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.
Season 3 Episode 5
[00:00:53] Track 1: Hi there. Welcome to another episode of the EcoSend podcast. The EcoSend podcast is a weekly show where I'm speaking to people in and around the world of digital sustainability, sustainability, climate, basically making the world a little bit better in whatever they do. And I am always so excited to meet every single guest we have on the show.
[00:01:14] We always talk about for about 30 minutes each episode. And I hope every time that people come away, both inspired, educated, and a little bit entertained, if at all possible. I'm really pleased this week to be joined by Richard Dickson from Play It Green who is the co-founder of the award-winning sustainability company.
[00:01:33] Richard has a background in psychology and philosophy, and he is a proponent of conscious capitalism and better business. Richard's also, and whether or not this makes you like him more or less, he's also a lifelong Manchester City fan and a fitness enthusiast. But we'll forgive him for that. But I'm so excited to have Richard join us today.
[00:01:52] Richard could not be a better guest to have on the show. I'm so excited to dig into some of the topics you've suggested, Richard. So, hi, how are you doing? Welcome to the show,
[00:02:01] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: Hi James. Really good to be here. Been really excited for this,
[00:02:03] Track 1: Yeah. Great to have you, Richard. So I, I gave a little short intro there, but Richard, maybe in your own words, what, what are you up to at the moment?
[00:02:12] What do you do?
[00:02:14] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: So two a half years ago I founded PlayItGreen which is a conscious capitalist model business to help people and businesses reduce their footprint and have an ongoing environmental and social impact whilst they're on that journey of sustainability.
[00:02:30] Track 1: Awesome. And for those wondering, we, we signed up to play at Green a few months ago, earlier in the year. It's been really great so far to be on that journey with you, Richard. So thank you for bringing so many great businesses, brands together to all put, put the planet and the, and the world a little bit higher up the agenda.
[00:02:50] It's always awesome to see others doing that. Hugely excited to talk to you more about it. So I guess, Richard, did you wake up and just start this and think that's what you're gonna do? Or was there a journey towards that? How did you get here?
[00:03:05] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: So It probably started when I got moved schools at six. Because I asked too many questions. Yeah, I was...
[00:03:12] Track 1: ...at six. That's pretty early.
[00:03:13] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: Yeah, my parents went to a parents' evening and were told there was a disruptive influence. Because I asked too many questions and I'd always been brought up to ask why. But that became like my mantra. And I ended up studying psychology and philosophy because I wanted to know why we do things, why we're here, what's our place in the universe, all those questions. And I was really by evolutionary psychology, sort of what's led us to where we are at this point. And obviously things have changed rapidly. Probably more so in the last 50 years than ever before in the way society works and, and the way people interact. It's changed
[00:03:51] and, and it was that questioning and the looking for reasons why we do stuff that that's led me to, to this point. It was my thesis in philosophy that got me into conscious capitalism. So I was looking at the root of evil. And I'd I had read this amazing story about when the French were in Canada and partitioning Canada, they'd spoken to the indigenous people who couldn't understand how the French were calling themselves, sort of evolved and enlightened when they allowed money and property to give them power over people, power over other people. And the indigenous people said, our chief is our chief because it suits the tribe. It's not because the chief has power. And looking at capitalism and thinking it's a bit like the survival of the fittest where you have an apex
[00:04:39] predator. And I could see parts of, I recently discovered I was neurodiverse. And part of the one of the things I see is patterns. And I could see these patterns in similarities between evolution, the survival of the fittest and capitalism where person would amass all the wealth and all the property. And suddenly have dominion over everyone because that's how it works. And you see happening now with the sort of oligarchs and people like Bill Gates who have huge amounts of power over other people just because of finance. And don't get me wrong, I believe in reward for doing well, but I think that there needs to be checks and that made me feel uncomfortable throughout my career. I was told it was a fairytale when I finished university, I, I got a good mark for the the thesis, but I was told it was a fairytale and it wouldn't work. Strangely, I recently met the head of thought leadership at Nielsen and she said it's actually the playbook now, which is quite cool.
[00:05:37] Anyway, I. I've tried loads of things for, for fulfillment and nothing worked. And then about seven years ago, and this is where it really all started, I got offered a job for not-for-profit,
[00:05:49] planting trees in Tanzania and educating in agroforestry. And they basically take communities that we rely on foreign aid and educate them in agroforestry and provide them with the tools and the infrastructure... they did everything themselves.
[00:06:01] So it, it was empowering. I helped them scale. Then when they got investment, I left. And during that three year period, I met some incredible people; talked about sustainability and had spent their whole lives in the field. And they all said the same thing. There was a pattern again, to, to the solutions.
[00:06:21] And it wasn't well whilst trees and reforestation and repairing the damaged ecosystem is part of it, actually, it was behavior change that was needed. It was a consciousness shift to different behavior patterns. So, that's what I spent 20 years in retail doing training and developing teams and people and creating behavior change. it works on a bottom up and top down approach. 'Up' is working on individuals. Your top down is working on the community and creating alignment with values and goals that all of a sudden you have collaboration within the community and then other communities see that community and,
[00:06:58] they follow suit. I could see that there was a, a way to put that together with trees and capitalism using business as a force for good a business.
[00:07:09] And that's really where PlayItGreen came from.
[00:07:13] Track 1: I see. Wow. So, and I mean, it's really interesting hearing it all connect up there and you, you seeing those patterns over, over the years. The not-for-profit as well. You sort of skipped over there. You helped them scale quite a bit, right? Like I think you mentioned what was it, the, the number of trees you were helping them plant and the scale at which they were doing that was the, the numbers sounded unbelievable.
[00:07:37] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: Well, yeah, it was, it was good growth. They planted about 65,000 trees a year before I joined, and we planted in the three years about one and a half million,
[00:07:47] Track 1: Wow!
[00:07:47] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: With a massive scale towards the end. So yeah, it was, and, and they've gone on to do great things in lots of different. But for me, reforestation is no longer the answer.
[00:07:58] It's part of that entire behavior change. And that, boils down to education.
[00:08:04] Track 1: Sure.
[00:08:05] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: That's what's lacking in sustainability.
[00:08:07] Track 1: Sure. I, yeah, so I guess a whole, there's a whole topic around behavior change that the, you know, it is like, it's easy to say, but like, actually, you know, there's a million books out there about how to change one's, habits change, be a better X, y, z. How do you go about changing behavior and what does that look like in practice? Like for individuals especially?
[00:08:33] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: So we take it from our business's point of view and what we wanted to achieve, which was to help people and businesses reduce their footprint, create community that that wanted to do the same, collaborate. It has to be simple.
[00:08:47] If you do a SWOT analysis on the sustainability industry and a number of things come up all the time, it's really complicated. Gonna take too long. There's too much money. There's fear of failure and making mistakes. Fear of being accused. So you have to do is break it down, make it simple. Look at how learning happens in tiny bite-sized chunks. I always go back to... I started mixed martial arts at 40 and...
[00:09:15] Track 1: oh wow. That's something I didn't know about you, Richard . I'll be careful what I say.
[00:09:21] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: ...the first three months. I was constantly saying I can't do it, and I'd say to the coach, I can't, and I'd be throwing up and it, it was just a nightmare. And I almost quit on a number of occasions, but it took me actually six years to put my foot in the gym for the first time after I made a decision. I wanted to do it. However, I didn't have a fight or do any heavy sparring for another three years because I knew I wouldn't be able to. And what I did was learn tiny bits each time. I would take home and practice and I had a friend that trained with me and then got friends and, and that became a community that were all individuals learning tiny bits getting better. That can see there's a lot of sport involved here. Originally PlayItGreen was to go into sports, create positive match days ,drip feed the tips and the education through club's social media reach, but Covid ended that.
[00:10:14] Track 1: Right.
[00:10:14] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: And we became an individual and business support business, although we've gone back into sport now. And so we created something that was simple; aspiring something that an individual could do, also could be done by the community that individual's in the various communities, whether it's home or work,
[00:10:33] And we call it the three step solution to climate change.
[00:10:36] It sounds really simple, just three but what it is, is it becomes a way of life; becomes an aspirational journey, and it shifts the dopamine that you get from to consumerism to conscious consumerism. And we do that through drip feeding education.
[00:10:54] So our three, I should go back. The three step solution is very simple.
[00:10:57] It's step one is reduce. And we reduce footprints with tips, education, signposting. A good example, obviously PlayItGreen partner with EcoSend because you help people reduce the footprint. And that's what we do. That's part of what we do.
[00:11:11] Track 1: Sure.
[00:11:13] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: We produce a weekly tip every Friday that goes out in a newsletter to all our business members. And it, the content's simple. It's easy to understand. It breaks things down.
[00:11:22] There's no long words.
[00:11:23] We provide solutions as well. We do it all completely transparently. When we promote a business, we don't take money off them, don't do it for any gain. It's just to help.
[00:11:33] Step two is repair. So while you're on the journey to reducing your footprint, you repair the planet and, and you can rebalance your footprint by, through reforestation, done in a scientific way our advisors to plant the correct trees in the correct places.
[00:11:47] Track 1: Yeah. That's a whole area of know, total confusion and complexity, isn't it?
[00:11:52] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: So again, part of my learning with the previous business was there was a lack of transparency with tree planters. There was a lack of checks and balances and making sure things are done correctly and our research for a year before we chose a tree planter to, to work with.
[00:12:09] We actually provide the receipts for every tree we plant; we provide our accounting. So part of conscious capitalism is transparency.
[00:12:16] And then step three is we give, so 10% of our turnover goes to charities. We launched with Three, MIND, WWF, and Shelter, we've now got 35 with another three to go live, and they're all member chosen.
[00:12:29] The ones over and above the first three. And that three step solution becomes embedded into business.
[00:12:35] We also provide all the tools, net zero framework policies, templates; very simple in a member's platform that's self-serve. And the idea is it's so simple, so cheap that a business doesn't have a buying decision.
[00:12:48] It creates engagement in something that everyone wants to know about, has anxiety and fear, and what we've seen. The simplicity is easy to take up, but it also means that the engagement is high.
[00:13:00] And what happens is we work on Evolutionary psychology as a species. Going back to the psychology, we are programmed to produce dopamine when things are good for us.
[00:13:12] When they answer questions that causes anxiety and things like that, very simply breakdown. You eat a berry that tastes nice and and makes you feel good, it gives you dopamine. That dopamine then makes you want to tell other people about it.
[00:13:25] You get dopamine from them getting dopamine. So this is the collaborative approach. So what we do is we provide tips that make someone go, I didn't know that and that's answered a question. And then there's a product that may be shampoo bar, for example, rather than using a shampoo bottle. They'll use that and they get another hits of dopamine when they use the product because they're playing their part. They then want to tell other people and, and that works from bottom up in businesses. It creates culture change. It makes the staff less anxious. It makes them more loyal to the company.
[00:13:57] And we've seen this over two years with feedback from the members that have joined us. But it's the simplicity that's critical.
[00:14:04] Track 1: Absolutely. It's actually really handy hearing it broken down . Yeah, the simplicity, trying to tackle this in a, in any other way would be impossible, wouldn't it? And there's, there's already so much as you were saying there, there's already so much complexity. I think a lot of people, you know, speaking from experience here, like going on a journey to being a, a more climate conscious business, it's like there's, it's so hard to know where to turn.
[00:14:30] And I think there is so much fear of doing the wrong thing, that sometimes the easiest route is to just not do anything and stop, stop in your tracks and, and you know, no one wants to be called out for saying or doing the wrong thing.
[00:14:46] So I think giving people a more accessible path to learn and, and educate themselves is, is greatly, greatly needed.
[00:14:54] So it's yeah, really, really cool to, to hear. And also using so that, that dopamine . Sort of mechanic in a positive way, because I feel like so often you hear about dopamine in the context of Facebook optimizing the way the like button interacts with you. So you spend more time endlessly scrolling social media and things like that.
[00:15:17] And or at least in my world, that's what I often hear dopamine referring to. But in, in this, it's dopamine being used to make people feel good about doing good things. And so yeah, , that's pretty, pretty cool. I, I I guess you touched on it a little bit there, but a whole aspect of what you're doing then is changing business and changing the culture within both businesses at their level, but business in general.
[00:15:44] And I guess that starts with the individual, but how do you even think about that? How do you even know if you are impacting the culture of business in a positive way, Richard?
[00:15:55] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: So it's interesting, we don't measure, as in we don't speak to the companies and say, how many of your staff are opening the email? We have that data, using the software we use. There's, there's two ways. We see a number of our partners starting to promote what they do with us more and more.
[00:16:12] For example, on their recruitment page.
[00:16:14] Now if their staff, if they're spending this money and their staff weren't, engaging. This is not something companies would sing and dance about out so much in the public
[00:16:23] Track 1: Sure. Sure.
[00:16:24] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: The other way we don't work just on bottom up, but that's the culture change and the education and creating a space where the team are empowered to come up with the solutions themselves. But what we also do is with top down, is we provide tools like footprint reporting, plans, sustainability webpage policies, all the stuff that the, the sort of company owners and people running the business need.
[00:16:49] We provide those tools and the signpost into those services.
[00:16:52] And what you then see is the company goes on a journey. A good example we recently started working with a company called MC Construction.
[00:16:59] Who had just got a new tender through, Chris just happened to meet their CEO, who Chris said what he did, and the guy said, 'oh, we just had a new tender through'. He said, it's like 20% of the tenders now social and environmental impacts.
[00:17:14] said, there's stuff in there we haven't got a clue about.
[00:17:17] Track 1: Right.
[00:17:17] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: Chris very briefly explained it and then said It starts with education, but you also have to have measurement. And I think two and a bit months later, they had the climate positive workforce. They'd done a footprint report for the last two years. They had a net zero framework and a plan to be net zero by 2030. We signposted to loads of services and they are now relevant and in the tender process and, and likely to, to do very well because going above the legislative bits, and they're doing more. They're educating their staff, they're actively having a social impact through us as well. They're reforesting the planet. These are all things that will make you stand out.
[00:17:58] Track 1: Well, what I love about that is that, you know, often there is a fear of starting and there is a fear of 'ah, I, this is gonna be distracting'. Like, we've got, we've got customers to win, we've got, you know, profit to make. But actually, when you start hearing some of these journeys from businesses that have transformed and put the climate higher on their agenda, it's, it's not, I, I mean, I'm yet to see a story where someone has put the climate higher on the agenda and done worse financially as a result of it. And, it's a win-win for, yeah, as you say, recruitment for probably retention of staff for winning more bids in terms of the sales process. And it's a win for the planet.
[00:18:42] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: It's so green. Investors have all looking at green businesses. They're looking at businesses with strong sustainability strategy.
[00:18:48] I actually just received the latest data that Deloitte did. So they've just done I think it was 15,000 Gen Zs and millennials they interviewed and found that one in five of them wouldn't even apply to work for a company that didn't have a strong sustainability strategy.
[00:19:05] So all of a sudden you are, you're losing a fifth of the workforce.
[00:19:09] So yeah, and, and again, as you say, the staff retention, staff loyalty, it's all, all there.
[00:19:16] The, the firm was talking about Dane's Accountants that uses on their recruitment page, their team, any prompting from the senior management, started having a poll on our weekly tip products.
[00:19:27] So they'd all buy one or the other of the products that we promoted and then they'd share their views.
[00:19:33] Track 1: Oh really?
[00:19:33] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: Amazing culture change.
[00:19:35] But, but just going back to the difficulty, this is a common thread again, something that you see the pattern of the fear of starting.
[00:19:46] Now. I go back to my experience with mixed martial arts. It took me six years to put my foot in the gym because of all those fears of the unknown and fears of failure. And you know, exactly the same with sustainability. People are worried about making mistakes. The research shows actually, if you are transparent, and again, this is conscious capitalism, be transparent and open and honest about your journey, and you make a mistake and then you learn from it; you tell people, look, we made this mistake. This was why we did it. We had the best intentions, but it didn't work, and we've learned from it, and next time, this is how we'll do it. You will get stronger brand awareness, stronger loyalty. You'll grow your consumer base because that's what people want.
[00:20:33] Track 1: Yeah, it absolutely, it breeds that trust, doesn't it? No one expects a brand to be perfect. And I, you know, you see so many brands get it wrong where they make a mistake and just don't wanna admit that they're wrong or that they've, they got it, they made a mistake. And that's certainly been our approach with, with, with the journey we've been on, with EcoSend of, you know, when I rewind over a year ago,
[00:20:59] We really didn't know anything, and I would not proclaim to know it all, like , no one knows it all, but each step, like even just doing this podcast, it's like been about learning from others and trying to seek out the wisdom and insights and l lessons that other people have learned so that we can try and hopefully learn, but you know, we, we have got things wrong. Over, over the year or so, we've been doing EcoSend, but each time it's like, God, if we had waited till we learned all of this, well, we would never have learned at all. And we would never have started. And then overall the net result would be a net negative for everyone.
[00:21:42] So it's like you know, every time we, it's just definitely whenever I'm talking to other people, it's like just . Try to put one foot in front of the other and correct as you go.
[00:21:52] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: You look at the, the mountain peak, when you're at the bottom of the mountain, it seems impossible. You just look at the next footstep, that's really easy. And again, that's our approach to sustainability. That's why we put a weekly tip out, one the other.
[00:22:04] Going back to oh no, it's gone.
[00:22:06] I apologize.
[00:22:07] Track 1: No, no, don't, don't worry. It might, it might come back. Richard, we in terms of I know we always like to talk a bit about what the future holds. And I know I always find it quite difficult talking about the future and knowing what time horizon to look at. And I never feel like I'm very good at predicting the future other than what the next iPhone might look like.
[00:22:26] But other than that,
[00:22:27] James Gill: what are your thoughts on the future of conscious capitalism and, and of business and, and where we might be going? Are you optimistic, pessimistic, somewhere in between?
[00:22:37] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: I do, you know... we're in times of great change. That's without a doubt.
[00:22:42] I think gen Z and millennials are bringing that about, being the first ever fully digital generation who have access to knowledge at their fingertips. I mean, if I wanted to know who the director of a company was, I had to go up to the library; get the bus and go to the library.
[00:22:57] As a kid, you don't, you can find everything else, everything out now.
[00:23:02] This is why appearance is no longer quite as important as what you actually do as a person or a business.
[00:23:13] I think gone are the days from the twenties to the nineties; Marketing was about spreading falsehoods almost and telling people this is gonna make you feel better and be a better person. And, you know, it's more about Impact, legacy, honesty, transparency.
[00:23:32] Track 1: Sure.
[00:23:33] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: The problem we face is society is divided than ever before.
[00:23:39] Change is never good when it's not done collaboratively.
[00:23:43] There's always a winner and a loser, which is not what you want. We want to all win and there is always a way for that to happen.
[00:23:50] But that's through collaboration. However, the problems we face... the political system is hundreds of years old. It doesn't work. We vote once every four years in the uk and politicians aren't held accountable; to not following through on their promises.
[00:24:06] The Banking and Financial systems are hundreds of years old. We are living in a modern, super advanced technological era, but using hundreds of year old systems.
[00:24:17] The biggest issue though is education, because we are using an education system that was designed to create factory workers in the industrial Revolution and pretty much hasn't changed since then. It's just evolved slightly, but it needs overhauling.
[00:24:30] All of these three systems need overhaul.
[00:24:32] That's very difficult when...
[00:24:34] Track 1: yeah. Get get to it Richard. Get to it!
[00:24:37] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: ...absolutely! So, so for me we are very lucky setting up PlayItGreen in a time where the change is wanted because when we speak to businesses generally, they, they get what we're doing. They're in the values and what we see for the future and the collaborative approach is growing. We have nearly 200 businesses in our community; they collaborate, they communicate. We are customer driven. So the next part of development for our members platform is to build a tool so that our members can collaborate directly.
[00:25:11] Track 1: Right, right. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:25:13] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: I heard a story when someone said, when you have a baby shower, people should also also have a business shower. if you had 20 business owners, when you set your business up, all of whom chose to use your services as your business shower, then all of a sudden you've got 20 clients in their network.
[00:25:32] Track 1: I love that. I love that. That's a great idea.
[00:25:34] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: And what we've found is because we, every Tuesday we do new member articles, which go out in the weekly newsletter, it means that every member of staff in every business that opens the mailer, sees that companies join the community.
[00:25:48] And what we get is inbound saying, can you put us in touch? We want to use your services.
[00:25:52] Track 1: Sure,
[00:25:53] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: That is the goal for Play It Green, the goal is the world's largest community of change making businesses.
[00:25:59] Track 1: Incredible. And yeah, by its very nature, it hopefully gets stronger and stronger with every, every business, every baby joining...
[00:26:07] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: Because we have that conscious capitalist sort of ethos and really strong values.
[00:26:13] There's a low risk to working with us, but there's also a low risk to telling other people that you work with us. A lot of our members are sending out mailers to their supply chain and to their customer base saying, look, we work with PlayItGreen.
[00:26:25] Would you like to too? So that, again, that collaborative positive approach works.
[00:26:32] Track 1: Yeah
[00:26:33] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: It's just against the negative narrative of the press and the media and that's why we take that positive approach.
[00:26:38] Track 1: Yeah. It's, it's greatly needed. I I know we're basically at time, Richard, it's, it's been fascinating chatting. It is always lovely when we wrap up on some advice and I know, I think you received some advice. I didn't know if you wanted to, to share that. I believe it may have been something your grandma said.
[00:26:53] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: Oh, yes. Well, this, this is my mantra. And it has been since, again, part of my neurodiversity. Things stick and you become almost obsessive about them. And my grandma was born and bred Lancashire lass, who was in the land army during the war in Scotland. And she'd say 'Look and book and cook' and put 'wood in hole', which meant close the door. And she said to me when I was very young, I was about six or seven, she said, if you cast your bread on the waters, son, it comes back buttered. And I just live my life; treat other people well. Be good. Do good things for people. Leave a good impression and things will come back to you.
[00:27:34] Track 1: Absolutely that is something I'm sure everyone can take away in their, in their day. Hearing that. Thank you Richard. And thank you Richard's Grandma . That's lovely. I, I love it. . Thank you Richard. That, that was great. I guess just to, just to wrap up then, hopefully there might be a few people listening that really want to go see a bit more and learn a bit more about PlayItGreen. So people can find you on, we'll put the links in the notes, but on Twitter, LinkedIn and the website; the website maybe is, is what's the URL Richard?
[00:28:06] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: It's playitgreen.com
[00:28:07] Track 1: Brilliant. And and I guess people ,definitely Richard's a great follow on LinkedIn as well.
[00:28:12] If you, if you want more, more of this insight and wisdom, it's always always great to see your posts on there, Richard. So thank you so much for joining me on the show today, Richard. It's been an honor!
[00:28:23] Richard Dickson - Play It Green: Brilliant. Thank you!
[00:28:24] Track 1: Cheers. Thanks and thanks everyone for listening along. If you've enjoyed the show, please do give us a, a nice comment or a rating.
[00:28:32] It really helps spread the word and tell more people about all of the wonderful conversations we have on these shows, and hopefully spread the message of putting climate a little bit higher on the agenda. So thanks again for listening and we'll catch you next time.