In 2013 our firm got a new name: Triple Bottom Line Accounting, or TBLA. We progressed from ‘traditional accountancy practice’ territory to being a business that embodies the change that’s inevitable if humanity is going to overcome the challenges of social and environmental injustice. We chose to put caring and respect at the centre of who we are and what we do, while demonstrating respect for the society we’re part of and for the environment we all share.
For a small team – TBLA is currently nine-strong – it was a big challenge, but in recent times we’ve taken significant steps forward. In 2015, for example, we were one of the first tenants to move into the Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia, widely praised as one of the greenest buildings in Europe.
Next we began to examine our corporate social responsibility (CSR) profile and delved into the principles of environmental social governance (ESG) reporting, which include the following elements for the organisation itself and its supply chain:
- environmental performance, e.g. reducing pollution, improving biodiversity, reduced impact on climate change
- social impact, e.g. inclusive work practices, employee and director diversity, ethical procurement, community support
- governance, e.g. fair and equal pay, executive compensation, employee relations
In 2019, we started to reinvest our surpluses in developing an impact measurement and narrative service, led by Fran Ellington, our business development director, Alasdair Wilcock, a renewable energy and decarbonisation consultant at Maple Cone Consultancy, and business management graduate Charlie Flanagan, TBLA’s latest recruit.
Here’s what we’ve achieved so far:
- The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia Our workplace was designed on Passivhaus principles, which reduce energy requirements while maximising thermal comfort and air quality.
- Good governance leading to positive environmental outcomes We actively encourage our employees to ‘walk the talk’ regarding sustainability behaviour at work and beyond.
- Giving Climate Perks TBLA is
an accredited Climate Perks employer, and we allow all
employees extra days leave if they travel on holiday via land or sea. Paid travel time can be claimed for additional hours spent travelling.
- Buying local and eco-friendly Karen Black of Norwich-based HubFizz built and maintains our website, which is hosted by Green Hosting, a data centre that uses 100% renewable energy and holds ISO accreditations for Environmental Management Systems, Information Security Management and Quality Management.
- Tackling our carbon footprint Early calculations showed our carbon footprint at between 5 and 6 tonnes of CO2e (CO2 equivalent), but we’re now piloting Octopus Energy Hatchery’s Carbon Labs app for small businesses, which takes into account Scope 3 emissions (detailed at ghgprotocol.org). Our more realistic annual carbon footprint is 14 tonnes of CO2e. We have used a Gold Standard project to offset our 2020 emissions, and we aim to further reduce emissions and to gain carbon neutral accreditation in 2021.
- Changing our purchasing policy It’s alarming that 42% of our footprint is due to our purchases, so we’re writing a new purchasing policy that will dramatically reduce this figure.
- Environment and sustainability sector Among accountancy firms, TBLA is a leader in this area. Our experience enables us to help clients improve their own environmental performance.
- Education Peter Ellington, our founder and Associate Professor in Accounting at Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia, argues that accounting education should include greater knowledge of issues related to social and environmental justice, rather than the current myopic focus on profits.
Facilitating others who help Since 2009 we’ve made good accounting, taxation and business advice available to people making a difference towards environmental and social justice. Our initiatives that help others include:
- Reduced fees for the not-for-profit sector;
- Waiving fees for up to three months while new not-for-profits establish themselves;
- Advising new charities and not-for-profits to ensure they start in the right direction and avoid unnecessary complexity and charges;
- Working out payment plans for established commercial clients struggling financially due to peaks and troughs in demand. The latter was much needed during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, when our team ensured our clients were aware of their grant or loan entitlements and how to apply for them.
Charitable donations A good idea from one of our weekly team meetings is ‘Eat It Twice’, where we match our office ‘snack and beverage’ budget (around £75 a month pre-pandemic) with a donation to The Norwich Soup Movement, a charity providing meals for the homeless. In March 2021 we donated £50 to Athena Education Support CIC to support their successful bid to the Aviva Community Fund. This CIC provides vulnerable children, young people, adults and families affected by unemployment, social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties and SEND, with safe, valuable and trusting therapeutic and well-being support so as to improve their life chances, economic prosperity and overcome social isolation.
Athena Education Support CIC” a typical not for profit client making a social impact and enjoying subsidised accountancy services from TBLA
- Four-day week In June 2019, we introduced a four-day week: 32 hours plus 3 hours to develop professional or lifestyle skills and knowledge.
- Flexitime Employees can choose to work when and where they feel they can perform best, an arrangement that proved essential during the 2020–21 Covid-19 lockdowns.
- Medical insurance We’ve introduced a fully funded medical insurance scheme, including a
24-hour helpline for physical or mental health, for all permanent employees.
- Real living wage We’re committed to sharing our profits within the team, and the real living wage is an absolute minimum on our pay scales. Everyone should be properly paid for their contribution.
- Workplace assessment Regular workstation assessments ensure that all employees have the necessary equipment to work from home or in the office safely and healthily.
At the heart of TBLA’s work is a commitment to the three key aspects of sustainability: people, planet and prosperity. We are still a full-service accountancy business, but we recognise that the way we go about our work enables us to make a difference. We care about what we do, we care about each other and the people we deal with, and we know that with care comes respect, for our environment and society.
Peter Ellington is the Founder of Triple Bottom Line Accounting. He has a Doctorate in Education and campaigns for social and environmental justice.