainable business.

Vineeta Greenwood  46:23
Yeah, I think that's the bet about regenerative as you're giving back more than you are taking away from wherever you are, whether that be farming or in business world, you're sort of contributing constantly, of course, not at the expense of your health, but you're contributing to the greater cause. And that sort of feeds back into your business as even as goodwill. Absolutely. Yeah.

Gaël  46:53
Yeah, fair point. I'd like to finish with sometimes a bit more controversial word. But I believe that it's a discussion you have quite often with your clients. And this is offset word about carbon offsetting. He had an issue if you've seen this episode, but John Oliver, in one of his last week, tonight's show had this very provocative sentence like you cannot offset our way out of climate change. And to be honest, the lows of climate physics are on his side. But still planting trees when wisely Don also contributes to capture carbon and support biodiversity. So what's your stance on this? Do you use this within your business? Do you discuss it with your clients?

Vineeta Greenwood  47:38
Yeah, we do offset it. But big like John Oliver, I do believe in the concept that you can't expect a if you just translate it to normal life, you can't tell some somebody, Hey, here's some money, you don't cheat on your wife so that I can, that's what offsetting is, in a way. And it's a very controversial term, because you're trying to, when you're offsetting, you're trying to sort of, say, I did something bad. But here's some candy so that you forget about it. But at the same time, it's the what the focus should be on reduction of carbon emissions. And if there is a reason to offset because you couldn't reduce it any further, which is, in our cases, well, then offset does become really important. And then that's where the word regenerative comes, for example, mangroves planting, you're sort of doing a lot more than just planting trees you're planting. When you're planting forests, in countries where you're also producing employment to women who couldn't get employment in a traditional environment, then you're actually making a greater difference, not just environmentally, but socially and giving somebody a better life. So I'm an advocate for offset when you've run out of options, not when not as a default, saying, hey, we'll go and plant X number of trees so that we can go and fly abroad for holiday. And it's I probably have very strong opinions about this. And that's that is very radical, but at the same time, offset really has a place and we we try to offset using Eden reforest to a reforestation scheme, or schemes that are actually really true to what they're trying to do. Hopefully, that that's something that you can edit out if it's true.

Gaël  49:47
No, I won't. I want it it's perfectly balanced. And I really love the I might even put it in one of the court like I'm an advocate of upsets when you run out of any other smash What's the options? Sorry?

Gavin Shinfield  50:04
Yeah, I think the the fact of the matter is there's that offsets are unnecessary i There is there is no, there is no net zero plan in the world that doesn't feature some level of offsets. It just depends what type of offsets you're thinking about. And I heard a similar anecdote Vineeta, about cheating on you're cheating on your wife or paying, you know, paying someone not to smoke so that you can continue on continue smoking. It's, the damage is being done, let's face it, you know, you're maybe you're doing good elsewhere, but the damage is still being done. So we have to focus on reduction first, and then offset where where we cannot reduce any further. And that's really what the net zero goal is all about. Reducing the the sbti goal, it's, it's reducing your emissions in real terms by 90%, and then offsetting for the last 10%.

Gaël  51:06
I love these numbers.

Gavin Shinfield  51:09
I mean, you know, and you've got and you've got seven yesterday. So let's get cracking. It does depend on on on how you look to do your offsets as well, I'm tree planting is fantastic. We plant trees through through our partner with ecology and have done for a number of years now. But we also do invest in direct air capture with climeworks, the Zurich startup. And there are there are other areas of have more sort of more permanent carbon removal through biochar products, and through some other investment in real carbon positive technologies that we're exploring right now. So I did here on offsets, saying that this really isn't something that that contributes to minimizing your your carbon footprint, it's more of a CSR activity. But that's not to say that you shouldn't do it is still very important. So we as a, as a service based industry, we we were able to offset all of our carbon straight, we offset to three times more carbon than we produce anyway. But then that doesn't stop us from from having a strong carbon reduction and carbon removal plan as well.

Gaël  52:36
Yeah, fair point. I agree that that's easier. That's easier to do in some sectors. And also, so that definitely shouldn't be a blank check.

Gavin Shinfield  52:45
Yeah, but then But then as because we this is like anything because we are able to do we are able to do more and have more benefit on on the harm that we that we make, then that we should do we should we should take that opportunity to do all the good we can.

Gaël  53:05
Well, I think this conversation could go on for a few extra hours, until you've got business to run. So I'd like to ask you a final question, which is a very standard one. We talked about Tom spook team spook the job done at the Greenway foundation by Chris Adams. We should have also mentioned Hanif Miss works in especially in the WordPress community with a lot of other people as well, who has helped bringing the digital sustainability topic on the very top top of the list. But do you have all the resources? Do you have books, podcasts, articles that you would warmly recommend to anyone wanting to either get to know or even you get a bit deeper in the digital sustainability? Knowledge space?

Gavin Shinfield  53:58
There's a there's a couple that I would I would suggest I know, we've already talked about, like you said Tom's book. Tom also has a wonderful substack newsletter called oxymoron, which is more his more sort of personal musings. And I find that very positive comes out with on a weekly basis. I always look forward to that on a more sort of practical and resource level. Again, we talked about the IS IT handbook of sustainable digital services is that they mentioned previously. Yeah, so that's that's something that I do refer to quite a lot and the the work that was published by the web Almanach recently, the HTTP Archive. They they added a new chapter on web sustainability this year. And I thought that was actually a really good run through of all of the aspects that you You might think about weighing, weighing covering the sustainability online. So those were those are good ones. I also liked them first. Yeah, there, Ronnie. It's talking. He's absolutely his music to my fantastic. Yeah, really good stuff. Did you read his latest one the beyond data transfer? Along with that?

Gaël  55:23
Yeah, that's a masterpiece. That's one of the best article I read on this topic with the work of Gucci who seems that I should have mentioned in a very sorry to him that he is maybe one of the top Research Leader worldwide, but I know that Tom and Vineeta they know him pretty well as well. Yeah, it was a masterpiece. What for shadow stone. And actually, he was my very first guest on the show. So Oh, was he I must mention back to Yeah. Yeah, my very first guest.

Gavin Shinfield  55:52
So there we go. Full circle.

Vineeta Greenwood  55:54
You have really mentioned all of my heroes like Hannah Smith, Chris Adams. And, and got here and it is just all of the people you mentioned, Tim is my absolute fan of Tim Frick. And it's just, it's just really nice to be in this happy bubble where everyone cares, and really is doing the right thing. And I'm so excited. Now I'm connected to Gavin as well. I was just I just so happy. Thank you.

Gavin Shinfield  56:24
Wonderful. So finally meeting. Yeah, I

Vineeta Greenwood  56:27
know, we should arrange another time to have a chat as well. I'd love to know more about you. And thanks for mentioning oxymoron. That bit that I was gonna say was sustainable web, which is a resource that Tom, my husband, Tim flicks agency, mighty bytes. And also, our digital declutter Toolkit, which is a toolkit to not just talk about website, carbon emissions, but also other digital carbon emissions that we produced with business declares, which is organization that talks to a larger business community on declaring climate emergency. Yeah, and thanks for mentioning oxymoron AI, it's my personal favorite as well. It is quite amazing to watch Tom tossin turn on these thoughts. And then finally, you know, put together a blog post and then sort of cringe Jazziz headings publish, and then then nice people like yourself mentioned it. Thank you.

Gavin Shinfield  57:32
Well, no, it's just wonderful. You know, what's so good about, about the oxymoron? Thing is, is I think sometimes, and we've talked a lot of some other quite sort of heavy sides of, you know, and the challenges facing us when we're talking about, about being more sustainable about particularly online, but I think there was, there was one episode of The oxymoron it was it really stuck with me. And it's kind of become my, my, my catchphrase, when I'm talking about all of these things, where Tom was talking about the fact that there was perfection and issue. And I think, if we what we what we really must focus on is that there's not to let perfection be the enemy of progress, and really stuck with me. And I think that's a maxim that we should all try and live by when we're thinking about these topics.

Vineeta Greenwood  58:28
Yes, somebody said, one of our old clients came set to set to me all class or the client from the from the olden days, said, Done is better than perfect. And she would just look at me and go Done is better than perfect. And I'd be like, No, but high quality craft, and she'd like milk, do it, and ship it, and we'll improve it. And I was like, okay, okay, I get, I think that was really helpful to see where we sometimes get stuck, we sort of hang on to things. It's not perfect. I don't want to share it to the world yet. But no, no, it's good. Send that let people critique it, it will get better,

Gavin Shinfield  59:06
it will get better, and it'll get better through us collaborating on it. And that's how that's how we progress.

Gaël  59:13
Yes. And it resonates quite a lot with the way I struggle with the podcast. And like always wanting it to be better and perfect. And just I can't just do it. But then we'll come back to this point a bit later. I first wanted to thank you so much, both of you to take the time to join the show to share all this knowledge to be very open about what has worked and didn't work. So it was a real honor to have both of you on the show. Thanks a lot.

Gavin Shinfield  59:42
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you again, wonderful to meet you have anything

Gaël  59:47
and I will say the cherry on top of the cake and that's actually the second time it happens. So it validates my new strategy of having rather two or three guests and just one is that once a Again, a nice connection has been made and longer responsible technologists and that really made my day. So I'm happy likewise and, and that's it. I hope you enjoyed this episode and that you will enjoy the next one. Bye bye

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