Amid an era of growing environmental awareness, it’s no longer enough for businesses to simply talk about tackling climate change, they have to act, says Christian Arno, CEO and founder of Pawprint.
DIGIT caught up with Arno to explore how the Edinburgh-based company is working with businesses to improve sustainability and understanding of carbon emissions.
Research conducted by the ecotech startup earlier this year revealed that a growing number of UK workers believe businesses aren’t doing enough to address climate change.
While Arno believes there is much work to be done, there are signs that businesses are waking up to the reality of climate change and consumer perception of the issue.
“There is a growing seriousness and sincerity among businesses looking to make climate-positive changes,” he says. “In fact, it comes as quite a shock when we engage with a business that doesn’t have a C-level commitment to climate change.”
“It’s not like a few years ago when the sustainability manager would’ve been one person, probably on their own and with no real relationship with the board,” Arno adds.
Much of this growing business awareness is being driven by public sentiment on the issue, Arno believes. The firm’s own research showed that 59% of employees said it is important that their employer has a strategy for tackling climate change.
Similarly, a report from Ipsos Mori earlier this month revealed that one-third of the British public see climate change as the second-biggest problem the country currently faces.
Businesses rely on their relationship with consumers, Arno notes, so it’s only natural that their practices reflect cultural changes in this regard. There is another emerging dynamic here, however.
In recent years, awareness of environmental issues and sustainability has grown among investors. A survey from EY last year, for example, found that “almost half” of investors are investing in ESG products, marking a two-fold rise compared to the year previous.
“A lot of businesses we talk to are heavily motivated by being able to say to their customers, ‘look, this is what we’re doing’ and offer tangible proof,” he says.
“The investor side is also crucial here,” Arno adds. “You now have serious investors saying they won’t invest – or continue to invest – in an organisation unless it can show what they’re doing to improve sustainability or cut emissions.”
Pawprint rests at the intersection between the consumer and business. The firm offers a free service which allows individuals to gauge and track their environmental impact, providing users with advice and tips to help cut their carbon footprint.
Since launching, the Pawprint app has helped users save more than 100 tonnes of CO2 and boasts more than 10,000 users. A good start thus far, Arno believes, and a point from which the company intends to build from.
The firm has also been accelerating efforts with its Pawprint for Business offering, working with companies such as Abrdn and Brewdog and fostering closer ties with local authorities and the public sector.
It is through these relationships that Arno hopes to facilitate lasting, impactful change across a range of sectors and spark a serious discussion on how consumers, workers and businesses can become more closely aligned in tackling climate change.
“What we’re seeing now is that organisations across all sectors are interested in what we’re doing, and its raising awareness of the broader issue,” he explains.
“Some companies are using Pawprint for a variety of reasons. Some are using this in an educational capacity to train up employees and raise awareness while others are doing it for measurement purposes, drawing on our data to present this in annual reports.”
Arno says the app aims to be as “social and non-judgemental as possible”. Traditionally, a great focus has been placed on individual carbon footprints while the impact that some industries inflict upon the planet are quietly glossed over.
He hopes that by driving interest among employees and the public, this will in turn prompt businesses to accommodate for the shifting tide of opinion.
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“Our approach with Pawprint isn’t to make people feel bad about their environmental impact, because I think there’s a lot of truth in carbon footprinting being used to shame people,” he says.
“We’re giving people a common language. It needs to stay non-judgemental, from start to finish, as that’s a big way we can get people involved and interested and create change.”
With COP26 fast approaching, Arno says Scotland has an opportunity to solidify its potential as a global leader in climate action, and the nation’s bustling technology sector could have a key role to play in this.
In recent years, the country’s startup scene has witnessed an increase in purpose-driven, socially-conscious firms seeking to address issues such as sustainability, financial inclusion and tech for good.
Cultivating closer ties between these startups and Scotland’s broader private and public sectors will only help in the long run.
“Scotland has a lot of natural assets, and a lot of people assets that we can draw from. We’ve got an incredibly supportive entrepreneurial environment where hugely successful business people are happy to engage with and support startups such as ours,” he says.
“Without a doubt we have the raw ingredients here and Scotland has the expertise to grasp these huge opportunities, which fundamentally are about saving lives and improving the quality of life for others,” Arno says.