As we head into the next decade, where we are launching our 2020-2030 strategy, this year’s Sustainable Development Review marks the end of an era. It is the last of our reviews against our 2013-2020 strategy and much has changed in that time.
Back in 2013, sustainability was seen as an add-on, a cost burden, and something to be focussed on our organisational footprint. Inevitably, our strategy focused on areas where we could drive efficiencies such as reducing energy and diverting waste from landfill.
Encouraged by the publication of the Social Value Act in 2012 we launched our first Foundation strategy which prompted us to look at the wider, beneficial impact we could deliver, with a bold target to enhance the life chances of 10,000 young people by 2020.
We have come a long way in the last seven years and learnt an incredible amount by delivering our first sustainability strategy. We understand that identifying the solutions is actually the easy bit – getting people to change and adopt new ways of doing things is where the hard work really lies. We understand too that data is not just about beating people up with KPIs, but it allows us to measure the impact of interventions and to recognise and celebrate the contribution that our people have made. We understand that to make real and sustained progress, sustainability needs to be embedded, with many people playing their small part rather than relying on a few environmental and social value specialists. And, we understand that our industry has a major part to play in delivering the UK’s net zero ambitions and that by working together as partners rather than competitors, we can reach those milestones faster and drive real change.
Whilst we’re extremely proud of our progress, we recognise that things are different now. COP24 in Paris was a major milestone which saw conversations turn from whether climate change was real to how fast it is happening. Internally too our people have stopped asking “why” and have moved to “how”; seeking support in being bold, innovative and at the leading edge of driving the changes needed.
This has informed our future strategy, shifting our viewpoint from looking internally to taking an outside-in approach; recognising that we need to respond to and be resilient in a volatile, uncertain and rapidly changing world.
Of course, we will keep pushing ourselves to reduce our footprint, but our overarching ambition going forward is to leave a positive social, economic and environmental legacy for our customers and their communities, long after we’ve removed the hoardings.
I’m excited and slightly nervous by the level of ambition that we have got planned for the next ten years, but am aware that time is running out and we need to act fast to leave a world fit for future generations.