Our CEO, James chats to our CS Lead, Chris about all things Corporate Social Responsibility (aka...CSR!)
Our journey into the world of being a truly climate conscious business. Join us as we talk to fellow entrepreneurs, founders, marketing folks, and campaigners to help us build our new product, EcoSend: the climate conscious email marketing tool.
Hi everyone, welcome to the EcoSend podcast, this is episode one of the EcoSend podcast; a podcast all about our journey into the world of being a better company; a better company for the planet.
And, we're a software company at heart. We've been around for a long time and recently we've started building our interest in the climate and how we can make the world a little bit better in our own small way. So our journey into the world of climate is involving many aspects of the business from what we're doing internally to even the products we're working on for our customers.
What we thought would be a great idea would be to start a little way of journaling that process along the way, as we learn more about what we should and shouldn't be doing, Aand hopefully sharing some of what we are learning with you. Because if we are becoming a better company, the hope is that it's not just us, but millions of others around the world are on this journey too and I think we've all got a lot to learn. So without forever ado, we'll jump into the first episode today, and I'm thrilled - who better to join me on episode one of the EcoSend podcast - than the one and only Chris, who is our Head of Customer Success.
Chris, do you wanna give us a little intro about yourself?
Thank you, James. Yes, I head up the customer success team here at GoSquared; I got involved in the CSR side of our activities, possibly I think around nine months ago, taking over the mantle on that and that's been a really fun journey, from that stage to where we are now. So we're really enjoying that and really enjoying integrating those CSR activities and that CSR element into our processes and increasingly into our platform. So I think that's probably what we're going to have most of our chat about today, James.
Awesome. Thank you, Chris. Good to have you here. Fantastic. I feel like already just getting started, there's already terms coming at me as a newbie to this, I didn't know necessarily even what some of these terms were. CSR, Chris, tell me what is CSR?
Corporate social responsibility, I believe is the strict definition of it.
Which loosely would be like companies doing more than just making profit, would you say?
Yes. Companies, I suppose with a certain responsibility to do some good with the quote unquote power they yield or... Progress can always have side effects, at the end of the day and I think that's something that people are increasingly aware of, and that is what CSR focuses on. Its companies not just having this laser-like focus on progress, profit at all costs, but what is the more holistic picture of what is that company's larger impact on society, culture, the planet, et cetera.
I think that's, zoomed out, what CSR is focusing on is what do companies actually stand for, and what is their net effect on the world? Not just what they're producing as in terms of product, but what larger effects are happening? There's lots of companies that, in isolation produce one thing which may be very useful, but may do lots of things outside of that which mean they have a net negative effect on the world. And I think that's the kind of thing that CSR is looking into.
Sure thing. Got it, that makes a lot of sense. So I guess on the vein of that then, since for as long as I can remember, you've been pushing the desire to do more CSR efforts at GoSquared, for a while now, Chris. For you personally, is there anything that's driven you on that side of things? Is there any experiences you've had that have made you have that agenda? Because you could just rock up and do your job every day, but I know you do more than that, so, where's the CSR passion come from?
I think, initially it stems from personal interest. Very much in another life I worked as a mental health support worker, so this was supporting clients with certain mental conditions, helping them live as independently and as fulfilled lives as possible.
And I got a ton out of that, but I've found that ever since I moved away from that, moved into tech, the difficulty has been how do you integrate something which very much felt like a personal interest or, an outside-of-work interest? Covid as well was helpful in this regard in so much as I volunteered at a local food bank. They were allowed to stay open because they're critical services. That was initially just a nice way to get out of the house.
You found your way, in a more noble way than many!
Pandemic cheat code for getting out outside.
For a long time, I've really wanted to be able to integrate some of that. It always sounds vague, but that sense of purpose or that sense of wellbeing into work, so it's not just relegated to those few snatches of free time one has. And CSR very much felt like that gateway to integrating the two together.
Absolutely. No, it's actually really interesting to hear about that journey for you as an individual and, obviously I think part of my goal is to try and encourage that in each of us. And I don't know if it's too bold to say, but I like to think that most people have a desire to do good, and do more good, but it is often very difficult when you’ve got your nine to five job and then in the evening social engagements.
There's always that thing you haven't seen on Netflix and before you know it, you've run out of hours in the day to apply those efforts. So bringing that into the team here at GoSquared I know I've been on the receiving end of how you've done that, but maybe for anyone listening, it would be good to hear how you've encouraged us to do a lot more at GoSquared. I think there's probably a bunch you could share there for us. Give away your top tips.
I think the thing I found at the start was it's surprisingly difficult to do good, as it were, particularly in this kind of CSR context. And, and you're right, everyone does want to do it. Everyone has that intention.
Most people at least!
But the difficulty always just comes down to the practical nuts and bolts and logistics of actually sitting down and doing it.
Especially for companies that aren't necessarily large corporates where maybe the nine to five is a longer working day or there's things which always have to be priority over a CSR activity. And the difficulty I found was it became so easy to deprioritise sorting out that CSR activity because really almost everything else tended to take that priority.
There's always something more urgent, especially, isn't there?
Exactly, Exactly. It was always easy just to bump that calendar reminder onto the next week and that was onto the next week. Which was one problem in itself, but the additional problem was, as and when I actually did find the time to sit down and scrape some time together to look into it... again, it was funny, it is actually difficult to arrange this sort of thing. I still feel like having CSR activities or, or for charities offering CSR activities, it's still quite a nascent program.
Again, unless you are maybe a very large company where this has always been embedded for a long time and you have one charity that you work with for a long time, it's difficult to find, particularly ad hoc, initiatives with charities to reach out to them directly.
I guess also for those listening that maybe aren't aware of GoSquared, we're not a huge company ourselves, so it's not like we've got someone in the room who's full time job is organizing activities for the team, right, Chris? You wanting to do more CSR work, it's meaning you having to get off your back and go make it happen.
Yeah, absolutely, and so that then ended up with; you have that one alternative, which is, 'Oh we could just donate some money somewhere', which just doesn't quite hit the spot.
Which doesn't scratch the itch for you!
It doesn't really give, doesn't give the team anything to do together. There's no real team involvement. There's no activity to bring people together to actually go and do some good together, which I think is one of the, we'll come to later, it's one of actually the main benefits of some of these CSR activities is having the team together, in a room or outside, in South Bank litter picking. If you're just giving money to something, it does feel a bit transactional. And there's always that question I think as well of, 'where does the money actually go?' A lot of charities are better at this nowadays. I think Beam is particularly good at this, where I think on their website they have a full breakdown of exactly where all funding goes and you see a lot of that visibility.
But I think there is still that question mark around what is the money actually going to end up doing?
So there's a couple of difficulties with wearing the part-time CSR hat. And really I think the big turning point for us as a company and for our CSR activities, was finding OnHand.
So for anyone who's not familiar, OnHand is an app, a platform as well, which allows you to sign up for CSR activities called 'missions'. It's great fun. It does a lot of that organization; takes a huge amount of that headache off of my plate, because it will list exactly which initiatives you can get involved in, which charities are open to food bank assistance. You can arrange team missions like our litter picking. And that just really was a flip from pretty much zero CSR to actually doing CSR, was getting signed-up with OnHand.
I seem to remember us talking, we obviously have catch ups on a regular basis and I seem to remember us talking for a while - every few weeks we'd be like, 'Oh it'd be really good to do something. It'd be really good to do something'. And all of our intent was there. But, the friction of trying to actually get people together to do something was... it felt so high.
And as you said when things are coming in and you've got emails to get back to, customers to look after, things to build, it's trying to then shepherd the whole team together to that activity and trying to figure out what that activity even should be.
You’ve got to build everything from scratch. And I remember when, when you suggested OnHand, it was such a game changer. Getting us from zero to something, and before you knew it, we were onboarded and well away with it. So I think someone described OnHand as Uber for CSR or something.
Yeah, Uber for doing good.
Uber for doing good. Yeah. Which is quite a contrast. But I've been amazed at how it has turned that desire into actually starting to do something about it. Not that this is a podcast sponsored by OnHand, by the way. I'm sure there are maybe other services it's just we came across OnHand and it just seemed like it really reduced so much overhead for you, Chris, of organizing things, didn't it?
Absolutely. And I think it brought things that I hadn't anticipated as well. I think the competitive element that OnHand brings in is good. It was a refreshing benefit as well to see the team leaderboard, which you are atop of, which makes me very, very jealous.
You'll catch me soon, Chris. You'll catch soon. I think what's also being good is, I know we are primarily talking about the climate, but OnHand has a bunch of missions that are about helping in the local area and helping with maybe elderly people and people who might be lonely and just being generally, I think just being a better citizen, what more could one ask for?
I think it's the best, paid subscription we have made so far as a business. I know Chris, you mentioned one of our activities there, which is the litter picking we did. I thoroughly enjoyed that day. I reckon it might be a good one to share with others because there might be some questions raised, do tell - what did we get up to?
So litter picking afternoon was, essentially that. We got together I think as a team, beforehand. So we were working together in the office and then essentially we got some gloves on, got some bin bags, went out in, I think it was across Southbank we started, or around Westminster we started, and ended up in Southbank
It was quite a fancy part of London,
Yeah we covered quite a lot of London, and we did just that because everyone knows litter is everywhere. And we strolled around, we picked up litter and, it was quite surprising I think how much we were able to pick up even in an area that's probably better served by community litter picking or council litter-picking.
There was a ton of it, and it was a fantastic activity. Again, it was able to get all of us together, for the day and out & about. It was nice weather. I don't think we could have really asked for a better, first CSR activity. It went really well.
It was almost, almost too much fun Chris.
It was quite a strange feeling to be scanning the horizon for litter and running ahead of your colleagues to get your hands on God knows what.
It was, honestly, I was amazed, on that day that in central London, in an area of London where there are professional road sweepers and council staff sweeping up seemingly all the time. That even despite all that, each of us came away with a bin bag overflowing with litter that we had all picked up.
And a lot of it might have get gotten picked up by a road sweeper. A lot of it might have ended up in the River Thames. You know, all sorts of possible places where that litter goes. I was just amazed at how, us as humans walking around on this planet, each of us has different outlooks on the world and different ways of living but, just in a city like London how quickly the impact of humans is felt on the natural environment.
It was just incredible to see. Quite eye-opening. I think one of the other things that I loved about the day was that it sparked a lot of conversations with other people; other members of the public. Some people asking us, "What the hell are you doing? Have you just escaped from prison?" “Is this community service or..”
That was assumption. Quite often.
Yeah there's no possible way you would choose to go out and pick litter off the streets of London, surely. What have you done to deserve this punishment? But then other people were incredibly happy to see it happening and came up to us and saying how good it was to see and I like to think that we maybe, in our own little way, inspired a few other people to do some good there.
I think the overall reaction was overwhelmingly positive. You get a few strange looks, but that's, it's partly because people don't see that very often and they're just trying to figure out, what's going on? Why are they doing this? And for those who were comfortable enough to talk to us, it was overwhelmingly positive.
Hopefully it does plant a seed as well; you can actually just go out and do this sort of thing. You can just get some gloves, get some bin bags. Not plastic gloves though, as we found out...
Yeah! One thing we did learn was, tools are important.
No, it was good. It was very enjoyable, I think, and you're right Chris as well, you don't need too much organization to do something like that, but you do need to - if you want to do it as a team thing, someone needs to put it on the agenda and say this is when we're gonna meet and do it. And I think, given we had never done that before, having done it once, we're now all itching to do the next one.
So I have to thank you for organizing that, Chris. It was fantastic. What would you say to anyone who would say, you know, "why weren't you guys all working that afternoon?" Because we did take the afternoon off of normal business endeavors to go do that.
We did. I think, well firstly, we work very hard but time off is necessary and I think a lot of companies do offer these afternoons off, whether it's corporate team building or an early trip down the pub or, a retreat and I don't know, I'm always a bit suspicious of how many people actually enjoy those activities? Right. Especially the kind of team building forced fun exercises. So this is a smaller scale than that for a start, it's literally a couple of hours. Which I think the team get a lot out of. Hopefully I'm not putting words in their mouths, but it is something that increases their own satisfaction of their quality of work-life. Which is something that you do have to take into account for how your team, how your colleagues feel about the day to day, working at a company.
There's that. And also I feel like we should live in a culture where, for a business for their team to take one or two hours a month to do some good is something that should really be celebrated right? Rather than questioned. I think that's the kind of world that I think I would want to live in where it's celebrated rather than the 24 hour, always on, hustle, grind, mindset. But evidently we're a tech company. We provide support to our clients, so our clients were looked after and there was support structure in place to make sure that if a client gets in touch with a technical issue.
But, I think it is important for, as we were saying at the start, that holistic, zoomed out viewpoint of employees' quality of work and their enjoyment of work. And if you look at it in isolation, it might look a little bit weird to take a few hours out of the day. But you zoom out and you look at it throughout the year, and the benefits to productivity, the benefits to satisfaction, I think it really works out favorably.
I couldn't agree more. One of the ways I think of it as well is what kind of team, what kind of company do you want to run? How are we in this place where actually taking a couple of hours in a month is so hard to justify when on a higher level, it's not just that we're a company, but that we are, we are all individual human beings on this planet and, whether it's litter-picking or other exercises, I think there's a certain responsibility that we have as individuals to try and look after the place that we call home. And I think that mentality is the kind of company I want us to have rather than, "No, you do that in your spare time at your weekends". Well, that would be great if you do that too, but I like the idea of building a company where it's baked into how we are. If you're questioning why we're doing that, then it's not the right place for you .
So Chris, we did our little picking day. We went to the pub after to give us a little pat on the back, which was quite nice. I think it brought together the team in a way that I hadn't seen in a long time. In the days following that and the weeks following that, quite a lot has changed at GoSquared I'd say, talk me through what we've been up to since then? Any key things, any products we might have started looking at and things like that? There's been quite a few things it's inspired,I'd say.
I think as a pilot activity, it was a real success because it could very well have fallen flat and maybe well OK no more CSR .
We're not gonna do any more good things
Turns out everyone loves littering.
So, I think quite hot on the heels of the litter picking session was when we ran the, well we attended, the Onhand Dementia Team training session, which was hosted by Newcastle Building Society, by a chap called Jonathan, who ran a fantastic session and that was a success perhaps in a different way where, I think we, or at least I, found out for the first time that a lot of members of the team do have relatives with lived experience of dementia, Alzheimer's, et cetera.
I think a lot of people who are affected in some way or another came away from it with renewed perspective, with lessons, with a renewed understanding of what dementia is and how to engage with family members who have an experience of it.
Which was a really healthy training session I felt. So it was different to the litter picking. It was possibly less jovial of like going out in the sun, frolicking around picking litter. But, it definitely had a lot of benefit, but it in a different way.
It had a really deep impact, I think on everyone. And I just remember after that session not knowing where to turn or, or what to say other than I just felt like I needed to go for a bit of a walk and it was very educational and informative and very professionally delivered as well. I learned a lot from that.
Yes, it was a fantastic session and I think it, again, it reiterates the fact that yes, we're all colleagues, but we are also all humans and we do have families and lives outside of the office wall.
A recognition of that was, was in a way quite refreshing in the right dosage, obviously.
I think that session was great, and then through the OnHand app, we've been thinking about other projects too. And going back to the climate side of things and the eco side of things it feels like the team has been learning more and more on the climate side of things. I don't know if that's entirely down to OnHand and the litter picking mission or other factors, I mean, a lot of this coincided as well in London with some of the hottest weather on record. And some of the reasons we were going into the office in the week was because it was just so hot.
All of us were struggling to work unless we had some air conditioning. And this doesn't feel normal. This doesn't feel right in London to be hotter than it is in Spain and things like that. And it felt like climate was on the agenda a lot just in those few weeks but I think we all started asking a few more questions about what are we doing as individuals as a team? Is there more we can be doing? And it felt like that led us down some interesting avenues, which are taking us in some ways, to this podcast, right?
Yeah, just, just remembering how awful that heat wave was and…
Yeah. Now in drizzly, rainy London.
I love. I love the drizzling rain .
This is the London I know.
I've got Irish genetics, so I just burn in the sun... But yeah I think it does feel that not just as, as a company and our work with OnHand and the CSR focus. It does feel that, there is this growing, cultural awareness I suppose, of what's happening to the planet or an increasing awareness of one's local community, and any problems that are becoming more prescient. It does feel that, generally speaking, we are moving away from what might have been before, kind of a laser focus on progress at all costs. And “nothing matters except the progress”. Whereas now there is a general more holistic viewpoint of, 'progress is great but is it sustainable?' And progress is great, but what are the side effects of that progress? So it's very much something which feels that is happening outside of GoSquared and in general, in culture, and on my LinkedIn feed. I don't know whether it's just biased to my algorithm, but it just seems increasingly so that that's becoming more of something that people are aware of day to day and is permeating into work as well. Because obviously companies; businesses are at the forefront of what can either be very good for the planet or quite the opposite.
It feels in a very positive way like there's a bit of push and pull. I think these things take far longer than maybe any of us would want but I think with the attitudes to the climate, that there's certain consumers and people, who demand better of the companies they buy from, and that demand has to start somewhere, I think.
And most companies don't make stuff unless there's some demand for it. And then I think some of that demand is pushing companies to do a bit of a better job. And then as companies are doing a bit of a better job, whether it's reducing the amount of packaging they're putting out or introducing less meat in it or, using more recycled materials, then that's feeding back into how consumers are making some of their choices and hopefully that push and pull is speeding up and getting bigger and bigger to a point where, I don't know. I don't think we're there yet, but where companies won't even bother making products that are at the furthest ends of being harmful to the environment because they just won't get bought.
But I think we're still very early days and I know as GoSquared, we're not a company that makes physical products. But I think ourselves as a software company, have started realizing that we have a part to play it even if we're not a petrochemical giant, but as a software company, I always thought that our impact was negligible, really. And it was only when, I think some of us on the team started doing a bit more research around various aspects of the infrastructure of the web and different areas where there is an impact. I think we were all quite surprised to see that some of our product does have an impact, and especially when it comes to email sending; high volume marketing email. When you think about the amount of energy being used, both sending out those messages and for all people, consumers around the world receiving those. While it's nothing like if all of those people were receiving physical snail mail, there's still energy being consumed. And I think we started realising in the space of a few days, we thought we're the 'good guys' and then realized, no, we're not the 'good guys'. We've got some work to do here ourselves. So it'd be interesting actually just to hear a bit more about that, Chris if you don't mind. What have we been doing on that front?
I think it was really eye opening to recognize that actually as an email platform, even though we see ourselves as a lightweight, SaaS company. We do emit carbon, all the email platforms emit carbon, and it feels like it's one of those things that's, it's quite easy to ignore when everyone else is ignoring it.
But that doesn't mean we should ignore it. And it does take a company or a set of companies to make that first start. To decide, no, actually we are going to do something different here. To have, as you said, that positive knock-on ripple effect where eventually, ideally it gets to the point where people will only buy an email platform that has that climate consciousness in mind.
Because at the end of the day, why not integrate our values and all those CSR activities and all that work we've been doing? Why have that just as something behind the scenes or something we do just once a month when we have the time . Why can't we build , or why can't we maintain a world class email platform, but also be climate conscious? I don't think there has to be that trade off, which I think traditionally you felt that there was that trade off where either you are a profitable business or you're a charity. We don't want to be just the 'profit at all costs' business, but also we do want to be a profitable business where we're not reliant on government grants, et cetera.
We want to have a profitable business model and to provide a great service to our clients but, the two don't have to be completely separate.
So I think that thought is now permeating into us as a business, into the mission and how we're reflecting that. To start with in terms of some of our initiatives and our processes, and also increasingly into the GoSquared platform with the birth of EcoSend which is really our attempt to 'walk the walk' . It's easy to put up a mission statement on the website and say that we care about the planet, or we care about the social cultural topics but we're actually now integrating this into, baking it into what GoSquared is and what GoSquared stands for.
So a few of the initial steps we've taken are really exciting. Although it felt difficult to start with once you've actually started taking those steps it's become refreshingly easy to do these kinds of things. So to give some examples, we partnered with Tree Nation.
Tree Nation are a platform which allows us to plant trees at various projects, mostly across Africa. We've planted trees in Mozambique, Senegal, Cameroon as well as of about midday today,
Oh, I didn't know about that. That's great. Just to clarify, it's not been us flying around the world doing this tree planting. Tree Nation have been very helpful for doing this on our behalf. It's a very good service.
So that's been really exciting. And again, the more we delve into this space, we realize that there are other people, other businesses out there with the same mentality that we can connect with, we can partner with. So we're really baking that into, for example, into our CS processes.
When clients get onto Case Study calls with us, we plant 25 trees in the GoSquared forest, and that starts offsetting carbon, and that goes to offset the carbon emissions that we're seeing off the platform by those trees planted.
So I think the plant we did today was something crazy, like 460,000 kgs of carbon will get offset by that plant over the year. Which is fantastic. And again, it's been surprising how easy it is to go and do this.
Absolutely. I think just touching back to one of the things you mentioned just now Chris. Businesses often have this profit motive and then charities are doing good, but often are struggling to find where their next money is going to come from. And I think we've felt that increasingly over the last few weeks and months, we are in this incredibly fortunate position where we can have a huge impact and if we can channel our efforts in the right ways, then not only do we go and plant some trees and do we go and do some litter picking and feel better as a team and do our bit. But by building a platform like we're building hopefully we can be impacting not just tens or hundreds of people, but maybe tens of millions of people. And if that can have some knock on effect, then I think it's incredibly, incredibly exciting. Can't wait to see the GoSquared forest keep growing too. Did you have any final thoughts, Chris, on anything? Anything coming up soon? Where we're going next on this stuff? Where you want to take things?
I think it's step by step we're integrating this more into the platform as well. And I think one of the most exciting things for me as a CS person and interested in how our customers are using the platform, making sure that they're getting the most value out of their own subscription.
It's coupling that with gamifying the platform, but with the right incentives. I think a lot of companies try to gamify with badges or with tokens. And I just, I question if people really care that much, but if we can get to the stage where we are gamifying EcoSend to the point where we are encouraging best practice. So users are not only getting the most out of their subscription; they're sending better emails, they're getting better returns on their marketing campaigns, better engagement from their clients, lower churn, better renewal at each subscription date. But that is also being incentivized with tree planting rather than a useless badge or a hamper of gifts or biscuits. If people want biscuits, they can go and buy their biscuits. They don't need, they don't need GoSquared.
They're not getting them from us anymore.
So that's, for me, that's the dream state really where it couples what I'm interested in from a CSR perspective, with what I'm interested in from a CS perspective. And then it's the win-win for the clients where they're getting the most out of their subscription. They're getting the most out of GoSquared, and the activation of their features and best in class email practice; but that's also having a good effect on the environment. And they're happy to use us as a platform because they know it's doing good. From where I can see it does seem just win-win for everyone. So that's quite easily the most exciting thing about where this could go, I think.
That's such a good note to be wrapping up on Chris and I totally want to emphasize that. Since we've been going on this journey, often so many things you choose to do as a business or as a team, they can seem like a good idea, but then there's a downside. Whereas with what we've been doing since the very first litter picking activity through to working on the EcoSend product and getting that into the hands of more customers, there's not really been downsides.
I think we have things to learn for sure, but it's been win, win, win. Winning for our customers, winning for us as we hopefully grow with our customers, and then winning for the wider planet, which then hopefully we will win.
And so, we're still early on this journey, but I'm just so excited for where it's gonna go next.
So on that note, thank you so much, Chris for joining me on the podcast, for episode one. You are the Guinea pig, the one testing this out. I hope anyone listening has thoroughly enjoyed today's show. So thank you very much Chris. And obviously you can catch Chris if you ever sign up for GoSquared or for EcoSend you'll end up talking to Chris.
But Chris anywhere else you want anyone to follow or just get in touch on GoSquared.
I am on LinkedIn. I haven't delved into Twitter, but I'll be on the end of Live Chat I'm sure as well.
Yeah, I'm sure Chris'll plant a tree on your behalf if you get in touch. Thank you so much Chris, for joining me on today's show. And thank you for getting us on this journey. It's been a hell of a ride so far. So there we go. I think that's a wrap for episode one of the EcoSend podcast.
If we do our jobs right, you should be able to get this podcast on all major podcast players. And as it's our first show as we're just getting started, any feedback you can give us, any ratings or reviews would be hugely appreciated. Because every single one is, well, it's hopefully an opportunity for us to read and get better at this and hopefully makes us feel better if it's a nice one. And hopefully helps spread the word and tell more people.
And also if you have any suggestions for other people we can interview we would love to hear from you because we are really keen to speak to more people and every single person I speak to on this I learn a hell of a lot from. And hopefully this first show with Chris and me has already been inspiring you to go and do your own good stuff.
So thank you for listening and we'll catch you next time.