As a sustainability consultancy ‘business as usual’ is a mindset we normally challenge but these are not normal times and, for now, ‘business as usual’ is something we, at Avieco, are trying hard to maintain.

We have been very busy, adjusting and adapting to the new challenges, setting up new virtual work practices, and keeping up with rapidly changing industry practices and client needs. It’s been a tumultuous month of decision making, creative thinking and problem solving, ensuring our team is suitably safe and equipped to support our clients in the best possible way.

It’s officially been 5 weeks since the lockdown. Our new remote and virtual way of working has slowly sunk in.

In that time, we have been both creative in how we deliver our services to clients, from conducting video audits and organising virtual round table meetings, as well as innovative in our approach to maintaining our learning culture, by creating an online training programme and getting it up and running in just a week.

Here is our lockdown review showcasing how we are placed to support you in this challenging period.

Video audits – don’t lose out on your GHG targets because of the lockdown

As a sustainability consultancy, a significant proportion of our work is conducted at our client premises –  from client meetings and site inspections to managing implementation projects and collecting essential data such as meter readings for energy audits.

But last month we worked differently.

We conducted a series of video audits for energy efficiency, management system and renewable feasibility studies to enable our clients to continue making progress towards energy and GHG reduction targets. We are also helping them to make energy and cost savings. For some clients, this is a good time to address issues that will make them stronger when things pick up.

So, how do video audits work?  Thorough pre-audit data analysis which allows us to identify anomalies and trends for further exploration. Where staff are still on site, we’ve conducted site walkaround audits using video conferencing. Where no one is on site, we’ve conducted virtual audits, utilising the knowledge of staff and existing documentation (for example, boiler specifications) to understand the current situation and identify improvements.

Are video audits here to stay?

“We anticipate site visits still playing a key role in our work going forward, but as we are committed to becoming a net zero business with no carbon offsetting, we are striving to ensure that we apply alternative solutions where possible and anticipate video audits to play a key role in this”.

Daniel Murray

Principal Consultant, Avieco

Virtual roundtable – running complex stakeholder meetings online

Helen Troup, who heads our energy team, has exemplified how virtual meetings with multiple stakeholders can be successfully done – and from the comfort of her home or even garden when the sun is shining. Helen recently chaired and facilitated a virtual roundtable with a diverse range of stakeholders including housebuilders, land agents, developers, technical consultants, and the local authority to discuss technical updates on energy projects in the region, and commercial collaboration opportunities. Many of these stakeholders were not well known to each other and the topics covered were often complex. Nevertheless, the roundtable was a great success with highly engaged participation, resulting in an agreement over the next key steps for the partnership.

Technologies come with their own set of challenges, and those occasional silences can be pretty nerve-racking for the presenter. Getting the tactics and approach right at the beginning can make these meetings more effective and engaging.

Here’s Helen’s tips on how to make your mass online meeting a success –

“I was more directive with the meeting agenda; when you are face-to-face it is clear whether someone is just thinking, or hasn’t understood, or is waiting for someone else to speak. You don’t get any of those “tells” online and any lag on the line can mean that participants talk over each other, which is frustrating for all!”

Helen Troup

Principal Consultant, Avieco

“I asked individuals directly for feedback, to involve everyone. I also contacted each stakeholder before and after the event to check they had the agenda and to take any feedback “offline” if there were matters that weren’t discussed in the meeting”.

Helen Troup

Principal Consultant, Avieco

Changing old habits can be hard. There is great value in “face time” with colleagues, clients and partners. However, this virtual roundtable has shown that even complex multi-stakeholder events can happen online. This event was significant as it offered the flexibility for those stakeholders to join in who would have otherwise not attended due to travel time or budget considerations. We expect to attend and chair many more of these in future.

Data collection – keep the ball rolling

One thing that hasn’t changed is the way we offer our managed data and reporting support. We have over time advanced our data capabilities and invested in software and platforms that enable us to support our global clients working across the globe. This often involves collecting data from many offices and offering carbon reporting estimates to clients on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis.

“We have been running large web meetings for several months now.  Stakeholders from any country can drop in and talk to us about data collection requirements. And it doesn’t matter that I’m located in the office or elsewhere, we already have a good system in place to meet our client data needs”.

Rory McCabe

Data Service Manager, Avieco

Alongside our team being fully remote, our sustainability reporting software enables our clients to continue submitting data, and access and monitor their environmental and social performance in real-time.

Furlearn – making the most of the lockdown

We are a curious bunch at Avieco and sustainability is continually evolving, so learning is embedded in our culture. We wanted to help make Furlough leave fruitful for our knowledge-hungry team who have been quick to set up and dive into our interactive online training program – which we have internally coined as ‘Furlearn’. The program features a buddy learning environment and weekly Friday ‘lunch and learn’ sessions – where a team member has an opportunity to catch up, present and share their learnings with the rest of the team.

As Luiza Haussen, who is heading our training program, says –

“We wanted to have a catchy name and encourage people to stay engaged and feel like an important part of the team while on furlough”.

Luiza Potter Haussen

Senior Consultant, Avieco

Sanity, team spirit and connectedness

Regular weekly catch ups with the managers, within specialist and account teams, and among individual team members has been hugely successful in keeping the company connected and informed.

While we continue to work on our professional skills, this is also a critical time to focus on our mental health. This is why Jess Cresswell, one of our senior managers, has arranged online mindfulness sessions for the whole team. What better way to take care of ourselves?

We have migrated our regular socials online too – with pub quizzes, online Pictionary (yup this is possible!), games and informal coffee catch-ups, that keep us connected and motivated. Our socials can be competitive too, with winners being rewarded while those coming last having to sing or dance.

Final thoughts

The prolonged remote working experience is one that everyone across the globe is grappling with. At times, it is challenging and we have to be personally and collectively resilient, but there are also silver linings. The lockdown has reaffirmed our belief in the central importance of our culture to our business success, and it has also opened our eyes to new sustainable ways to serve our clients and work collaboratively together.

Our goal is to help businesses become more sustainable. We are proud that we are doing our part in supporting and helping businesses achieve their sustainability objectives even during this time of crisis.

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more than a word.

We get that change is not easy. But we must be brave, challenge old ways, set new habits, embrace new thinking.