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AutoTrader – Going for Gold

March 2022 by Catherine McGinn

It’s been an exciting journey for Auto Trader since delivering their first internal Carbon Literacy training session in 2019. In this time, they’ve co-created the Automotive Sector Toolkit and worked their way up the Carbon Literate Organisation (CLO) accreditation scheme, just recently being awarded Gold CLO status. To celebrate their award, Auto Trader has donated a generous sum of £5,000 to the Carbon Literacy 10 for 10 Accelerator. We had the chance to catch up with Christos Tsaprounis, Head of People & Culture, and Andrew Nankervis, Head of PR, at Auto Trader to find out more about what’s fuelled their success and commitment to Carbon Literacy. 

Congratulations on achieveing Gold CLO Status! What does this accreditation mean to Auto Trader?

“It’s a great recognition for Auto Trader and The Carbon Literacy Project, and it’s just another great step in the partnership between our two organisations.  A lot of people across Auto Trader and The Carbon Literacy Project have worked very hard over the past three years to get to this point and deserve a lot of credit for their passion and dedication.”

“This award means that 50% of our colleagues are certified as Carbon Literate – they are all great advocates for what we’re trying to achieve; each of them has made their own commitments to reduce their carbon footprints as well as Auto Traders’ as a whole.”

What value has been gained from Auto Trader reaching Gold level CLO? 

“Carbon Literacy has helped make sustainability a key part of our company culture. It has created awareness and people are much more motivated to take action. We think about the impact our operations have on our carbon footprint, and sustainability is no longer an afterthought at Auto Trader but a key consideration, which is really important especially when you’re changing a company’s culture.” Christos explained.

“We also have a very active Sustainability Network of which over a third of our workforce are members.  

We’ve set six cultural KPIs representing our key commitments on a company-wide level – one of which is to reduce our carbon footprint in line with our 2040 net-zero ambition. The training and accreditation have been a really big part of that, having not just the awareness that Carbon Literacy provides, but also the motivation and inspiration that it gives to a whole workforce to get behind.”

Talking about the speed at which you’ve climbed the CLO ladder, did you find it was a natural progression?

“It hasn’t been easy – but it’s not supposed to be – because it’s about changing people’s awareness, behaviour and attitude towards climate change. The success of Auto Trader has come from equipping lots of people to deliver the training – we have many facilitators across the business that can run the training so we can run a lot more of it. Encouraging this peer-to-peer learning is great because it’s a really effective and engaging way to learn.”

Christos shared that their success has been catalysed by the introduction of their Sustainability Network, as it “coordinates the commitments people make, both personal and on a business level, together to make for bigger impact changes. All the newfound passion and energy that people have after doing Carbon Literacy is channelled into larger-scale initiatives, which means we become increasingly more equipped to reach the next stage of accreditation as we progress.”

As a FTSE 100 company, do you think having Gold CLO accreditation can inspire other leading organisations to take action on climate change? 

“Being a FTSE 100 comes with a certain responsibility to set an example and drive change when it comes to problems like climate change – it is a massive issue that we’re facing not only as businesses, but in wider society.”

Christos continued, “FTSE 100 businesses have resources that other companies may not have, so we must use them to make a difference. We employ millions of people, so it’s about getting our workforces behind causes like this too.”

What message does achieving Gold send to other companies?

“Achieving Gold has been a fantastic way to recognise all 500 colleagues that have been through the training and have become accredited, and especially our employees who have done all the hard work over the years. We’ve had many people work extremely hard to design the Carbon Literacy training, ensure everyone is aware of it, invite people to take part, do the training itself, and then keep the training and learning alive afterwards.

The Carbon Literacy journey is a staged approach so it provides a framework and ideas of how to keep Carbon Literacy alive within an organisation. When it comes to employee engagement, creating step-by-step targets is great so people can aspire to achieve more. So, an important message this sends to others is to embrace the framework of reaching the different stages of accreditation.” 

Commenting on the bigger picture of Carbon Literacy, Christos added that “it’s not only about the amount of people you’ve trained and certified, or what the individuals do themselves, it’s about how you share and advocate for Carbon Literacy and what you do as an entire business. The ethos of Carbon Literacy is to start a movement that utilises the individuals and businesses that have already been through it, in order to spread the impact and raise awareness across industries, the UK, and now around the world too.”

Now that you have received the accreditation, do you have any more ambitious plans for the future relating to Carbon Literacy? 

“We have made a commitment to reach Platinum level CLO in the next 12 months, so we’re looking forward to having more people certified across the business as part of this next leg of the journey, while continuing to work on the Automotive Toolkit that is available for the whole Automotive industry.”

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You recently donated a hugely generous sum to the Carbon Literacy 10 for 10 Accelerator. Why did Auto Trader decide to support our fundraiser?

“We feel that the 10 for 10 Accelerator is a brilliant example of the ethos of The Carbon Literacy Project. We loved the idea that every learner can, in a way, pay-it-forward by making a contribution which allows someone else to do the training, and get involved in spreading the word about Carbon Literacy.”

How did you decide on this figure, and why was the decision made to donate in this way? 

Christos shared that donating £5,000 was a great way to celebrate their Gold CLO award, as it “equates to £10 for every learner that got involved and enabled us to achieve the accreditation. We have 500 certified learners, which accounts for 50% of the people at Auto Trader. It’s a massive thank you to our workforce, and it now gives 500 other people the opportunity to become certified as Carbon Literate.”

How might this donation, and others like it, help further catalyse collaborative action, within and across this and other sectors?

“The donation helps make Carbon Literacy more accessible to sectors and individuals who might not otherwise have the chance, or be able to afford, to engage with the training. We thought it was vitally important to make sure this great training is available to charities, schools or individuals who may not otherwise have the chance.”

What do you hope Auto Trader’s donation will help The Carbon Literacy Project to achieve, in the short and long term? 

“We shouldn’t underestimate what each and every one of us can do to help the climate crisis. Yes we need big governmental initiatives and companies to get on board, but the community impact from engaging an entire workforce can be immense. In the Automotive industry, we employ approximately one million people; imagine if all one million people took action as individuals and as businesses, the impact would be incredible.

Pointing out the broader aim of the fundraiser, Christos added, “This applies across other sectors too, I know the 10 for 10 Accelerator fund will go towards reaching new sectors, organisations and individuals that would benefit from the training, so our donation is adding to all the good work The Carbon Literacy Project is doing to spread Carbon Literacy across new industries, businesses and geographies.”

How do you view Auto Trader’s role in helping to spread Carbon Literacy more widely?

“One of the key objectives in our wider environmental strategy is to support the Automotive and Technology industries that we operate in, in becoming Carbon Literate. We created the Carbon Literacy Automotive Toolkit as part of this objective. After doing our own internal training, we thought it would be great to have a toolkit that provides everything that Automotive businesses need to start their Carbon Literacy journey, which especially showcases all the benefits that we’ve seen and experienced. 

We have a lot of partners and industry organisations to thank that joined us in the creation of the toolkit – it truly has been developed by the industry for the industry. Creating the toolkit means that all the different businesses in the industry won’t need to create their own individual courses, they can simply utilise one toolkit that brings the whole industry together.”

As the Automotive Toolkit is now available, do you see your role continuing by advocating for it and supporting others to roll it out?

“Absolutely, and the next 12 months will be particularly important for this. We want to offer support to those businesses who have begun rolling out the training, and the opportunity for even more businesses to find out more about it.

So, we are running sessions where businesses from the industry can come and experience the Toolkit. We are also running facilitator training sessions which are aimed at the people who are going to be responsible for launching and delivering Carbon Literacy in their business, to ensure they get sufficient experience in how to do so. 

In the next 12 months, and beyond that, we want to capture the attention of the whole industry and hopefully reach as many businesses as possible.“

Do you think, being a FTSE 100 company, that you set a precedent for what a leading organisation can do, and might that set an example beyond the industry too?

“Hopefully! FTSE 100 businesses need to collaborate to tackle the climate crisis, and we are always very open to collaborate, share what we do and inspire other businesses to follow. 

Andrew added that “it’s definitely not a competition – we don’t see it as who is doing the best – but by being the first FTSE 100 company to achieve this with Carbon Literacy, we want to inspire others, and work with those inside and outside of the industry to support their sustainability journey too. When it comes to tackling climate change, we have a wider obligation to jump at the opportunity to work with others.

We are incredibly proud about what we’re achieving, but it’s always been through a collaborative approach – whether that’s within our local communities or the industries we operate in”

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