Impact Report 2022
Welcome to the first Torchbox Impact Report, the first of many!
Since becoming employee-owned, we are as committed as ever to making a positive impact via our incredible clients, but we are now working much harder on the second and third pillars of the triple bottom line, People and the Planet, and the structure of this report reflects that:
- Empowering changemakers - Working on projects that help our clients make the world a better place.
- Better business - Reducing our carbon footprint and improving our social impact.
- Co-owners experience - Delivering on the promise of employee ownership by making Torchbox an outstanding company for all its employees.
2022 was a massive year for us. We became a debt-free, 100% employee-owned company two years ahead of schedule! We're no longer paying off our ex-shareholders. Instead, we are focused on creating maximum positive impact and the best possible co-owner experience. It's exciting to be one of the first agencies to reach financial freedom and to be breaking trail for employee-owned organisations in our sector.
Analysing our Scope 3 carbon emissions over the last six months delayed the release of this report, but we're pleased to have a much more comprehensive carbon footprint in place.
We're still a relatively small business (150 people), but we have big ambitions. We want to be a leader in the better business movement and impact reporting is a vital step.
World Changing Impact
Making the world a better place through the clients we support
As a service agency, our client projects are the biggest factor in our impact on the world. That’s why over 95% of our clients are nonprofits. Working with them, we help amplify the positive impact they are making in the world.
Client impact and disclosure
Since 2020, we have published client disclosure reports through Creative Climate Disclosure. We recognise the importance of being transparent about who pays the bills, and how the clients we choose to work with reflect our values. This year, instead of a separate Disclosure, we're presenting the key points here:
Clients from high-carbon industries
We’re proud to continue our record that 0% of our turnover this year came from high-carbon clients, and it will remain that way in the future too.
Potentially controversial sectors
Amongst potentially controversial sectors (Alcohol / Arms / Coal, Oil or Gas / Politics / Gambling / Tobacco / Pornography / Religion) we only have clients in the Religion sector where we support the important work of Islamic Relief, Muslim Hands, Open Doors and Tearfund.
Top clients by income
Our top ten clients by income in 2022 were the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, Wharton Interactive, Samaritans, Mind, Royal National Institute of Blind People, Mozilla Foundation, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Sue Ryder, and The National Archives.
See below for intros to some of our 2022 projects. Click through to Instagram for more details on each project (it's recycled from our Xmas content calendar, that's a good thing right).
The Innovation Lab
During 2022, we committed to investing in a new Innovation Lab. This Innovation Lab exists in addition to and in support of the three core areas of our business: Product Design & Build, Digital Marketing & Wagtail.
We set up the Lab to take on exciting projects that prompt us to explore the ‘whys’, ‘what ifs’, and ‘why nots’ of our sectors. The Lab’s mission is not just to pinpoint and address challenges but also to experiment with new technologies and product development. It’s central to fostering a culture of innovation at Torchbox.
Following the arrival of GPT-3.5, interest in AI at Torchbox came to a head and in Q4 we pivoted to focus on AI. Since then, the Lab has focused almost exclusively on the opportunities (and ethical challenges) for AI in the charity sector (and within Torchbox). Explore our Innovation Lab's thinking and follow our progress at ai.torchbox.com.
We contributed once again to the open-source world through our continued development and stewarding of Wagtail CMS.
In particular, 2022 saw the major 3.0 and 4.0 releases which included the massive Page Editor redesign.
The Wagtail team again welcomed interns via the Google Summer of Code project. Google sponsored three interns and we sponsored an additional project that we couldn't bear to turn down. And, in December 2022 for the first time, we joined the Outreachy Internship Programme. The Outreachy programme provides internships to people subject to systemic bias and impacted by underrepresentation in the technical industry where they are living.
Doing business right
Putting our values front and centre
We believe we have a duty to do business responsibly for the benefit of all people and the planet - it is a pillar of our vision for the next three years of Torchbox.
Measuring and reducing our emissions
We’re passionate about becoming a truly sustainable business. My role is a new one to the business, allowing part of my time to be focused on measuring and reducing our carbon footprint and I've been supported by our Climate Voice Group and our Digital Sustainability Group in particular.
For the last five years, we’ve monitored our carbon footprint, and compensated for our impact through certified carbon removal projects.
This historical footprint only includes Scopes 1 & 2 and elements of Scope 3, specifically Employee Commuting, Homeworking, and Business Travel.
As the graphic below shows, our carbon footprint for this year shows a slight increase on last year's footprint although it is still significantly below the original 2018 benchmark.
A significant challenge is our rapid growth. In the past five years, we’ve more than doubled in size (and headcount). While our primary aim is to reduce our footprint year on year, it is worth noting that our carbon intensity per employee has fallen from 0.58 tCO2e (tonnes CO2 equivalent) in 2021 to 0.50 tCO2e in 2022.
The above Carbon Footprint accounts for our Scopes 1, 2 & owned Scope 3 emissions - this includes Business Travel, Waste (and Water), and Employee Commute (and Homeworking) out of the Scope 3 Upstream categories. It's what we've been measuring for the last five years now.
However, this year we have been working with Inhabit.eco to get a much more detailed understanding of our Scope 3 emissions and to set a new, more comprehensive benchmark, with our Digital Emissions Methodologies. We still aren't 100% there as we haven't tackled all of the Scope 3 categories, understanding Upstream Transportation and Distribution for example (like the emissions from delivering packages to our office) has prohibitive data collection costs. The diagram below from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol explains what's in each Scope.
Having now assessed our Scope 3 emissions, in particular 'Purchased Goods and Services which account for some 70% of our total emissions, we have arrived at a significantly larger footprint of 229.78 tCO2e.
The table below shows a more complete view of our Carbon Footprint in a number of forms that may help prospective clients compare our footprint with other potential suppliers.
*Owned Scope 3 emissions only include Business Travel, Waste (and Water) and Employee Commute (and Homeworking)
**This Scope 3 figure includes Purchased Goods and Services, Capital Goods, Fuel and Energy Related Activities, and Use of Sold Products in addition to our ‘owned Scope 3 emissions’. Having read the GHG Protocol Guidance, we have included emissions relating to our clients’ website hosting. While this does NOT remove them from any client’s own Scope 3 emissions, it does mean that both parties have an incentive to reduce them.
We now need to focus our efforts on reducing our emissions across the business and next year we hope to confirm our strategy for both near and long-term reduction as part of the Race to Zero.
Getting B Corp certified
Becoming a B Corp felt very natural for Torchbox. We’re firm believers that business can be a force for good, and that profit doesn’t have to come at the expense of our values.
B Corp has proved a valuable framework against which to judge ourselves. It has opened our eyes to many areas in which we can improve. As a result of the B Impact Assessment, we have a program of work to help us become a better business. These range across the five B Corp assessment areas Governance, Workers, Environment, Community, and Customers.
Over the last few months, we've articulated and launched a new Cultural Framework (Purpose, Vision, and Values), to mark financial freedom, with an ambitious three-year vision: 'Setting a new standard for high-impact responsible business' - we're aiming high!
Encouraging civic engagement
Our Civic Engagement Group has been set up to help us to contribute to our communities. They also highlight volunteering opportunities and encourage us all to become active members of our communities.
This year we’ve donated over £5,000 to charities, supported local communities with onHand, and built sleep pods to provide a safe shelter for homeless people across Bristol. We also teamed up with our friends at the Marine Conservation Society to organise a big beach clean up on the Weston-Super-Mare seafront.
Charity of the Year
This year we've had the privilege of supporting 1625 Independent People in their vital work with young people at risk of homelessness raising over £6500.
Oxford Geek Nights is finally back post-pandemic
The community tech talks event that we’ve been running in Oxford since 2007, that has spawned many copycats, is back and bringing the Oxford tech community together once more.
In the City Academy in Bristol, we ran a workshop for thirty year-nines. They had to explore a problem and design a digital solution then present it back to us. We submitted the winner to a national competition.
Building a diverse team
We know the benefits of diversity, and we want more of it, we want more people from under-represented groups and unconventional backgrounds to join us.
Whether someone’s looking for a first job, a change in career, or is taking their first steps back into work, our Academy offers one (Digital Marketing) or two (Tech) year paid programmes to develop skills before, hopefully, moving into a full-time role with us. To help attract diverse candidates we’re using a CV-less recruitment process designed to remove unconscious bias and marketing to people of all ages, backgrounds and skill sets rather than just targeting graduates.
In September 2022, for the first time, we welcomed three digital marketers (Millie, Shalom and Jack) and three web developers (Rachel, Lauren and Ismir) onto our new Academy programme. Now we're excited for our second cohort to start in September 2023.
Raising the bar on employee satisfaction
We want Torchbox to be somewhere people are proud to work. Where everyone feels valued, heard, and supported. And we believe that investing in one another's development is one of the most important things we do.
100% employee-owned and debt free
We’re now a 100% employee-owned AND financially-free business! Back in 2019, when we became employee-owned, we set out to achieve financial freedom within five years; we’ve done it in three.
Being employee-owned has many benefits for our team, from tax-free bonuses and improved employee wellbeing to full oversight of our financial performance and a say in the clients we choose to work with.
“Being financially-free means we have paid off our debts to the previous shareholders, we are debt-free and financially independent.”James Leavesley, CEO
EOA award for Delivering Good Leadership
We were delighted to win the Employee Ownership Association's Leadership Award in recognition of the way in which we are moving from a founder-led to a purpose-driven business for the future.
Investing in one other
Having a growth mindset is a big part of being an owner at Torchbox. We're backing this up with tools, like Lattice, and training. The Grow programme is all about nurturing career ambitions, both short and long-term, with solid managerial support. We're ramping up Grow up by welcoming a new People Manager specialising in Learning & Development and improved manager training.
Thoughtful, candid feedback, delivered sensitively helps us all to flourish. With our Continuous Feedback process, every Torchbox co-owner has a safe place to share and learn together.
A diverse and inclusive workplace
Being a truly inclusive employer is about more than just recruiting a diverse team. Our Diversity and Inclusion Voice Group is working hard to ensure Torchbox is a fair, supportive and enjoyable workplace for everyone.
We’re making our policies more inclusive by using language that includes everyone and is easy to read and understand. We’ve also put in place more support for people returning to work after a break and created a new policy to help people going through menopause.
Improved maternity and paternity terms
Neurodivergence and inclusivity workshops
Putting wellbeing first
Over the past few years, we’ve made a number of improvements that focus on putting our people's mental, physical and emotional wellbeing first.
Many of the initiatives have been spearheaded by our Wellbeing Voice Group. As a team, they work to ensure all of our needs are listened to, and they advocate for change on our behalf where it’s needed.
One of the recent changes we’ve made is the addition of wellbeing rooms in both of our offices. These are private spaces for everybody to use, whether that's to breastfeed, pray, meditate or just to relax and take some time out when needed. We’ve also set up free access to Headspace and invested in training up a team of qualified Mental First Aiders.
We also joined the fight for better mental health at work by signing up to Mind's Workplace Wellbeing Index. The Index provides a safe space for us to contribute our thoughts and experiences on mental health, which we'll use to implement new initiatives with help and guidance from the experts at Mind.
Along with the changes we’re making as a business, we’ve also invested in initiatives to make living more sustainably easier and more accessible for our employees.
Our Sustainable Holiday Travel Policy gives everyone up to two extra days of paid holiday when we choose to travel by land or sea, instead of air. For commuting, our Cycle To Work scheme now has an unlimited budget, so that everyone can get the bike they really want.
Understanding more about our individual carbon footprint can help us make small changes that really add up. That’s why every employee is offered a subscription to Giki Zero, a behaviour change platform that aims to help us all leave a lighter footprint on the planet. Led by our climate group, we also regularly take part in initiatives such as Plastic Free July, Veganuary and Zero Waste Week.
We look forward to making some big steps forward on our Net Zero strategy alongside many initiatives that will make Torchbox a better place to work and a better corporate citizen.
Purposeful impact is baked into our everyday work and we'll continue to empower many of the world's great changemakers to achieve more with digital, we look forward to reporting on our projects and their impact.
And we’ll return with the 2023 report next year. The format may change in order to align with B Corp's five assessment areas but we look forward to sharing news of our progress, including the many initiatives that are already underway.