In our recent Business Trends Survey, over half (54 per cent) of 18-24-year-olds said they believed their employer had been greenwashing – overstating or glossing over their sustainable activities for business gain. For me, this demonstrates two things – the importance of this issue for people, especially Generation Z, and the absolute need for authenticity and transparency.
Having a clear strategy for tackling Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues clearly matters to employees. Three quarters of respondents to the same survey said they understood their organisation’s carbon footprint and could describe the measures that were being taken to reduce it. These included increasing the efficiency of lighting (45 per cent), educating staff and customers (44 per cent), reviewing travel arrangements (42 per cent) and switching to a green energy supplier (41 per cent).
Strong ESG goals within an organisation are important in attracting, engaging with and retaining talent. People increasingly want to align themselves with companies that are doing the right thing for the planet and society. They are looking for more than just a job. They care about bringing their true selves and values into the workplace and being part of creating positive change.
At Advanced we have a bit of a head-start. We know that digital solutions can support greener working, both for ourselves and for our customers – whatever industry they are in. The use of digital documents and Cloud-based data storage makes paperless processes simple and reduces energy use. And these same Cloud-based solutions also help to avoid unnecessary spending on hardware that can soon become obsolete, contributing to landfill.
However, there is clearly a lot more to be done, and an important shift in our mindsets is necessary if we are to make the sustainability changes that are required. These changes demand breaking the link between business growth and increased emissions. Success, for anyone concerned with a better outcome for the environment, must be measured in these terms.
The benefits of hiring young people to help is obvious. We know, of course, that they are highly adept with technology – which is instrumental in understanding and limiting our impact on the environment. But they also bring a different energy to the business and a fresh way of thinking, challenging the status quo. This forces everyone to revisit existing ideas and look at things in a different way – driving progress and improvements. We should all be prepared to listen, learn, be educated – and act.
Like many businesses, we are working hard to reduce our carbon emissions. We invested in an Environmental, Social and Governance reporting tool a year ago, and as a result have been able to review the outcome of our initiatives from the last two years. We can see our overall greenhouse gas emissions from our offices, travel and data centres. It’s this data that has enabled us to complete our first ESG Report, looking at our relationship with environmental issues and our impact on the planet. It also covers a range of other ESG initiatives such as diversity, inclusion and equity within our workforce; social and community empowerment; data protection and security; as well as governance and accountability.
These insights help us to understand what we have achieved so far and where progress still needs to be made. They also serve as a comprehensive baseline for future annual reporting, ensuring transparency and providing confidence that the environment and sustainability are central to our overall business strategy and practices.
Aligning with key strategic partners and suppliers who have strong programmes themselves is also an important part of this. For example, we work with Salesforce which is already carbon neutral in the Cloud, Amazon Web Services which aims to be 100 per cent renewable by 2025 and Microsoft which has an ambition to be carbon negative by 2030 - as well as offsetting its previous impact (since 1975) by 2050.
Many organisations saw a large reduction in environmental impact in 2020 and 2021 due to less office and food waste, reduced employee commuting and minimal energy use. Some businesses took the opportunity to re-organise office space and cut back their estate to further reduce carbon footprint. We have embraced the principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, with only 0.5% of our waste now going into landfill. Other initiatives include the installation of smart printers in our offices, bringing down energy consumption while also helping employees to monitor their own printing requirements. This encourages them to print as little as possible, resulting in an 80 per cent reduction of paper usage.
Electric vehicle use is another key focus for people looking to decrease their carbon footprint. Problems with accessing charging facilities have been one of the main reasons some were reluctant to make the change. But things are changing fast, and we have already installed EV charge points at our head office and regional hub in the UK - and will be adding more across our other locations.
I believe that in business, values bring value. If organisations are to be successful going forward, sustainability and environmental concerns have to be a fundamental part of the goals and strategy that leaders weave into their business. And increasingly, our employees, customers and communities will expect nothing less of us.