Climate captains and sustainability strikers: Virgin Media unveils football-themed sustainability report

With England capturing the hearts of the nation at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, telecoms giant Virgin Media has released a new sustainability report utilising football themes to engage key stakeholders with its latest efforts.

Virgin Media is no stranger to using themed reports to make sustainability more revelant and accessible for stakeholders

Virgin Media is no stranger to using themed reports to make sustainability more revelant and accessible for stakeholders

The report, published on Monday (July 9), saw the company use red cards, yellow cards and green flags to track progress against its sweeping set of 2020 sustainability goals in a bid to create a shareable report against the backdrop of the biggest sporting event of the year.

In keeping with the football theme, the report also includes a “plan to win” for 2020, while the PDF itself is entitled “half-time team talk”.

The report serves to further Virgin Media’s reputation as an innovator in the world of sustainability reporting. In 2016, the company launched the world’s first 360 sustainability video, which they followed up last year by publishing a string of GIFs, infographics and social media posts in lieu of a hefty PDF.

Virgin Media’s head of sustainability, Katie Buchanan told edie: “To continue the football metaphor, I’d say we’re 1 - 0 up at halftime. We’re making progress: in fact, really strong progress in parts, such as our Scope partnership, reducing our carbon footprint and creating a more inclusive organisation.

“That said, there is always more to go after. Laurels-resting is not very Virgin. We need to refocus our efforts in the second half and rally our people to help us achieve our plan to win.”

Buchanan, previously told edie that these innovative layouts served as evidence that the brand “takes a truly digital approach to reporting” while making the firm’s efforts accessible “for the many, not just for the experts”.

After targeting customers with its shareable, people-led GIFs in 2017, the company’s 2018 report contains more of the same, but also turns towards driving internal engagement through the inclusion of a new “Sustainability Squad Selector” for employees, which informs them of actions they can take to help Virgin Media meet its 2020 targets – or as the company puts it, “get off the bench and into the game”.

The tool tells workers whether they are a sustainability fan, striker, coach or captain based on how responsible they are for managing the company’s progress towards the environmental and social aims of its Digital For Good sustainability strategy. It then provides them with information on the role they play in the firm’s sustainable growth goals and suggests actions they can take to make a larger impact.

“We are constantly finding new ways to bring our story to life,” Buchanan said. “Our approach is about finding new ways to talk about sustainability issues and activity without appearing in a dull corporate report.”

It’s coming home

As for Virgin Media’s own progress, the report gave the firm a green flag for its “lower our impact” aims, putting it track to meet its 2020 aim of sending zero waste to landfill by the end of the decade, after diverting 85% of its waste from landfill last year – up from 73% in 2016.

This section also noted that the firm has reduced emissions by terabyte of data used on its network by 69% since 2014 and cut its carbon footprint by 8% against the same baseline, despite a 2% year-on-year increase in its carbon footprint in 2017.

While lacking in numerical targets across water, carbon and renewable power, the plan states that Virgin Media will increase the use of its product sustainability scorecard to help reduce the environmental impact of its consumer products such as routers, cables and SIM cards over the next two years.

It also states that the company will “deliver a step change” in the way it uses and manages waste across the business’ offices after achieving zero-waste to landfill within its supply chains, with a particular focus on single-use plastics.

Sarah George


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