How the SDGs and stakeholder engagement can hold the key to sustainability leadership

EXCLUSIVE: Building strong relationships with stakeholders and aligning targets with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are some of the most effective ways of embedding sustainability into core business models, an expert panel of speakers has concluded.

Whether it’s securing investment to move towards zero-carbon operations, transforming business models to drive resource efficiency, or empowering others to join the mission, there is a clear need for sustainability and energy professionals to be bold, think big and form new collaborations to achieve a sustainable future.

Taking place yesterday (3 May), edie’s Mission Possible webinar, hosted in association with E.ON Energy, heard from the businesses that are doing just that.


SDGs as a lens

In 2016, food manufacturer William Jackson Food Group, owner of household brands such as Abel & Cole and Aunt Bessie’s, set itself a series of bold sustainability targets. These goals include an aim to ensure 90% of its consumer packaging is recyclable or compostable by 2018, and to reduce its emissions, water usage and waste generation per tonne by 25%

Speaking during edie’s webinar, the firm’s sustainability director Gavin Milligan explained that the targets were chosen to reflect the relevant Goals set in the SDGs, and encouraged other business to do the same.

“Organisations can do what we did and use the SDGs as a lens,” he said. “The SDGs are a very useful tool to look for risks and opportunities. Businesses can go through the targets and compare the intent, rather than the detail, as many of the individual goals are not business-focused but instead use state level, diplomatic language.

“Take a look at the intent and that then goes on to what you do. As with any materiality exercise, find the areas that are important for you and your stakeholders, and where you have the greatest scope to deliver change.”

Building relationships

These views were echoed by Jo Mourant, sustainability delivery manager at Kingfisher, the home improvement retailer behind the ambitious Net Positive plan, which seeks to transform the B&Q and Screwfix owner’s business model to have a restorative impact on the environment.

The entire Kingfisher business is in the third year of a five-year transformation, and as part of that change, the firm has undergone radical restructuring of the group’s management team to integrate CSR into the core of the business.

Kingfisher’s new Sustainable Growth Plan is designed to put the customer and colleagues at the heart of its sustainability strategy. This is manifested through pledges to enable a 50% reduction in customer energy use and to reduce absolute emissions from buildings and transport by 25%, which sit alongside a string of zero-waste and supply chain management targets.

Asked about her advice to any organisation looking to learn from Kingfisher’s sustainability journey, Mourant emphasised the importance of a supportive network of internal and external partners.

“One of the biggest things is building relationships around the business and getting external support,” she said. “We’ve worked very closely with external organisations to get an external view on what we’re doing at Kingfisher, and that has been very helpful. It has also been helpful to gain external support on building that strategy. Taking a step back and having an overall view of the business can prove invaluable.”

Focus and drive

Later on in the webinar, E.ON’s senior strategic account manager spoke of the need for businesses “to lead the way” on sustainability in the modern age. He noted that, with 20% of UK businesses spending £250,000 or more on energy each year, developing a low-carbon energy management strategy is fundamental to ensure survival in a fast-moving, competitive world.

Walsh stressed that resources and ambition are key to any successful sustainability strategy.

“It’s about getting the right resources in place,” he said. “Whether that’s through a third party or through a local expert, it’s about having the right skills at hand to direct and implement the plans in place.

“It’s a two-step process: one is being aware of the opportunities out there – and you may need a third party for that – and then the second part is to have the focus and drive to really push on through with that. That can be complex and differ from organisation to organisation. It may be require a commitment of internal resources or getting the right champion in place within each organisation.”

Register for the Mission Possible webinar here

Achieve your Mission Possible at edie Live 2018

William Jackson Food Group, Kingfisher and E.ON willl appear together on stage at edie Live 2018, taking place on 22-23 May at the NEC Birmingham. 

Whether you are an energy manager, a sustainability, CSR, or environmental professional, or business leader, edie Live 2018 will help you achieve your Mission Possible.

Find out more about the event and register for your free two-day pass here.

George Ogleby

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