What makes a sustainability leader? Get to know Ibstock Brick’s Michael McGowan

With the 2021 Sustainability Leaders Awards entry deadline approaching, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2020 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up first: Our Energy Management Leader of the Year, Ibstock's Michael McGowan.

What makes a sustainability leader? Get to know Ibstock Brick’s Michael McGowan

Pictured: Nick Turton

Michael was appointed as Ibstock’s group sustainability manager in January 2019 and is the driving force behind the company’s a Sustainability Roadmap to 2025 – its first set of public sustainability commitments.

The Roadmap impressed edie’s panel of esteemed judges in that it is aligned with both national and global environmental goals across the whole sustainability agenda, with credible targets on everything from decarbonisation and energy saving to respecting staff and communities. Michael’s dedication to improving the environmental and social ambitions and actions of the business were clear to see.

Since Michael was presented with his award at the ceremony in February, Ibstock has recorded such strong progress against some of the Roadmap’s targets that it has increased its ambitions in several areas. An original target of generating 10% of sales turnover from sustainable products was doubled, for example. An interim ambition to remove 200 tonnes of plastic shrink wrap was introduced to bolster the 2025 ambition to reduce “preventable” plastics use by 40%.

Perhaps most crucially, Ibstock has outlined plans to pilot at least one net-zero factory in the short-term as it works to develop a company-wide net-zero target and supporting roadmap. The business has achieved a 6.5% reduction in carbon emissions per tonne of production since 2015, as it targets a 15% reduction by 2025.

By leading a dedicated team and ensuring that the business’ sustainability targets are always front-of-mind for executives, Michael has helped to bring about a step-change in the company’s approach to environmental issues. It has made strategic investments in LED lighting, process waste recycling, onsite solar, water recycling infrastructure and an EE plant in recent months, to name but a few.

Internal and external engagement on environmental issues – most notably energy – has also taken off under Michael’s leadership.  He has played a core role in delivering the company’s “People First” programme, which envisaged people as energy users, as opposed to machinery and processes, across the company’s 38 sites and 2,300 employees. His view is that every employee affects energy consumed, no matter how small or significant a user they are.

Inspiring employees to take responsibility for their role in the sustainability journey, Michael implemented a two-year training plan, tailored to two classifications: “Significant Energy Users” and “All Energy Users”. It focused on what individuals can do to save energy at work. This way of thinking is being transferred across the business, such as waste reduction and water usage, with the same positive impact and results. This also went beyond the company to discussions with customers, suppliers, sector partners and even competitors to bring about change to the ceramics sector.

In nominating Michael for this award, Ibstock’s chief executive Joe Hudson highlighted his four decades of experience in the sustainability field and his ability to “lead from the front”, delivering strong progress against ambitious targets. Hudson said that, with Michael on board, the company is well-placed to achieve its vision of outperforming other construction material businesses in terms of sustainable manufacturing processes.

What edie’s judges said: “Michael stood out because of his vision for the need and, more importantly, his ability to communicate and engage with the issues and people concerned. He initiated a broad scope of actions across the company on energy management, which we believe make him an ideal winner for the category.”

Are you our next Energy and Carbon Leader?

Now entering their 14th year for 2021, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are a unique opportunity to shout about the achievements you and your company have made during this challenging year. 

In a digital event on 3 February 2021, entrants will get the chance to celebrate virtually with leaders from across the sustainability, CSR and energy space. Some exciting new categories have been added for 2021 to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business. The Energy Management Leader category, for example, has been amended to Energy and Carbon Leader, in recognition of the role of energy management in the net-zero transition. 

The 2021 Sustainability Leaders are now OPEN for entries. The entry deadline is Friday 30 October 2020, so don’t miss your chance to get the recognition you deserve. The Awards will then take place virtually on the night of Wednesday 3 February 2021.


edie Staff

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