Crown Estate’s integrated approach to sustainability result of ‘ripping up strategy’

After ten years, The Crown Estate's award-winning sustainability strategy had become so embedded in operations it was no longer needed. Instead it now simply informs all aspects of one holistic business plan according to head of sustainability Mark Gough.

When Mark Gough joined the property business two years ago, he was handed an “excellent, award-winning sustainability strategy and an award-winning market outperforming business strategy”.

However, addressing delegates at today’s Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference in London, organised by edie and Sustainable Business, Gough said: “I went into my first board meeting and said to everyone we need to have one single approach to the business rather than a separate sustainability strategy”.

The detached approach to The Crown Estate’s business and sustainability strategies had involved board management discussing the conflicts between the two, said Gough.

“By ripping up the sustainability report, we ended up having conversations about how we integrate sustainability. What then happened was the investment strategy team, became responsible for sustainability in its own department,” he added.

Gough said: “The fact that I didn’t have anything they could refer to anymore – a sustainability strategy – it made them address the issues. This worked because I didn’t give them a way of doing this and it prompted them to take this on themselves,” said Gough.

Prior to the Crown Estate’s integrated sustainability approach, Gough would write regular sustainability reports but decided that to drive progress, engagement from the entire company was needed.

“Someone else writes the report now and I influence it. But the influence I have is more tangible and is actually making a bigger difference,” said Gough.

“With our history of sustainability, all of the directors knew this was important but they were just relying on me to deliver it. Now they are relying on themselves to deliver it and that’s the difference between separating and integrating sustainability,” he added.

Leigh Stringer

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