“It’s a real transformation that companies need to go through in the next 10 to 20 years,” says Karen Deignan. “All departments, all aspects of the company need to be questioned and possibly realigned towards a more sustainable way of working.”
s Deignan is co-founder of Sustainability Works, a consultancy that helps companies understand sustainability issues and develop strategies for both climate change and diversity and inclusion.
She has worked in this field for 20 years, the last five in Ireland. “When I arrived, it seemed like sustainability was more in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); philanthropic programs where companies have charity partnerships and the like. But in response to the climate crisis and people’s greater understanding of the urgency, companies have started to think more strategically about this issue.”
This fundamental change was driven by a number of factors including regulatory changes, customer demands and the financial sector. “We’ve heard anecdotally from some of the major Irish companies we work with that when interviewed, one of their key questions asks employees: What is your sustainability strategy, what is your commitment to climate change? Millennials and Generation Z tend to be hyper-aware of these important issues.”
The topic of sustainability has thus been removed from the umbrella of CSR and is now viewed as a systemic matter. This means companies need to take a much broader view of the environmental impact of all aspects of their operations.
“Companies are under much more pressure to reduce the carbon impact of their actions, not just within the four walls of their business, but also along their supply chain.”
Paul Hughes, General Manager, Retail, The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) says sustainability has been at the heart of what it does for 30 years. The ICS sells around one million items of clothing in its 21 shops every year. “That equates to nearly 8,500 tonnes of carbon offsetting because people are buying clothes from our stores instead of buying new ones,” says Mr Hughes. “Woolen and cotton fabrics that are not in good condition are used for a material called flock, which is used to line cars or loudspeakers.”
Elsewhere, Life Style Sports is opening Ireland’s first carbon neutral distribution center in Rathcoole, Co Dublin next month. The Life Style Sports Fulfillment Campus will feature energy-efficient rechargeable robots, packaging waste reduction practices, rooftop solar panels, rainwater harvesting and electric car charging stations. Fifty percent of the company’s current seasonal product purchases are made from sustainable or recycled materials.
The Doyle Collection hotel group recently received Green Tourism’s Gold Award accreditation for each of their hotels in Ireland, the UK and the US. Declan Farrell, Group Head of Procurement and Sustainability, says they have focused on building sustainability into day-to-day operations, including new energy management teams to support the Green Teams already in place. Single use plastics are removed where possible, energy efficient systems are installed in all buildings and they work with companies who share a sustainable ethos.
“We are now reviewing each department to see what next steps can be taken,” says Mr. Farrell. “We are working with brokers across the UK and Ireland to ensure all electricity sourced by The Doyle Collection is renewable and to increase internal awareness of sustainable initiatives and best practices.”
Pat Kane is a sustainability strategist currently working with clients in the construction, financial services and retail sectors. Like Ms. Deignan, she sees a shift in how companies approach CSR policies and sustainability in particular. “More and more companies are saying, ‘We’re either doing this right or we’re lagging behind.’ The companies I’ve worked with really feel like they care. They want to do better and consider the impact they are having on the communities around them. Also, it’s always good when trying to sell a business for investors to see that this important part of your business is doing well.
“People want to know that the companies they work for, they submit their CVs to, are doing well; that they are promoting something that benefits society at large.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/the-future-of-successful-businesses-is-green-41670600.html The future of successful companies is green