Leading sustainability at BAE

10th February 2014


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Peter Weddell

Greg Roberts and Michael Brown describe how BAE Systems has been working with EEF to engage managers with sustainability issues

EEF has been working with senior leaders and managers at BAE Systems to educate and raise awareness of good environment practices. In November 2012, BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships sent some of its senior executives to EEF to take part in the pilot of a new IEMA course designed for top-level managers – “Leading with environmental sustainability”.

Following the completion of the pilot, the business decided to send its entire executive team and first-line reports on the programme in 2013. The success of the programme has led other businesses within BAE Systems to follow suit, including Maritime Services which plans to roll out further sessions this year.

BAE Systems has been working towards environmental sustainability using an internally devised model called the environmental sustainability maturity matrix (ESMM) for several years. The model provides a roadmap for the company’s businesses to improve their environmental performance and covers operations, product design and the supply chain.

The product innovation process is helping to future-proof BAE Systems against climate change and resource scarcity as well as comply with ever more stringent regulation. However, Maritime Naval Ships realised that if it was to continue to progress against the ESMM model, it needed to gain support for, and embed, sustainability at the strategic level to strengthen existing initiatives.

The leadership course run by EEF is highly interactive. Based on the concept of facilitated discussion, it enables senior executives to explore sustainability at the level they require; to review drivers and barriers in their business; and determine whether their company’s strategy is fit for purpose. The discussion is informed by case studies and concludes with a commitment from each individual for change.

Elevating the strategic importance of good environmental practices, and their associated benefits, is already reaping benefits despite the training programme having been delivered relatively recently, with Maritime Naval Ships acting swiftly to put the knowledge gained from the course into action.

Output from the course workshops is being fed into revisions to the business strategy; once completed and approved, these will embed sustainability into the core of the business. A member of the executive team has also been appointed as executive sustainability sponsor. He is charged with driving sustainability and reports directly to the managing director.

Meanwhile, Dominik Pinnington, environmental sustainability practitioner at BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships, is collating the commitments each course attendee has made. “I will be monitoring progress and stretching those commitments to make sure this isn’t just another training course,” he explains. “Sustainability is a journey and we are very much on that journey.”

John Degnan, production director and general manager for BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships at its Glasgow site in Scotstoun and Govan, was one of the first to complete the course. Since attending the course, Degnan has set up monthly environmental sustainability forums at both Govan and Scotstoun.

Each forum is comprised of members of the following functions: site-services, production, finance, supply chain, engineering, and safety, health and environment. Degnan believes the biggest shift to long-term environmental sustainability will come through engineering and procurement. In the meantime, he is creating a structure to support the sustainability forums, building formal reporting mechanisms and communication links.

The forums aim to drive local actions to progress sustainability improvements. Environmental sustainability manager Sharon Young has been appointed to strengthen support for the sustainability journey that the business has embarked on. “It was clear from the initial forum meetings that there were common issues and themes being raised at Govan and Scotstoun. These included progress against targets, communications, training and key areas for action, including waste, water and energy use,” she says. “Working collaboratively to address these key themes will be our focus for 2014, as well as learning lessons that can be rolled out across the rest of the business.”

There have been other successes following the course. In engineering for example, a sustainability policy has been in place for several years for the new generations of ships, and current designs focus on sustainable materials, reduced resource consumption, and fewer emissions. The course has raised the understanding of sustainability initiatives and generated more support for the engineers in innovation, while raising the profile of research into adapting environmental technologies for naval ships.

The “Leading with sustainability” course is recognised as the first step to ensuring senior level buy-in to the sustainability strategy. Enhanced visibility of progress will be provided throughout 2014 via a range of communications and meetings to ensure that ownership is maintained at all levels across product development, operations and the supply chain.

“The next step is to provide knowledge to middle management and team leaders and we’re assessing the most appropriate training to do this,” confirms Pinnington. “The interest and enthusiasm generated amongst the senior team through these courses has created such momentum that we are becoming unstoppable. I believe sustainability will become the backbone of our business.”

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