PhorEST and Green Impact: The path to a Gold Award

21st September 2022

Johan Rott, Placement Student

Last month, PhoreMost was awarded the NUS Green Impact Gold Award in both the Office and Labs categories, recognising outstanding practices across the workplace. The Green Impact (GI) programme aims to support real, tangible changes as organisations commit to sustainable policies. In this blog, I highlight some of these changes PhoreMost has implemented since joining the programme from my own perspective – as a placement student in the Target Biology team and a member of the sustainability committee PhorEST.

Joining Green Impact at Babraham
PhoreMost became involved in GI as part of a coordinated initiative set up by the Babraham Institute in October 2021. At the time, volunteer committees tackling issues of diversity and sustainability formed while the Company was going through a phase of particularly rapid growth. PhorEST, as the environmental team was later named, adopted the GI toolkit, which specifies good practice in the office, labs and facilities and recognises its achievements.

Since starting my Industrial Placement at PhoreMost, I have become more aware of carbon emissions and plastic waste that results from drug discovery. This motivated me to join PhorEST and try to make small changes, not knowing that it would eventually become one of the most rewarding experiences of my placement year.

Moving to Unity Campus: Facility management on our own terms
As PhoreMost was relocating to a new site at Unity Campus, South Cambridge, we had the option to look at the bigger picture and review procedures to make changes to facilities with sustainability in mind. One of the biggest issues that members of PhorEST identified was waste management, due to the usage of virgin plastic bins to seal and send lab waste to landfill. Hence, the waste streams policy was reworked to introduce decontamination through autoclaving. Other top-down changes in labs included power management via automatic off-switches and freezer management to turn down all Ultra-Low Temperature freezers (ULTs) to -70°C and save energy.

This approach was applied to office space as well. Waste disposal services were chosen so that most office waste could be recycled, including plastic film. Cleaning services were encouraged to use eco-friendly and biodegradable cleaning products. The new kitchen area also introduced communal mugs and cutlery and reduced single-use plastics.

In cooperation with Unity Campus, we also hope to implement change in the immediate area. Efforts so far have resulted in the installation of charging ports for electric vehicles and habitat management for bee populations.

Communicating sustainable practices on a daily basis
While the improved environmental policies made good progress, staff participation is required to achieve significant impact – this is why the GI toolkit focuses on communicating sustainability. We began with informing on recycling, switch-off campaigns and consolidation of orders to minimise transport emissions, then went further to encourage environmental awareness.

This became my main role in PhorEST. Through Teams channels and a dedicated noticeboard, I promoted environmental awareness days and events, cycling to work, local running routes and shared tips on sustainable habits. I was also involved in the introduction of Furthr, a carbon offsetting benefit and emissions calculator which PhoreMost recently enrolled in. PhoreMost’s contribution to Furthr involves planting of 7 protected trees and offsetting 0.7 carbon tonnes per employee per month through their best-in-class reforestation and renewable energy funding projects. Employees have the chance to further top up their contributions via salary sacrifice.

Public engagement in sustainability
I saw great engagement across the company with our awareness campaigns, with several people coming up to me and discussing ideas of alternative transport (cycling, carpooling), eco-friendly diets and improvements that could be made to the building and campus. We have also received good feedback on PhorEST-run events, such as volunteer tree planting for the Babraham Forest Garden or participation in Fairtrade Fortnight.

PhorEST’s efforts across different levels of sustainability were commended by the Green Impact audit team and ultimately led to the achievement of Gold Level awards in Office and Labs, surpassing initial expectations and showing how much change really happened over the year.

Personally, it feels incredible that I was able to contribute to PhoreMost in this way and facilitate discussion about issues I am passionate about. I was delighted to see how positively PhoreMost embraced sustainable practices – I am sure it will make a difference.

Johan is an undergraduate Biochemistry student at the University of York, who spent his Year in Industry at PhoreMost in Target Biology, exploring systems to overcome technical limitations in PROTEINi expression. He joined hoping to learn from novel interdisciplinary approaches to drug discovery and left with new interests in cell biology, having thoroughly enjoyed the company’s open mindset which made projects like PhorEST possible.