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Exclusive interview: Mark Epstein, CEO, The People’s Operator

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Prior to The People’s Operator (TPO), Mark co-founded and ran Mass1 Limited, which he built into a leading UK campaign agency, working with organisations including Channel 4, and charities such as Disasters Emergency Committee. Before starting Mass1, Mark held senior management positions in the mobile and creative industries. Today he talks to Blue & Green about TPO.

In 140 characters or less – what is The People’s Operator?

TPO is a cause-based MVNO* offering great deals and great service while giving 10% of your bill to the cause you love. (*mobile virtual network operator)

What was the driver for creating The People’s Operator – what gap did it fill?

The idea for TPO came from three friends – myself, Tom Gutteridge and Andrew Rosenfeld – each with experience working with cause organisations. Together we recognised an opportunity to use business as a force for good – starting with something as everyday as using your mobile phone. In 2012, TPO was launched in the UK to help kick-start a steady flow of funds to good causes by tapping into the power of mobile.

Customers with TPO not only get the best deals, high quality mobile service and great customer service – they can also direct 10% of their monthly mobile spend to the cause of their choice, at no extra cost to them. In addition, we give 25% of our profits to charity as well through the TPO Foundation.

Last year, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, joined TPO’s mission to raise funds for causes and has led on the development of the TPO Community that launched in July this year – a global community that combines social sharing with the ability to raise funds for the causes you love.

Who does it primarily serve?

TPO serves a wide range of people who want great deals on their mobile plans while getting great service. Our cause-based proposition, however, makes TPO a good fit for anyone who supports causes, big or small, and is looking to make a difference with every purchase they make. We’re seeing that there’s been a lot of interest in our service too – in September, we announced that we’d reached 50,000 customers in the UK; and earlier this year we launched in the US and have been seeing strong interest in just the first few months since we launched.

What difference does The People’s Operator want to make?

Our goal is to raise millions for good causes! We believe we can do this through both our mobile phone service and through the TPO Community – a social platform that brings like-minded people together in their support for causes. We currently have more than 80 causes participating on the TPO Community at www.tpo.com and enable them to collect donations on the community without any commissions or subscription fees as well.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

Actually, both causes and our customers are very supportive of the business model and really understand the idea of giving 10% of their monthly bill to the cause of their choice. Initially, we had some feedback from customers who thought the proposition was too good to be true, so assumed it meant our plans would be more expensive.

But actually, our prices are competitive and in line with the market – that’s important to us. We do this by cutting out expensive advertising – no TV ads or billboards. Instead of spending your money on advertising, we give to the cause you love and just ask that you help spread the word by telling your friends about us!

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

Our cause partners also play an important role in supporting TPO and communicating the value of the offer – they understand that the more people we’re bringing on board to TPO, the more funds are directed back to them. We’ve been fortunate to partner with great causes that have helped spread the word about TPO such as The Trussell Trust, Emerge Poverty Free and Leicester City Foxes Foundation.

Is the mobile sector fit-for-purpose for causes, innovators and entrepreneurs?

The mobile sector is definitely a competitive one, but it’s also an environment that is changing quickly. It’s not for everyone and you need to be sure you have a strong sense of how you’ll build scale and stand out from the competition if you want to have lasting power. Especially as an MVNO, you need to have that scale in order to be able to provide competitive offerings to your customers.

With TPO, we said from the start that we didn’t expect to take over the market, but we do want to appeal to a wide audience of people who are looking for a great mobile service while also giving back. It’s why we’ve said that customers can nominate any cause of their choice.

If we gave you the power to effect on change in law to support causes and charities – what would it be?

We’d love to see more pressure placed on credit services and banks to help reduce the costs of fundraising. Currently, every time you make a donation to a cause (whether that’s through TPO or through another fundraising platform) there is a bank fee that’s deducted from the donation – and that means that there’s less being directed to the front lines.

It’s probably why some causes are more focused on ‘big gift’ donations for their fundraising efforts rather than online fundraising or micro-giving. At TPO, we definitely see the potential for micro-giving; and how a bit of small change can add up to a big difference. But to make that stretch further, we need to bring more institutions on board to allow breaks for causes when it comes to bank fees and credit card charges.

On the TPO Community, for example, we don’t charge commissions on the donations made through the community, but there are still bank charges – a transactional cost we can’t get around – which we hope to be able to reduce as we continue to build the scale of the community.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about The People’s Operator?

You can head to www.thepeoplesoperator.com to find out more about our range of mobile plans and how you can nominate the cause of your choice. And, whether or not you’re a mobile customer, you can also join the TPO Community at www.tpo.com.

 

 

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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