Time is now for action on sustainability

  • Sustainable Business Report  The Times

20 May 2020

Sustainable Business report image

Sustainable Business

This article is part of the 'Sustainable Business’ report which was a supplement in The Times newspaper . Despite current global challenges, ESG remains towards the top of the business agenda and focus on supply chains has never been higher as they seek to perform sustainably during the global events we’re living through. Time is now for action on sustainability.

Up and down the country in every office, factory, warehouse and home, the argument over whether we face a climate crisis and a deteriorating natural environment has largely been won. The issue has permeated boardrooms and dining rooms, headlines the C-suite agenda and that of the global investment industry. Few need convincing. Now the need for action, delivering real change, is palpable.

“ESG, or environmental, social and governance, issues were once sustainability footnotes on due diligence reports, but not anymore. Times are changing very rapidly. Companies don’t want to wait for new government policies or COP26, they want to do something right now,” says Alex Ferguson, managing director of Delta Simons, who has 25 years of experience in the sector.

Now the need for action, delivering real change, is palpable

“Yet many, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, are worried about doing the right thing, while being concerned about doing the wrong thing. Our role as environmental consultants is to make sure they turn ideas into actions that are right for their business, however small, and at least start making a difference. There is always something a company can do and they can start today.”

The UK market for environmental consultancy services is growing, hitting a record £1.8 billion in 2018, according to a report by Environment Analyst. Rates of 4 to 5 per cent are expected in 2019 and 2020, dampened by the impact of UK-European Union trade negotiations as Brexit beds in, but still ticking up faster than the economy as a whole.

“Businesses are keeping themselves lean, with little extra capacity. Right now, it isn’t the easiest of economic times. But concerns over ESG are not going away. In some cases, investing in these issues, especially those that focus on energy, waste or the circular economy, can make a difference to the bottom line,” says Ferguson, whose company works with some of the world’s biggest technology and logistics providers through its global Inogen network. In addition, Delta Simons works across the UK with clients such as Tesco and Aviva, and on a local scale with organisations like the Cambridge Half Marathon.

“It’s about offering clients a toolkit of services. Not every company can translate all 17 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, into tangible business and productivity goals. Instead it’s valuable to focus on a few. It’s also not worth getting hung up over countless metrics. The key element in this is people. Your staff need to be inspired to be part of this change,” adds Ferguson.

Climate and eco-anxiety is now a real phenomenon, particularly prevalent among the young. This is driving change and providing an opportunity for businesses to engage with their workforce.

“Many people feel powerless, in the wake of countless media feeds, whether it is on the Australian bush fires or melting Antarctic glaciers. Empowering these people is something that businesses can now do every day. With the right vision, training and engagement, companies can retain and recruit the next generation of talent if you’re addressing their concerns about the environment,” explains Ferguson.

The industry for environmental consultancy is seeing a significant service evolution with due diligence extending into strategic management advice. For corporations, the focus has also shifted from ESG seen as a cost, to being very relevant to today’s marketplace and realising future business continuity.

“The key element is that projects do not have to be complicated. We now know what works and we can translate that into success. We find ideas that work in one business and realise these in another. I am passionate that so much more can be achieved,” Ferguson concludes.

See the full report on the Raconteur website.