IEMA focuses on sustainability

4th November 2015

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Lucy Whitter

Alignment, culture, engagement and ownership are the issues organisations need to focus on to embed sustainability, according to speakers at IEMA's second national conference on sustainability.

In a session hosted by chief executive Tim Balcon, four senior professionals outlined how to fully integrate sustainability. Bekir Andrews, group sustainability manager at Balfour Beatty, said alignment was key.

"Think about what the business is trying to achieve and how you can use sustainability to attain those goals," he said. Eileen Donnelly, director of sustainability at PZ Cussons, singled out ownership as the crucial element. "I don't have a sustainability strategy; I have a sustainability approach, which is owned by everyone," she said. Donnelly warned that a standalone strategy risked sustainability being a "bolt-on".

Munish Datta, head of Plan A property at Marks & Spencer, advised those embarking on embedding sustainability to identify supporters and secure some early "quick wins", particularly ones that have a financial benefit. He also told the audience to align performance management systems with sustainability outcomes. Hazel Smith, EHS director at GSK, said it was important to align sustainability with the organisational culture: "It has to become part of the operational culture of the business."

Earlier, Mark Gough, executive director at the Natural Capital Coalition, told the audience of environment and sustainability professionals that they had to learn to engage others in their business to drive forward the sustainability agenda. "We have our own language and acronyms. We understand them but others may not," he said.

Gough advised them to talk more with their colleagues from other departments and to relinquish control of the agenda. "We need more integrated thinking and to better understand what other departments do," he said. "An integrated approach means you contribute but are no longer in overall control."


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