Sustainability is a buzz word that organisations are keen to act in the name of, but as a real concept that spans improvements to environmental, social and financial impacts; many struggle to achieve tangible results. A sustainability team may be devoted to positively impacting their organisations’ sustainability performance, but do so in isolation from the rest of the organisation. If this is the case, sustainability initiatives are often treated as one-off activities rather than a recurring component of a core strategy that is linked to future prosperity of the business, incorporating all its business functions.
Carbon Smart believe it is key for sustainability teams to understand the subtleties of how an organisation works, what the key driving factors for it are and how decisions are made in order to create a tangible impact and realise the full business benefits of sustainability initiatives.
The answer to how sustainability can be positioned in this way lies in good coordination across business functions. Engaging different business operations and taking the time to understand the role that each of them plays provides insight, and enables greater facilitation and implementation of sustainability measures. Integrating sustainability with processes within facilities, for example, provides the opportunity to pool resources which delivers business benefits such as cost, carbon and resource savings.
One of our clients, a leading insurance organisation, has won a prestigious internal award for its integrated approach to sustainability, as a result of the communication that exists between its sustainability and facilities teams. Here, an environmental working group coordinated by the sustainability team brings together representatives from the property services team as well as the external FM team to develop key initiatives that will benefit each area of the business.
Initiatives are put forward by members of property services, CSR teams, green champions and other members of staff. These are discussed at environmental working group meetings and initiatives to reduce carbon impact, resource consumption or drive behaviour change in staff, are defined as objectives. Ambitious but achievable targets are also set to implement these, and responsibilities are assigned to a member of staff for each particular objective. These are then summarised in an action plan to be able to continuously monitor progress and maintain momentum.
As a result of this approach, the client has realised a range of business benefits while furthering its sustainability performance. Among these are exceptional recycling rates, which have delivered cost savings, carbon savings and improved resource efficiency. The approach has provided a system which has improved the efficiency with which waste is handled on site, and expanded the range of materials that can be recycled. Collections have been streamlined, transport emissions have been reduced and these improvements have synchronously reduced the carbon impact.
By taking the time to understand the drivers for the business and establish strong lines of communication across facilities and other functions of the business, tangible improvements are realised across a wide range of sustainability metrics. This demonstrates the potential for success a sustainability strategy can bring about, when it is integrated with other business functions.