QBS’ Dave Stevinson on achieving carbon neutral

Back in the July/August issue of PCR we spoke to QBS Software’s CEO, Dave Stevinson about his professional views towards sustainability and corporate social responsibility and his vision towards achieving a carbon neutral status. In the previous interview Stevinson pointed out: “From the very conception of the business, sustainability and purpose were added to the QBS strategic agenda,” so clearly this is an initiative that Stevinson was always determined and committed to achieving. We recently caught up with Stevinson for an update six months on. Here is what he told us.

In June 2021 QBS Technology Group was externally verified as “net carbon neutral.”

QBS Software is 100% owned by QBS Technology Group, which includes the 8 other QBS entities across Europe, Stevinson explains that the carbon neutrality includes each company as well as the overall group. He points out that this was an extensive project to do more than become carbon neutral but be climate positive.

“Climate Change needs no introduction”, says Stevinson. “Government, business, and society all need to act, and future generations, (our own children and grandchildren), will ask what we did about it.

“This is why QBS is taking decisive action to be ahead of the curve and to see how we can be part of the solution, rather than the problem”, he says.

“Rather than paying lip service to the climate emergency. QBS have been one of the pioneers in moving to externally verified net carbon neutrality as a core part of our sustainability narrative.

“Regulation is coming, that means companies in the EU will have to start disclosing sustainability metrics, similarly to financial reporting. The taxonomy is expected to be used as a tool to cut down on “greenwashing,” he adds.

What does carbon neutral mean to QBS?
By the Summer of 2021 we were independently verified as “net carbon neutral” for our own European operations and also our Partner, Publisher and Employee ecosystem, and have signed the pledge to be net carbon neutral. This means that we have accurately accounted for all of the climate impacts within our own operations and those of our supply chain.

Tell us more about the objectives you put in place to achieve a carbon neutral status?
We focused on three key areas:

Scope 1: The direct emissions from sources we control including our offices and datacentres.

Scope 2: The indirect emissions from the energy that we consume.

Scope 3: The wider emissions, which occur outside of our operations, but which we caused to happen and are consequently responsible for. i.e., purchased goods and services, upstream and downstream supply chain, and employee commuting etc.

What else was integral to achieving this goal?
Our point of view and strategy. Climate risk and Sustainability is more than a regulatory issue at QBS – it is recognised at Board level, is hardwired into our business model, our articles of association and thus the strategy of the entire organisation

What steps have you taken?
We have formalised processes, set targets, and have attributed responsibility. In fact, all of my co-worker’s job descriptions will now include environmental and society elements. It cannot be achieved at board level only. Despite our modest size and perceived low environmental impact, we are not aware of anyone else in our industry that is acting with the clarity of vision and speed of execution that we are.

Including the climate impact of our extensive supply chain in our carbon calculations is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming process for a company of our size – yet we want to demonstrate to others that it is possible.

Our motto is “QBS – Where great people work together” and we are taking the unique action of supporting and rewarding all of our global workforce to achieve a personal carbon neutral footprint, in line with their personal wishes and values.

Most importantly we are trying to bring the entire industry with us on this journey. We have invested in dedicated staff, specific budgets and carbon literacy training for our employees, customers and publishers.

We also believe that this decision actually demonstrates significant benefits to our business: cost and efficiency savings through reduced energy usage, compliance to anticipated future legislation, improved stakeholder management, and compliance with the most rigorous tender and pre-tender qualification questions.

Above all this increases transparency for our stakeholders and demonstrates our core values of responsibility and good governance.
What about carbon neutrality and “offsetting. Can you tell us more about this and the progress you have made here?
Carbon offsetting is a controversial subject and is prone to greenwash. Buying carbon offsets is not permission to pollute. Companies must first have done what they can to reduce their environmental impacts. Those emissions, which cannot be avoided can be/should be offset. Offsets can be used to help finance less well-off societies to decarbonise their impacts and improve livelihoods, as well as to support nature-based solutions to sequester carbon etc. It should be noted that whilst activities like tree planting can have a beneficial effect on the environment, if done right, they are not enough to claim carbon neutrality, since trees can take up to three decades to capture the carbon, might subsequently burn down, and in any event will release their carbon back to the atmosphere at end of life. At QBS we use only Gold Standard VER (Verified Emission Reduction)

offsets from a reputable company.

How does the QBS Climate Change Narrative support people, planet and profit?
We believe that profit is our reward for serving society well, not the aim in and of itself with no regard to the rest of society and the environment. We aim to create sustainable long-term stakeholder value, in a sustainable way. I.e. not to take from future generations or leave them with the negative consequences of our actions.

What of QBS’ actions and achievements?
We have been BS EN ISO14001:2004 certified since May 2019 .

We have voluntarily provided environmental disclosure in our annual company audited accounts in compliance with Section 172 (1) (a) to (f) of the Companies Act 2006 since 2020.

We have dedicated personnel and dedicated iNED representation for sustainability and our iNED leads our group community giveback.

In April 2021 our Group CEO formally signed our official Pledge to Net Zero in conjunction with IEMA/SocEnv/EIC/WSP/AECOM.

In June 2021 we were independently verified as net carbon neutral as defined by PAS 2060:2010.

In June 2021 we published Version 1.0 of our Carbon Footprint Management Plan (CFMP). This will subsequently be updated quarterly by our Sustainability officer and reductions should comply with EN16001.

In 2021 we submitted our application to become a Beneficial Corporation (B Corp) with a very high score and expect to be certified in the first half of 2022.   https://bcorporation.net/

What are the long-term commitments at QBS?
We will adopt absolute, not efficiency targets.

We will improve our data quality from 82% to 90% by 2023.

We will continue to constantly seek initiatives to decarbonise our supply chain.

We will publicly disclose our footprint and progress on our energy use and carbon emissions reduction in compliance with SECR in our annual accounts.

We aim to comply with the TCFD – Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure.

We will address 9 of the 17 the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We will achieve and maintain B Corp (Beneficial Corporation) status.

By 2025 we will have eradicated, through gold standard offsets, our estimated entire historical carbon footprint.

Stevinson signed off, saying: “We will correct, prevent and repay. Thus eradicating our entire historical carbon footprint by 2025.”

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