Environmentalism needs its champions, says Claire Ford
What makes a company a leader in sustainable business?
The act of “being sustainable” has grabbed the attention over the past few years. Sustainable organisations are recognised for employing small, smart changes to what they already do in order to create value.
By doing this, organisations can kick-start a number of changes within the overall culture of their business. These changes help to mould and shape commitment to environmental and social performance, can greatly enhance financial performance and create more value for stakeholders.
And very often, as societal expectations for responsible environmental and social practices continue to increase, the performance advantage of high-sustainability organisations will increase too, because they will be contributing to a sustainable society. Failure to have a culture of sustainability is quickly becoming a source of competitive disadvantage, so to all intents, any argument about the viability of sustainability is unfounded.
Today’s “excellent” organisations takes sustainability to the heart of its operations and will evangelise about the fundamental concepts of having robust Corporate Social Responsibility strategies with tangible outcomes of the work it has carried out to prove delivery on its promises.
This sustainability agenda is becoming increasingly relevant to more of us. Businesses are now considering the impact of all of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability activities, motivated by the challenge and opportunities sustainability offers for enhancing the work experience.
The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) is a prime example of a business at the forefront of adapting sustainability as part of a long-term strategic approach, aligning this with other key agendas of strong employability, business development and global engagement, under the inspirational management of its CEO Marshall Dallas.
Marshall and his team were the first recipients of the Quality Scotland Sustainability Award at our recent Scottish Awards for Business Excellence for their ground-breaking “Plan-It Green” initiative.
By creating and adopting “Plan-It Green’”, the EICC has adopted several key “drivers”, which are embedded throughout the organisation under the operational management of a dedicated Green Team.
Marshall claims that “eradicating waste and greening” the conference and events sector has become a moral challenge worldwide, requiring leadership, vision and above all, commitment.
The EICC implements what it calls “earth-friendly practices” such as sourcing and purchasing environmentally sensitive products and services locally, whenever possible; purchasing organic fresh and sustainable foods locally grown; creating partnerships with other organisations that have demonstrated a commitment to preserving the environment. and making energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, as well as water-saving devices, a priority.
All this activity is keenly measured using implementation tools and techniques that allows Marshall and his team to continually gauge the progress of the EICC’s environmental operations.
This dynamic, integrated approach to sustainability has to be applauded.
Other companies, can learn from the EICC’s innovative and pioneering step. Moreover, it is equally important to communicate a commitment internally among your team, and externally to business partners, suppliers, customers and other stakeholders. The EICC has made this a priority.
Quality Scotland recently carried out a survey, asking our members whether sustainability is an issue of strategic importance.
Most (92 per cent) believed sustainability is an important factor in business success, with 79 per cent having sustainability as a key strategic aim, although only 64 per cent claimed to have a clear approach in place at this time. This is not for governments to legislate on. This is about our own environments and what we can do to achieve a better sustainable future.
• Claire Ford, chief executive officer, Quality Scotland