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Impact Reporting

David White – Wednesday, February 28, 2018   


We founded Hothouse Design determined to run our business differently to the companies we had worked for over many years. We wanted a company where everyone is treated with respect, everyone including our suppliers and clients. We wanted to create a company where everyone could speak their mind, tell the truth, and hear the truth. Clearly, our experiences to date working in other companies had not been like this.

Over many years (26 at present) we have run a lean company because we are habituated to think like manufacturers, where we all work hard, look out for each other and leave on time. Our ‘each other’ extends to our clients and suppliers, and to their clients and staff. When we all look out for each other we get better results, minimise our impact on the environment, and are more likely to stay in business.

Formalising our approach into a set of values was the first step in making sure the company we have built has a strong foundation for sustainable operation. Writing policies and procedures around the behaviours we expect to see from people we work with has been another step towards ensuring a more robust future for our company.

Now we are undertaking B-Corp certification in order to show others how our values manifest. B-Corp certification is an important signifier of companies that take their responsibility for their role in their community seriously. We are excited about the prospect of achieving certification.

Whilst preferring to be valued (without fanfare) for the outcomes we achieve, we realise that making a public declaration of our commitment to our community and the environment is an important way to ensure that we are part of the community.

Our commitment to our community is most succinctly described in our commitment to devote 5% of our billable hours to pro bono work. We measure time spent on a monthly basis to make sure we meet that target. Hothouse Design undertakes pro bono work for a range of charities; some have a mix of paid and pro bono work where others are completely pro bono. Our staff also have two days’ paid leave each year to volunteer on projects of their choice.

Our best measure of impact on the environment is our electricity use. Whilst the majority of our electricity is produced from brown coal using old technology, reduction in electricity use and the move to alternative energy production are the best ways we can reduce our immediate output of greenhouse gases. To reduce our dependence on electricity we have had a program of equipment replacement over the past couple of years, moving to more energy-efficient appliances and implementing automatic equipment shutdown at the end of the day to stand-by trickle use. The final step in our equipment change over will be replacing our fluorescent lights with LED panels. This should take us to minimum electricity use.

The result of introducing energy-saving appliances have shown a reduction in our average daily use in kWh (measured by rolling year) of 3.5% in October 2017 and 2.34% in January 2018. We expect that the result of changing our horrible old fluorescent lighting to LED panels will result in a further reduction in electricity use of 40% which will bring an associated cost reduction. It is a real win when looking after the environment immediately impacts profitability.

We have been moving to a paperless office for several years now, tackling bookkeeping first. Our bookkeeping function is now paperless, except for the minimal ongoing need for scribble paper to aid thinking processes! The next area to tackle is the production of our work. This can’t be entirely paperless but with the move to better proofing systems, larger monitors and a printer with double-sided functionality we are able to reduce our paper use considerably. For a while our usage target was one ream of paper per month (with the exceptions of job spikes where printing is unavoidable) and we have now bettered that goal. Our 2018 target is 400 sheets per month or less.

Finally, we periodically measure our staff job satisfaction rates which are consistently high.

This post is by Deirdre Wilson, Director of Hothouse Design – Australia's most sensible information design company.
Deirdre applies her background in industrial design and design management to the complex and wondrous projects undertaken by Hothouse Design.

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