Coffee with the CEO: Alex Kerr talks sustainability, carbon neutrality and environmental efficiency at Kerr

23 November 2022

With COP27 drawing to an end, the reality that all our world leaders are failing on their climate change commitments has become a painful reality. As individuals try their best to contribute, those with the most power are failing to put the measures in place that will have the impact needed to minimise temperature change to the 1.5 degrees so desperately needed. It’s against this backdrop that we talk with Alex, who is hugely passionate about the role of business in driving sustainability. He talks candidly about Kerr’s approach to this, whilst enhancing productivity and business growth. During this interview, we delved into 5 key questions about why sustainability sits at the core of the Kerr business strategy. 

Why is it important for your company, and individually, to be a sustainable business?  

It gives our business a purpose. We have all realised that waiting around for government laws and climate change conferences to make a difference is pointless. 

Everyone needs to be thinking in a way that supports sustainable business, that in turn has a positive impact on the environment. This has never been more critical. 

We have already switched to a renewable energy provider, but our longer-term goals consist of pledging to be net zero, which means that as a company we will be completely carbon neutral within the next 18 months. 

Our partnership with B1G1 (Buy1Give1) plays a huge part of this and has helped us shape our sustainability vision for the business. This partnership has helped us shape the following commitments: 

  • If we gain a new client, we help a survivor of violence start a business 
  • When we raise an invoice, we buy 10 bricks for a school infrastructure project 
  • Every time we carry out a furniture install, we plant trees to increase forest cover 
  • When we are referred to a new client we give a community 100 days of access to safe drinking water in Tanzania 
  • When we receive customer feedback, we save an area of a rainforest 

This involvement allows us to give back easily to causes that are important to us. It isn’t a huge cost to us but means we’re having an impact on vital issues like providing access to clean water, deforestation, planting trees, alongside so many others.  

What sustainable practices has Kerr undertaken within the business?   

One of our senior designers has received training in WELL which is a Building Standard accreditation that takes a comprehensive approach to health in the built environment, addressing behaviour, operations, and design.  

We aim to follow BREAAM in 2023, which is an accreditation working on the method of assessing, rating, and certifying the sustainability of buildings.  

We have taken on a Safety and Environment Manager, to provide focus on constantly evolving and considering more sustainable ways of doing things.  

Our involvement with B1G1 has allowed us to give back easily to causes that are important to us. It isn’t a huge cost to us but allows us to support such high-impact projects like providing access to clean water, deforestation, planting trees alongside so many others.  

What sustainable practices do you take with suppliers to make your supply chain sustainable?  

There are any checks we carry out to maintain a sustainable approach to the way we run our business, for example, we always strive to work with companies whose values align with ours.  

Any second-hand furniture that isn’t fit for use anymore we donate to schools, charities, or anything like that, whereas with furniture that just isn’t trendy anymore we give it to companies who will break down the materials for reuse.   

Another thing that we try to do is be a part of the circular economy by designing and specifying products for multiple uses, for easy repair and maintenance, and for easy disassembly once reuse or repair of the whole is no longer possible. For example, if you provide a sofa to a hotel, it will reach its lifespan within 10 years and will most likely get thrown out. Being a part of the circular economy means that you would take the sofa and recycle it to ensure that its lifespan is longer, even though the hotel no longer wants this sofa, someone else may want to use it. In this sense, we strive to think about our waste and usage in the long term.  

How do you try to encourage the selling of more sustainable products to Kerr customers?  

This comes at no extra cost to customers, so it should be natural and common, and most of the time the clients that we work with tend to agree with our sustainable thinking. It shows the shift in mindsets and that aiming to be as sustainable as possible is becoming more of a norm.   

What is your long-term plan for Kerr’s sustainability?  

Of course, we are confronted with challenges at Kerr. Monitoring emissions through working with companies that calculate these for you is something that will take some time and thought in integrating into the business.  

Our longer-term vision involves being carbon neutral as soon as possible but we continue to evolve and challenge our thinking on this as it is clear from talks at COP27 this year that the role of business is becoming more and more critical to limiting climate change and we take our role in this very seriously. 

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