Meet the Sustainability Leader: Adnams’ Ben Orchard – Sustainability/CSR Manager 2018

With less than a month to go until entries for edie's revamped 2019 Sustainability Leaders Awards close, this feature series showcases the achievements of last year's winners. Up next: our Sustainability/CSR Manager award-winner, Ben Orchard from Adnams.

Receiving his award at just 27 years of age, Ben Orchard has already carved an impressive legacy that has seen his influence spill out of beer makers Adnams’ sustainability department to assist accountants, procurement teams and the wider sector as a whole.

“Being awarded edie ‘Sustainability Manager of the Year’ 2018 was a great honour and privilege, but it was also a lot more than that as it provided strong credibility to my work and reassurance of ability. I noticed this both internally and externally; it has helped me engage better with teams and colleagues who now actively come to me to help improve the sustainability of their role. Externally I have seen recognition of my role with requests for attendance and involvement in industry events,” Orchard said.

“The award is a testament to Adnams too for allowing me to develop a leading sustainability framework and this award has helped Adnams stand apart from others, adding credibility to our work and pioneering actions. The edie Sustainability Leaders Awards are the leading industry awards, so receiving this recognition provides a great sense of self-achievement and ambition to do more!”

In his first five years at Adnams, Ben has created and implemented a pioneering sustainability agenda so successful that it has been adopted by other organisations. Ben’s grasp on the business case for sustainability is precise to the point of near perfection. An academic background in research has given him a great understanding of how to build the business case for his projects. Ben has only ever had two projects refused, both solely on the grounds of capital availability.

In fact, every project that Ben has worked on has delivered a clear commercial benefit, knowledge of which has since been shared with other organisations. He helped Adnams change its Spindrift bottle from blue to brown glass, which generated a 21% carbon reduction and saved the company more than £25,000 annually. Ben has transformed the company into a firm that sends zero waste to landfill and, most recently, Adnams has also sourced 100% renewable electricity for its business operations.

Under Ben’s guidance, Adnams has delivered carbon savings equivalent to another five years’ operations, while the company’s water ratio has been reduced to 20% below the industry average – the company’s best ever performance.

However, Ben’s influence extends beyond the sustainability team. He has introduced an environmental framework that focuses on carbon, waste, water and biodiversity, but in a way that links suppliers, competitors and other internal teams together.

Not only has Ben liaised with suppliers to develop new products, such as organic and recycled polyester t-shirts, and the changes to bottle weight (which have helped Marston’s and Marks and Spencer with their own goals), but he also persuaded Adnams’ procurement team to create Rainforest Alliance coffee in bespoke compostable capsules.

Arguably one of the more impressive achievements from Ben is his ability to link the sustainability agenda with the finance department. His work has enabled Adnams’ accountants to link their approach to environmental management; creating a common language between the two often-opposing disciplines. This approach has seen the finance department predict and calculate product costs much more accurately, which improves the day-to-day business decisions made by managers.

By embedding a holistic sustainability strategy, Ben has enabled other areas of the business to think sustainably. Ben is promoting biodiversity in Adnams’ hotels through honey made with the company’s own 250,000 bees, and he has encouraged the marketing team to share these successes, as well as the traceability of products.

Ben’s keen eye for developing the business case has seen Adnams’ hotels achieve gold status in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, as well as completing a £50,000 LED lighting installation at a distribution centre. Other successful projects issued by Ben include a complex series of automatic meter readers across the Adnams estate to calculate component volumes.

Building an ethos

Since Ben started working at Adnams, the company has built an ethos of honesty and transparency. Led by Ben, the company was one of the first to publish a full traceability map showing how and where t-shirts are designed, even though these could create certain marketing concerns.

Ben is attempting to embed this ethos into the next frontier of Adnams’ sustainability ambitions, the supply chain. He is driving a culture of collaboration rather than assessment, which includes creating a barley growers group and working with competitors to implement a light-weighting process for glass bottles.

Ben’s approach to sustainability is one of addressing the root cause of problems rather than the symptoms. A prime example of this was his decision to remove heat from production and logistics processes, thus avoiding extra investment in warehouse cooling.

As well as showing a full understanding of the environmental and financial aspects of sustainability, Ben has personally developed initiatives tailored to creating societal and ethical benefits. In his spare time, Ben is involved with educational programmes ranging from STEM projects at local high schools, to guest lectures for MBA students at universities. This is all voluntary.

He has prioritised workers’ rights in Adnams’ manufacturing chain and has assessed the health concerns of single-use plastics. In fact, Adnams has developed a method to incorporate recycled plastic sea waste into products, again led by Ben. He has also taken and grown the company’s regular beach cleans to a point where they are oversubscribed. This has led to collaboration with other organisations on similar beach clean initiatives.

Ben’s credibility has earnt him an excellent reputation with stakeholders, and he has been invited to sit on several board and committee meetings across the industry. As Adnams’ head of finance and sustainability Richard Carter notes, “Ben’s impact outside Adnams is unarguably over three times the vast savings achieved within our business”.

What the judges said: “This was an exceptional entry. An entry focused on achievements, outputs and results, this was a clear winner in this category.”

edie’s 2019 Sustainability Leaders Award

Now in their 12th year, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards have undergone a major revamp, with a host of new categories and judges, a new Awards venue, and a new Mission Possible theme – making 6 February 2019 the biggest night of the sustainable business calendar.

The entry deadline for the 2019 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday, 14 September 2018. The Awards will then take place on the night of 6 February 2019 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 


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