EP30 – Australia’s First Carbon Neutral Telco with Kate Limbach Clarke


EP30 – Australia’s First Carbon Neutral Telco with Kate Limbach Clarke

Ep30 Sustainable Ecommerce

Welcome to Episode 30 of the Sustainable Ecommerce Podcast!

Last week on the show, we briefly touched on ways to improve our carbon footprint as well as save costs outside of things in your direct product supply chain.  This week I’m chatting with Kate Limbach Clarke, Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Felix Mobile, Australia’s first Carbon-Neutral Telco. 

Aside from the fresh approach Felix are bringing to sustainability in the telco space, they also have a really interesting approach to Active Transparency, specifically a strong focus on how the customer can have ongoing impact through using their service. 

In a world where so many brands fear to promote the great work they’re doing, its encouraging to see something like a Telco building brand as a direct result of impact.  

Felix Carbon Neutral Telco

Giles Smith: Kate Limbach Clarke, welcome to the show!

Kate Limbach Clarke: Hi Giles, how are you?

Giles Smith: I'm very well, thanks! Let's get started by introducing yourself and tell us a little bit about Felix Mobile.

Kate Limbach Clarke: I'm very excited to share a little bit more about what Felix is up to and what we've been doing in the telco market. I'm Kate, I work as the senior brand marketing manager for Felix Mobile. We are fast approaching two years in the market, and we’re Australia's first carbon neutral and powered by 100% renewable electricity, Telco. We also plant a tree a month for every active customer.  

Giles Smith: I want to zero in a little bit more on this notion of renewable energy, and of course your focus on carbon neutrality. Now, is that focused on your own internal operations or does it cover your customer's use of the network as well?

Kate Limbach Clarke: Great question! I guess simplest way to explain it is that we buy renewable electricity in Australia to cover the power used in providing our service. And we also invest in certified carbon offset projects to offset all of our other emissions. Both our renewable electricity and our carbon offsets are certified through Climate Active Initiative, which is a partnership between the Australian government and businesses.

Giles Smith: Thank you for clarifying all that and sort of explaining how that all fits together. I think that's really important part of the context. One thing that I think is interesting and probably most people don't think about when they pick up their mobile phone to make a call is the carbon footprint around their mobile phone use. Can you share any data with us about what our actual impact is?  

Kate Limbach Clarke: I guess that's really one of the big insights too, that inspired us as a team and as a business to investigate and to develop a business that was different, that was focusing on a great service for customers, but also impactful for the planet.

But mainly the biggest, um, insight that we used and continue to sort of focus on is that like the data centers and the, the mobile towers that's, uh, support our phones. One of our biggest insights was that across Australia, a million tonnes of CO2 emissions are generated every year to power our mobile towers and data centres supporting mobile use.

And so to give sort of context to that for people to understand how much that might be, that's about the same amount of carbon that might be emitted by over 300,000 passenger cars. With that insight we really wanted our service and the plan that we were providing customers to help mitigate that, or help reduce the impact of that.

It's just a starting point for us. We really want to bed down and continue in that sort of area of tackling how we improve what we're doing for the climate.  

Giles Smith: So collectively, it's a lot is the summary!

Kate Limbach Clarke: Collectively it is a lot! We're using our phones every day. If the products that you're using can actually be a positive impact to the planet I think that’s a good thing.

Giles Smith: Let's talk about what you guys do as a sustainably orientated brand, a sustainably oriented business. What do you guys do to attract the right type of customers, and what sort of customers are they? Have you seen the demographic change over the past couple of years? What are you doing that's working?

Kate Limbach Clarke: I don't think your customer base ever is stagnant. And I think as a great brand and a good marketer or marketing team, you're always looking at that and adjusting that depending on what the market's asking for and what feedback you're getting. We have a really successful customer care team based here in Australia on the pulse of what our customers are loving about what we're doing. And we really use that feedback into what we do and how we position the brand across the market. So for us, it's always been very much about bringing our three core values forward.

Being radically simple; Doing the right thing: and being good to the planet.

Felix Mobile Values

When it comes to attracting customers, we definitely did a lot of research in the beginning and really that brought to life. Customers expect better of businesses, they expect a lot more from existing businesses to start changing and to start

But they also, they also really expect that new businesses should be really doing the right thing for the planet from the get go. And that's what we listened to and that's what we really tried to build.

We like to think that we are definitely available for anyone and everyone. We're definitely not just focusing on a smaller subset of customers. And I think your examples Eco Warriors or the everyday person, we would like to think that we are offering something for both groups of people. For those that just want something simple, that's no fuss, that's very easy to understand. You know what you're going to pay every month. There's nothing hidden, it's a really simple product.

And then for those that are really focused on doing better, choosing sustainable options, from their insurances, from their banking, all the way down to the products that they're using in the home for cleaning, we're also positioning ourselves there where we're saying we are doing everything we can to give you the simplicity of this phone plan, but we also want to make sure we're giving back to the to the planet that we're focusing on what matters to you as a customer.

Giles Smith: We had a conversation a few weeks ago about the the duality of needing to show how you solve the customer's problem first, because that buys you the right to then talk about the other things. And I think what you just demonstrated is that Felix Mobile's focus is definitely on the problem that the customer has, which is really complex mobile phone plans, and knowing how much they're going to spend. And then you're making it really compelling by wrapping all of that up in a nice environmentally conscious way.

Kate Limbach Clarke: Yeah, absolutely. That's our biggest hurdle – how do you balance those two things, how do you get that right?

Giles Smith: I'm imagining it costs you a fair bit more to acquire a customer than that your fist month or two of subscription fees, so obviously customer retention is massive for you. How do you roll in all this sustainability stuff that you're doing so they see the impact they are having and continue to use your service?

Kate Limbach Clarke: We like to celebrate and share all of the little things that we're doing whether that’s an improvement to the service or a win we’ve had for the environment.

I think one thing customers really respect is when you're really transparent and clear around what your business is doing and why it's doing it. Our third value of course is about being good to the planet, and that is why we do what we do with One Tree Planted. Each month they get to see within the app that we've planted a tree on their behalf. They get to see that count go up and up the longer that they're with us.

So they get to make an impact without having to do much for it basically.

Carbon Neutral Telco

Giles Smith: I love hearing about how you’re implementing Active Transparency, by showing your customer what impact they are having every month. That's so exciting and congratulations for figuring all that stuff out!

Kate Limbach Clarke: Whether it's a project that's here in Australia or a project that's located overseas and we. We give all the updates around that. Our social media manager makes sure that all of that is communicated monthly with all the customers: where we've planted and what the next project will be.

Giles Smith: Tell us a little more about your focus on customer service.

Kate Limbach Clarke: We want customers to be able to have that instant, connection to Felix. The team is here physically in Australia, online from eight till eight every day. We've got really loyal customers now and I think a lot of that has to do with the service that we're providing through the customer care team.

Giles Smith: Obviously the more complex the service, the more important is that you have a well-trained, knowledgeable team of service people to look after your customers. Often eCommerce brands don’t focus on service, but that misses out a huge opportunity to not only build an enormously engaged fan base and a loyal customer base, but also builds relationship as well.

Kate Limbach Clarke: As a brand you want amazing advocates for what you're doing and why you're doing it, and you're not going to get that if you don't put the time and energy into their experience. Our service staff are not just good at solving problems though, they also understand the sustainability elements that make Felix different.

Giles Smith: What are the key ways that you acquire customers and how do you go about doing that?

Kate Limbach Clarke: We've tried a few different things as we've been growing. We spend quite a bit of time and energy in all of our digital channels, places where our brand can show up on their phones.

We're really starting to focus on more partnership side of things as well, of how we can reach new customers and really engage a different subset of customers. We really want to start the conversation around partnering with other businesses that are carbon neutral.

Giles Smith: What's next for Felix?

Kate Limbach Clarke: I think for us it's really continuing to focus on how we balance purpose and profit.  We want to remain profitable and we want to be an honest choice for customers. We also want to be a brand that continues to do things differently and to be in front of some of the other competitors when it comes to sustainability efforts. Is that becoming a B Corp? What's beyond, being carbon neutral? Is there something more that we can do in that space? Can we work towards net zero?

Giles Smith: How do people join up with you?

Kate Limbach Clarke: It's incredibly simple. And that's another thing that we get a lot of feedback on is ease of the switching process. You can go to felixmobile.com.au or you can go into one of the app stores and get the felix mobile app. You can either get a physical SIM sent to you, or you can also now use eSIM, which means the switching process is done within minutes.

Um, it's all done in the background, but there's nothing that you actually have to do to bring your number across to Felix if that's what you want to do.

It’s very simple, but it’s also great value, $35 per month for unlimited data at speeds of up to 20 megabits per second.

Giles Smith: Thank you Kate, it’s been lovely chatting to you!

Kate Limbach Clarke: Thanks for giving me the time to share a little bit about Felix and how we're approaching things.

Felix Mobile App

Top Takeouts

  1. Most of us probably don’t think too much about the carbon impact of our mobile phone use, but of course everything that needs power potentially has a carbon footprint.  A million tonnes of CO2 emitted every year in Australia alone to support our mobile use.

    Being certified carbon-neutral makes Felix a great choice if you’re moving your activities towards net zero as well.

  2. From a branding point of view, I was excited to hear how important Kate think it is to have an ongoing program of customer updates related to impact. Obviously Felix mobile is a service business, not a DTC brand so retention is vitally important.

    But newsflash – customer retention & repeat business is critically important for your eCommerce brand too!

    Figuring out how to make each customer’s impact transparent, and regularly sharing the good news about what you’ve achieved together as a community is a really important mechanism for cementing your brand and building customer loyalty.

So I hope you enjoyed my chat with Kate – make sure you check out Felix mobile and bookmark for when you’re next ready to  re-evaluate your mobile provider. 

I’ll be back next week with more stories from the world of Sustainable Ecommerce, so until then, keep building your brand for a healthier planet!

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