“This is a real change that businesses will have to continue with over the next 10 to 20 years,” says Karen Dignon. “All departments, all aspects of the business should be questioned and potentially reoriented toward a more sustainable way of doing things.”
S Dignon is the co-founder of Sustainability Works, a consultancy that helps businesses understand sustainability issues and develop strategies for both climate change and diversity and inclusion.
She has been working in this field for 20 years, last five years in Ireland. “When I first arrived, it felt like sustainability was more in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) space; Philanthropic events, where companies will have charity partnerships and things like that. But then in response to people’s greater understanding of the climate crisis and the urgency of that, businesses have started to think more strategically about the issue. ,
This sea change has been driven by a number of factors, including regulatory changes, customer desires and the financial sector. “We have heard anecdotally from some of the larger Irish businesses that we are working with employees in interviews, as one of their key questions, what is your sustainability strategy, what is your commitment to climate change? Millennials and Generation Z is highly aware of these key issues.”
As such, the issue of sustainability has been removed from the umbrella of CSR and is now seen as a settled matter. This means that companies must take a much wider view of the environmental impact of every aspect of their business.
“There is a great deal of pressure on companies to reduce their carbon impact, not only within the four walls of their business, but by what is happening down their supply chain.”
Paul Hughes, retail general manager of the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), says sustainability has been at the core of its activities for the past 30 years. ICS sells one million garments every year through its 21 stores. “This equates to about 8,500 tons of carbon-saving offsets, because people are buying clothes in our stores instead of buying new ones,” says Mr. Hughes. “Wool and cotton that are not in good condition are used for a material called flock, which is used for lining cars or speakers.”
Elsewhere, Lifestyle Sports is launching Rathcool, Ireland’s first carbon-neutral distribution center in Dublin, next month. The Lifestyle Sports Fulfillment Campus will include energy efficient rechargeable robots, packing waste reduction methods, rooftop solar panels, rainwater harvesting and electric car charging stations. 50 percent of the company’s current seasonal products are procured from sustainable or recycled materials.
The Doyle Collection Hotel Group recently received Gold Award recognition from Green Tourism for each of its properties in Ireland, the UK and the US. Declan Farrell, group head of procurement and sustainability, says he has focused on incorporating sustainability into day-to-day operations, including new energy management teams to support the already existing green teams. Where possible, single-use plastics are being eliminated, energy-efficient systems are being installed throughout buildings, and they partner with companies with a shared sustainable ethos.
“We are now auditing every department to see what next steps can be taken,” says Mr. Farrell. “We work with brokers in the UK and Ireland to ensure that all electricity sourced by Doyle Collection is renewable and improving internal awareness on sustainable initiatives and best practices.”
Pat Kane is a sustainability strategist currently working with clients in the construction, financial services and retail sectors. Like Ms. Dignon, she particularly identifies changes in CSR policies and the company’s approach to sustainability. “More and more companies are like, ‘We either do this right, or we are behind.’ The businesses I work with really feel like they care. They want to do better Plus, it’s always good to see if you’re trying to sell a business to investors. That that important branch of your business is doing well.
“People want to know that the companies they’re working for are putting their CVs forward, that they’re doing well; that they’re promoting something that benefits the wider society.”