When Holly met...

A blog post by Holly Roberts, Bournemouth Eagle Lab Manager

The world is changing. Sustainability issues like energy price volatility, resource scarcity, human rights, flooding and reputational risk have become business-critical for companies of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re a big chain supermarket introducing plastic-free aisles, or a local restaurant responding to customer pressure by banning plastic straws, environmental issues can have a big impact on your bottom line.

While some businesses view these emerging issues purely as a risk to be managed, Bournemouth Eagle Lab residents “Brakkn” believe that sustainability offers big opportunities, too. They generate value for businesses by helping them switch to low cost renewable energy, and then help their customers do the same. Launched in 2015, Brakkn is already working with household names including IKEA, Hotel Chocolat and WWF.

I caught up with Co-Founder Tom Old, who told me more about the company’s work, and how Barclays Eagle Labs has helped them grow.

For Tom, understanding businesses’ needs has been central to the company’s success. “Whether we’re working with a multinational or a local pub, our approach is always the same – understand how we can best deliver value for that particular organisation, and then work with them to deliver that.”

For Brakkn to be a success, says Tom, helping the environment has to go hand in hand with delivering on the bottom line.

“It would be naïve of us to expect companies to switch to renewable electricity – or to help their customers switch – if doing so didn’t offer genuine commercial benefits,” says Tom. “By helping to cut our clients’ energy bills, or by demonstrating the brand value of saving their customers money, we’re better able to deliver on our environmental purpose.”

Tom’s background is over 10 years within the consumer-tech industry, helping to grow the company Disruptive Ltd to reach a turnover of $55Million. His early career had little to do with sustainability, and he looks back on the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth as the moment he realised that he wanted to use his business acumen to make a positive impact.

Brakkn operates two separate brands - Big Clean Switch and Clean Energy UK. Big Clean Switch works with companies like Bettys & Taylors (the makers of Yorkshire Tea), Suffolk-based brewers Adnams and The Big Issue to make it easy for their staff and customers to switch to renewable electricity. Clean Energy UK does the same for businesses, supported by energy efficiency advice and consultancy on a range of other environmental services.

Big Clean Switch’s largest campaign to date saw them partner with IKEA, helping to switch their customers to renewable energy sources including sun, wind and water. In just three weeks, the campaign is estimated to have saved IKEA’s customers and co-workers over £1million on their combined household bills.

When I ask what’s helped Brakkn grow so fast, Tom attributes much of their success to their start-up mentality.

“We’re entering a competitive and rapidly changing market, and to make a success of that, we have to think differently.” He reels off a list of measures the company has put in place to set them apart from their competitors, from the audits they do of the energy suppliers they work with to ensure their users can switch with confidence, to the marketing support they offer to businesses to help them gain even more value from their switch to renewables.

“Being a part of Bournemouth Eagle Labs has been really important in fostering that challenger mentality,” says Tom. “Being around like-minded businesses, in an environment that encourages innovation, inevitably influences how the team operates.”

Brakkn is not alone. With the Eagle Lab network recently unveiling Cardiff Eagle Lab as our first Green Lab in the UK, we are nationally looking to stimulate and nurture the “Green” start-up industry. Contact your local Eagle Lab for more information.

Check out Big Clean Switch’s most recent campaign – with conservation charity WWF here (you could save a couple of hundred pounds in the processs).

Holly Roberts

Holly Roberts, Bournemouth Eagle Lab Manager

Bournemouth Eagle Lab

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