#SustyTalk: Colas Rail’s Claudia Dommett-Nöhren on how coronavirus is driving social sustainability

Next up in our series of at-home video interviews with sustainability leaders: Claudia Dommett-Nöhren, head of sustainability and innovation at railway infrastructure firm Colas Rail UK. In this 13-minute chat, Claudia discusses how the coronavirus pandemic is increasing the need to focus on the 'social' elements of sustainable business.

Editor’s note: We suffered some technical issues with this recording – blame Luke’s dodgy WiFi! The recording becomes more watchable after a few minutes. 

With the UK on lockdown and edie readers working remotely or on furlough, #SustyTalk keeps you connected to the inspirational business leaders who are continuing to drive sustainability and champion climate action from their own homes.

In this episode, edie’s content director Luke Nicholls speaks with Colas Rail’s Claudia Dommett-Nöhren, who discusses how the Covid-19 pandemic has eliceted a change in approach to her sustainabiltiy and innovation work at the railway infrastructure firm.

“There’s been a bit of a shift in priorities,” Claudia says. “Wheras before I was very much focused on delivering campaigns and raising awareness across the business, things have now moved from the implementation stage back to the planning and strategic outlook phase. We’re batting down the hatches; researching and getting all of our ducks in a row so that, when lockdown ends, we can hit the ground running and start delivering against our sustainability strategy again. 

“The engagement piece is the most difficult. The priority isn’t there for sustainability at the moment because everyone’s focusing on maintaining physical distance and keeping everyone safe and healthy, which is naturally the priority. So, it’s really about trying to pick your battles and identifying those little nuggets that you can get into people’s workstreams to get them embedding sustainability as part of the new ‘business as usual.'” 

‘Hearts and minds’

With Colas Rail deemed a ‘critical supplier’ for Network Rail, the firm is still operating with people on the ground maintaining train tracks on evenings and weekends. But with Claudia and her team confined to their homes during lockdown, she believes the social aspects of sustainability and CSR will be more important than ever.  

“Even though we’re physically distancing, we’re socially becoming a much more close-knit community,” she adds. “What I’m trying to do is tap into that and link the social sustainability element into the conversation, so that people can see how they are contributing to a wider positie social impact. It’s the social element of sustainability that will perhaps be easier to drive because you’re appealing to people’s hearts and minds at this time.”

Looking ahead, Claudia is keen to get Science-Based Targets approved within her own organisation, and her message for other sustainability professionals is to be ready to resume their own missions post-lockdown.

“Sustainability isn’t dead. Our time will come again and we need to be ready with a variety of different options once we come out of Covid to see what will fit in the new normal – that’s hopefully something that’ll keep us going thorugh this time.”

View all of edie’s #SustyTalk video interviews here

View more coronavirus-related content here

Want to be featured on a future episode of #SustyTalk? Email [email protected].  

edie staff

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