Welcome to the third part of my conversation with William Theisen, CEO of EcoAct North America, an Eviden business.
Did you miss the first two parts of our conversation? Catch up today.
SEC Guidelines & Why Companies Should be Excited
JH: Let’s jump into the proposed SEC regulations. It’s almost as if the agency is providing a template for companies. A company might not know where they want to start, but this gives them somewhat of a blueprint to begin the process. Being able to establish a plan and get the most accurate data possible.
How have you seen data change since the pandemic? As you know there are so many people working remotely and obviously, that changes scope 1-2, which changes emissions data for companies. Can you talk about the changes you’ve seen in the data?
WT: You’ve asked me a question that I really like talking about. We developed an emissions methodology that’s now adopted by the GHG protocol. We have such a high bar for best practices at EcoAct. If anything, we’re always kind of pushing the envelope as protocols are being updated.
Not all the methodologies were in the system. We saw companies having questions about gathering emissions data from home offices. We really want to enable their ability to account for those emissions so we developed a framework.
Our UK team worked with Lloyds and NatWest Group to publish an emissions paper in the fall of 2020. We came out with a better way to assess data. Suddenly we’re gathering survey data from individuals all over the world:
- Where are you living?
- What’s it like?
- What is your energy usage like?
And this gets everybody else on board. Having an individual understanding – ‘Oh wait, what I do at home, even if I’m working, does affect the global emissions of the company. If I want overall company emissions to reduce, I have to play my part, right?
All leading to a lot of individual engagement. Which was really exciting.
Partnership with Etsy
JH: In 2017, EcoAct started working with Etsy, which happened to be your first North American client. How has this partnership evolved? I know there are some really exciting things in the pipeline such as helping the company with their science-based targets.
WT: It is truly a partnership. So whereas with some companies we do the bulk of the work in terms of the data collection and road maps, Etsy’s really interesting because they are at the forefront. I’m so excited that they were the first client because I actually like what they’re doing. We don’t take on all of the work. We help them with specific needs in terms of having external expertise. We have supported them in setting their science-based targets both near-term and long-term.
Giving them different areas of the carbon footprint to really focus on and work on. But their team is very capable. Chelsey is phenomenal. Always looking at how she can push the envelope in a meaningful way to inspire other companies to do the same.
For example, she’s always thinking of new ways to make logistics at Esty more sustainable. I do think of it as a real partnership where they reach out when they need external expertise to validate their thinking or find that next target. As I stated before, I genuinely like what they’re doing and they have a very, very capable and very informed, and engaged team internally.
JH: When you work with like-minded individuals it just makes the process so much better for both sides.
Now, have you had companies that have come to you and said, ‘You know, we just need you to do XYZ for us.’ But then, as you start talking, they realize their needs are more. What they really need is a holistic approach and guidance to really get them to where they internally want to be.
WT: That’s frequently the experience of some CEOs. They will say, ‘Well, our competitors are going net zero. So we’re going net zero.’ They want us to set a very short timeline for achieving a net zero goal. But, once we’re in there they start to understand – ‘Oh wait, we have to reduce by this much in Scope 1 and 2, and oh wait, we have to reduce by this much in Scope 3. We need to redefine the data even more. Dive deeper, create a roadmap and model.’ These conversations allow stakeholders to see the bigger picture.
It’s one thing to get up on stage and share that your company’s science-based targets were validated. But it’s another thing to really get up there and say, ‘Our SBTi’s were validated and these are the first steps that we’re taking to achieve these targets. We now have a road map in place for near-term goals.’
I think everybody struggles with the longer term.
Near-term is the trend now. What do science-based targets mean to your business? And diving into how they going to achieve these targets.
Collaboration is Key
JH: Can you share best practices when it comes to meeting with clients? I know this can vary based on the needs of the company, the size of the company, and whether it’s more of a partnership or your team is providing holistic services. But, how often are you meeting with the internal stakeholders?
WT: As often as weekly. And, for certain stages of the program, especially in the early stage, if the company has never measured their scopes, there’s going to be a lot of hand-holding. We spend a lot of time with clients during data collection. Trying to understand what’s available. We’re always available for a Q&A to support our clients at any stage of our partnership. Generally, we’re meeting on a weekly, if not biweekly basis with our clients to make sure that at every step they’re moving in a smart direction.
We have clients that we will meet with every other week or less, but generally weekly or biweekly is the norm because we are a pretty collaborative team and we want to make sure that they understand what’s going on as they’re progressing.
JH: And to that, you want to make sure that the data they’re getting is accurate. Know if you need to pivot.
WT: Can you imagine after a six-week period they do all of this work and we look at the data and it is not what we need? We want and need them to understand the thinking behind it. Why we’re asking for it because the why is really what’s so important.
JH: So important. I’m actually going to pivot a little bit because I would like to know what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and I know I’m putting you on the spot.
**Editor’s note: Certain statements were edited for clarity after the interview transcription**
Don’t miss the last part of our conversation, set for publication on May 3.
EcoAct & William Theisen
EcoAct, an Eviden business, is a sustainability consulting firm that helps companies and organizations reduce their environmental impact and manage climate risk. The company employs more than 300 experts to address all climate, carbon, and energy challenges. Providing services such as carbon footprint assessments, sustainability strategy development, and climate change scenario analysis. EcoAct works with clients across a range of industries to develop and implement sustainability initiatives that align with their business goals and values. An international network of “EcoActors” across 9 regions: France, UK, Spain, USA, Canada, Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Kenya.
William leads a team of experts supporting Global and Fortune 500 companies to develop and implement net-zero strategies. This includes managing projects for the private sector at any stage of their sustainability journey, including assessing emissions both direct and throughout the supply chain, setting and creating roadmaps for Science Based Targets (short-term and net-zero), climate scenario analysis, and alignment with reporting frameworks and guidelines (CDP, TCFD, SASB).