It is not enough to look to policymakers to solve climate change, business of all size must take responsibility says Managing Director of Delta-Simons Alex Ferguson
As world leaders look ahead to COP26 in Glasgow this November, there is a feeling of optimism that change is on the horizon. However, it is easy to feel that all we need is the right policies and regulations, that heads of state and international organisations will set policy for global corporations to implement change into their businesses and supply chains.
We must not forget thaWe must not forget that the purpose of policy is to give guidance and direction to individuals to instigate meaningful change. But we in the business community must take responsibility. We know that change is coming (or we hope change is coming) so why wait? There is a fixation on what “they” are going to do about climate change and the biodiversity crisis, but it is what “we” do about it that really matters.
Learning to adapt
At Delta-Simons Environmental Consultants Ltd we work with businesses of all scales to support their ESG efforts. ESG is becoming a common language for investors and for clients – this is where we measure, learn, adapt, and improve the way in which we do business.
To focus on the SME market, it is crucial to recognise that, as our global clients initiate change, this immediately impacts their SME supply chain. Those businesses that are embracing change and acting now will be best placed to benefit from the many opportunities that will come with this market and policy shift.
Having an ESG policy, reporting on ESG at board level and taking positive action puts us in a strong position to win work, secure favourable finance and to attract and retain the best talent. Often, the toughest thing to decide is what to do first when there is so much information and so many drivers.
The most important place to start is to ask your people what matters to them. This can be a formal materiality review, or form part of your usual team discussions. Tailoring your ESG activities to what really matters to your people is the best way to ensure success. You can align your priorities to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to ensure that you have a language and framework, which is easy to communicate, but it is what you do that matters. By engaging your workforce and focusing on what they care about, you stand the best chance of making a real impact and of driving continuous improvements.
There are some key questions you can ask to understand what really matters to your people:
• If you could support one local charity, which would it be?
• Where do you think we waste resources or energy?
• How do you get to and from work?
These questions are straight-forward on purpose. For most of us “the environment” is something so big that we can’t do anything about it. However, if we support local charities, waste less and think about how we travel, we move towards setting ESG targets by agreeing priorities and making positive change. Small changes may be possible in the spaces you occupy as a business, and the neighbours and communities you can engage, or partner with. Over time, these impacts accumulate and can be measured, to show that business credentials are ethical, responsible and have a social conscience.
There is a tendency for policymakers and global businesses to overcomplicate. The vast majority of businesses – for example, 90% of SMEs in the UK – do not measure their carbon footprint and see the cost of doing so as prohibitive. However, we are asking the wrong question. Many of these businesses know exactly what they spend on their energy and water bills, and track travel to the nearest mile in their expenses and fuel card systems. This is the basis of a carbon footprint. If you have that information recorded, you are almost there. As environmental consultants, if we are handed clear records of energy usage and travel, we can quickly and affordably provide a carbon footprint, the majority of consultancy fees are incurred in obtaining and cleaning the data, not in the actual calculations.
Although Delta-Simons is an SME, our work is global. We are part of the Inogen Alliance, which is an Alliance of over 70 businesses with offices in over 100 countries. Having local expertise is key to what we do, enabling us to understand the cultural priorities in the areas our clients operate, and having the ability to operate on the ground without flying experts around the world.
As you start to make your changes and implement your policies, understanding where you source your materials and where your products are used is going to be key. Understand your starting point and what you aspire to. Start by asking the simple questions. Find out what your people are passionate about, and run with it.
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