Company Health (Beyond Profit)

Discussion Series, Episode 3: youdo talks about all things company culture

Luke - I'm delighted to welcome my old colleague and friend Bleuenn Le Goffic as our Discussion Series guest this week. Bleuenn, please tell us a little bit about Accedo and your role at the company.

Bleuenn - Accedo is a video solutions provider, based in Stockholm, Sweden. We have 17 offices across the globe and we've been around for 17 years. We’re primarily a technology company with a unique expertise in terms of focusing on the end consumer of video content. We focus on the experience that the end user has when they open a video application on a mobile device or TV screen. And our mission as a company is to transform that video experience for millions of users. Our customers are companies bringing content to their audiences. So we work a lot with the media and entertainment industry, e.g. broadcasters, content providers, media companies and operators that are either producing or licensing content.

I'm VP strategy and business development which is about helping conceive and articulate our growth strategy. We look at which new verticals and new skills we could acquire or build to accelerate growth for the company.

Luke - And as of quite recently, ESG also falls under your remit as well?

Bleuenn - Yes this happened towards the middle of 2020.

Luke - What led to Accedo bringing more focus to ESG?

Bleuenn - In 2018 we were starting to accelerate our growth. We had been through one merger acquisition and now we're about 650 people. It was very clear for us that our growth is linked to ensuring that we are staying the company that we have always been in terms of values. So we realised that we needed to do more to articulate our impact towards society and the environment, e.g. ESG. And this needs to be strategic because it needs to be across any kind of growth initiatives we take on as a company. We also want to make sure that we engage the market and help our customers and partners around environmental and social innovations.

Luke - Where is the momentum around ESG coming from - founders, board?

Bleuenn - This is something that internally you start to feel people talking about. So there is a momentum around the coffee break where people talk about the climate urgency, the climate crisis, and so on. But it’s also a transformation that our industry is going through. If you look at the bigger picture, there’s a huge transformation coming to embrace sustainability as a core direction for the media technology industry. We were starting to see BBC and Netflix talking about their positive impact, and so on. There was also a clear intent from the top management to look into this and say what's the business case of sustainability? Is there a transformation that we should be part of, and what is our responsibility?

Luke - What have you decided to focus on initially?

Bleuenn - We wanted to make the areas of optimisation or improvement very relevant to who we are. So we’ve considered two aspects;

One is, we are obviously a global company so understanding our carbon impact is very important to us. Being able to measure ourselves accurately, define objectives that are relevant, and to have a plan for accelerated carbon reduction.

The second aspect is around gender diversity. The reason for focusing on gender diversity was because it's the reality of being a software company. We have over 200 engineers and today we are at a 20/80 distribution between women and men. And we felt we needed to start with one topic that was relevant to us, and that was shared globally. It's important to have a global objective with a local improvement strategy as the reason we can't hire women engineers in Budapest is likely very different to why we can't recruit women engineers in Hong Kong.

Luke - What are some of the challenges that you have faced when moving forward with those initiatives?

Bleuenn - The first challenge was to get knowledgeable about what others are doing. We're a software company, we're not an environmental expert, we're not a diversity expert. We have skill sets for defining an employee ecosystem and building a community, that's our people and culture department. But that doesn't mean that they have the specific skill set for making sure that diversity is increasing. And it's clear that we didn't have any environmental experts. So the first thing we needed to do is to find a framework for us to make sure that if we're starting to invest, we're investing in the right direction with the right structure, and that everything we will be doing can be transparently reported and shared and serve a greater purpose.

Luke - So you needed some help?

Bleuenn - Yes, we did. We onboarded some external consultants to come and help us shape the strategy. Timing is everything. For us it's been a fast process because there are existing cross industry frameworks, and you just have to make the investment to collect the data, build processes, and so on. Some industries started this journey 20 years ago. I can't imagine how complex this was at that time.

We're working on our SBTi (science based targets initiative) which is a global programme for you to accurately report on your carbon emissions and set reduction objectives which you are accountable for. We're submitting our objectives in two weeks, and next month we're going to be starting our transition plan to reduce our carbon consumption.

For the diversity part, I think this is a much less pragmatic and concrete topic. You have to decide as a company how you want to articulate your objectives. For us, it's all been about, can you measure your output? Can you actually make yourself accountable for experimenting and identifying what is going to work? It's taken some time, and we've engaged a lot of different stakeholders within the company to do so. But we've articulated our gender diversity strategy around some very concrete outcomes, such as no gender pay gap, at least one final candidate of the minority in any application process and objectives like 100% bias training that everyone should go through on a regular basis.

The next challenge for us - and I think this is the same for every company - is that if we're 650 people and we aim for 650 people to be aware, and for many of them to be active, how do we build a compelling engagement strategy? How do we get people to contribute? I think this is the major challenge we foresee in the coming months.

- That’s telepathy at work(!) because the next question I was going to ask you is how engaged is the company as a whole in these initiatives?

Bleuenn - For designing the gender diversity strategy, we created a sort of attack team of 10 people, who are representative in terms of role functions, locations & gender. In terms of ongoing engagement, we’re doing two things. Firstly we’re going to be reporting on progress on a quarterly basis as with any financial KPI. This means we have a shorter path to actually measuring how well we're doing. The second thing is that we are creating a sort of Ambassador group. Their role is to be the ears on the ground and to act as the braintrust for the different topics we want to address.

Luke - Who do you really admire either in your ecosystem or in the wider corporate sector in terms of what they are doing in this space?

Bleuenn - If you start with the question of ‘how do you create a business case out of sustainability’ then for me, Paul Polman the ex CEO of Unilever, did an amazing job. He’s coming from a highly competitive and purely commercial industry and he’s managed to create an ecosystem that is collaborating and moving in the same direction.

When I'm looking at the transition that we've been seeing in the tech industry, and especially in the media industry, I can see that those topics are now forming bridges that mean competitors can come together and think about a shared responsibility together? So Unilever has been an amazing example for me on this. The same is happening with ITV and Channel Four and the BBC in the UK. They are very much competitors but they’ve said ‘our duty as private and public broadcasters is to make sure that we look at this collectively and provide answers to our audience. I think UK broadcasters are really embracing this situation and are definitely leaders we should look to in our industry.

Luke - Bleuenn thank you so much, please come back in 12 months and tell us how you’ve got on with all the great work you’ve kicked off.

Bleuenn - My pleasure and will do!