Established in 1980, DRP Group is now one of the leading creative communications agencies and renowned for “making anything possible”. Following the launch of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR] charter in 2020, which is aligned with the UN 17 sustainable development goals, CEO Dale Parmenter reflects on the green accomplishments of the business thus far and highlights ambitious plans for its head office to go carbon neutral by the end of 2021, and for the entire business to go carbon negative by 2050.
Across its history, DRP Group has undergone significant growth. Going from a team of one to a team of 350 across multiple locations across the globe as of 2019, it would be easy for such expansion to allow for sustainability to fall by the wayside. Yet, the company has already made significant strides toward its environmental goals, having hit a zero waste to landfill target and ensured all power to its 4.5-acre site is generated by 750 solar panels.
Parmenter said: “We are already a leading company in our sector when it comes to sustainability. With extraordinary determination, skill and knowledge, our purpose is to create brilliant solutions that inspire, influence and motivate everyone for sustainable success - socially, environmentally and economically. We achieve this by making anything possible.”
The launch of DRP Group’s CSR charter last year was therefore a natural next step in materialising a drive toward sustainable success.
Parmenter added: “Corporate Social Responsibility is essential for the success of any business along with its people and its community. Embracing a sustainable culture will ensure longevity for the business and its people. We are proud to have had that sustainability culture ingrained in the company for the past 40 years and to actively play a part in our communities.”
Yet, it was only around 12 years ago that the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility really hit home within the firm, as Parmenter recalled.
“Up until around 12 years ago, we really didn’t think about why we were doing what we did; it just seemed the right thing to do. Then a chance meeting with Sam Wilson, one of the UK’s foremost experts on sustainability in our sector, opened my eyes to how much more we could be doing and why CSR is so important.
“We started the process to obtain the BS8901 certification and were the first agency in the UK to gain the accolade. Following the 2012 Olympics, a new international standard was created in ISO 20121, this time we were the first in the world to gain the certification along with ISO 14001.
“These standards are great to have something we can measure our success by – we are audited annually and each year we come out top for the work we do. However, for us, it’s not enough - systems and processes can lead to a tick-box exercise with no real tangible outcomes. So, over the years we have worked hard with Sam to ensure the red tape is reduced and we measure real impacts. Throughout this journey the team have been onboard, each year creating objectives to reduce waste, resource better or be involved in one of the hundreds of community projects we have delivered. It’s all about our mantra of the smallest actions making a big difference.”
Although small actions can go a long way, with DRP Group celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2020, a decision was made among its senior leadership team to conduct a root and branch review of the business and understand the directions its new CSR programme could go in.
Parmenter explained: “Over 12 months, we’ve reviewed and redesigned the way we do things – simplifying systems and creating new processes to help our global team continue to make a difference internally, and importantly, externally with our 1,200 plus projects we deliver each year for our clients, putting sustainability at the heart of our project management cycle.”
Indeed, some of the smaller things the business has recently done behind the scenes to help toward its greater sustainability targets include reducing print wastage by manually overriding how material is drawn through printers, using biodegradable ink, and eliminating materials like vinyl which end up in landfill sites. Furthermore, the DRP technical team has introduced a process for extending battery life, while any equipment or stage set materials no longer needed or used by the company are donated to local organisations to be used again, reducing wastage further.
Under the CSR charter, the company has committed to having robust governance and processes in place to identify and manage sustainability risks, which are annually measured according to four governing principles of sustainable development. These include inclusivity and consideration of everyone affected or who could be affected by the company’s actions, integrity in ensuring the company strives to always do the right thing, transparency in its approach, and stewardship - with regards to motivating others to be part of its journey.
Addressing the four principles, Parmenter said: “We are currently benchmarked at the level of ‘fully engaged’ across all principles, however, we understand that sustainability is a journey, and our charter commitments will enable us to further improve and share learnings. These commitments include supporting our team members and their wellbeing, promoting responsible procurement, collaborating with others in pursuit of positive change, promoting values and ethics, and reducing our carbon footprint. Working collaboratively with our staff, clients and the wider industry is a central part of our plans going forward under these commitments, and we believe that we must all work together to find solutions to the pressing problems our planet is facing.”
As the world’s first creative experience agency to achieve ISO 20121 and ISO 14001 certification, Parmenter is under no illusions as to the high standards that DRP Group is under pressure to maintain.
He explained: “We have to take a leading role in looking after the environment and our communities with a range of sustainability methods that can have a real impact on the Return On Investment for our clients.”
In order to keep the business at the forefront of raising standards for sustainability practices across the sector, Parmenter and his team have laid down some ambitious new targets beyond even a carbon neutral head office by the end of the current year.
He elaborated: “DRPG strives to maintain a culture of corporate and social responsibility in everything we do. With clear objectives aligned to the sustainable development goals, and baseline targets that we can report on, mapping our progress year on year will help us work towards becoming a net zero carbon company by 2030, 20 years ahead of UK government targets, and carbon negative by 2050.”
As lofty the sustainable ambitions of Parmenter and DRP Group may seem, by adhering to its philosophy of making big differences with small actions and changes, there is no reason the business cannot make its sustainable vision a remarkable reality.