Profile: Ian Hill, Openreach

Ian Hill is Chief Sustainability Officer at Openreach, part of the BT group. Ian has a background in finance, which is where he started, 12 years ago at BT.

Initially working as a finance controller, Ian moved into general management, handling contract and supply management.

His work began to involve issues surrounding the environment and sustainability and he saw how issues such as environmental concerns and visual amenity were important to stakeholders in BT’s network construction activities.

Following a period handling network investment and environmental policy, two years ago, a post was created to deal with sustainability on a strategic level within Openreach, and Ian took over the role.

Openreach certainly has its challenges in the area of sustainability. The organisation employs 30,000 people and has 23,000 vehicles. The nature of the business means that fuel, energy and waste are issues that need handling on a daily basis.

Openreach has been successful at reducing its fleet carbon emissions through its initiatives such as Right First Time and Network Health, which both reduce the need for unnecessary engineering visits.

Openreach was winner of the Sustainable Transport award at Edie Awards for Environmental Excellence 2010. The foundation of the approach is a 360 degree one, which focuses on (1) the journey (aiming to reduce journeys), (2) the driver (changing behaviours), and (3) the vehicle (reducing vehicle weight and trialling alternative vehicles).

The company has also encouraged people to think about whether a journey is always necessary and if there are alternatives, such as the use of conferencing services instead of travelling to meetings.

Ian is passionate about sustainability but admits there are challenges.

The subject covers a multitude of topics which can be difficult to unravel. It is essential he says that the issues are put in a context to make it relevant to the company’s strategic direction and business plan.

Another challenge is getting a large workforce to engage with sustainability issues when the effects of issues such as climate change can sometimes appear remote, but Ian remains upbeat about the prospects for adopting of sustainable business practices and for the potential of sustainability to generate positive new ideas in business.

Alison Brown

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie