Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch is part of a growing club of business leaders, including Paul Polman, Ian Cheshire and Jochen Zeitz, who see financial value and social value as inextricably linked.
The April Forum saw Jeremy discuss how he is building Sky into a company that's "committed to doing the right thing, building a sustainable business and playing our part in the communities where we live and work".
Sky have already invested heavily to reduce their environmental impact, not least in the building of Europe's most sustainable broadcasting facility.
However, with social issues creeping ever further up the corporate agenda, it is their work in communities that may be of particular interest - whether it is inspiring over a million more people to get on their bikes, or becoming the largest corporate supporter of the arts in the UK.
But we asked if is it possible for business be pro-growth and pro-society? The April Forum was a chance to get an insight into a business leader who believes the two are not separate and that playing a positive role in society as a vital ingredient of long-term business success .
To give you the best opportunity to digest and analyse Sky's sustainability strategy we worked closely with Sky to create a series of roundtables that reflect the key areas of the journey. These discussions, which followed the main plenary session, were of of great benefit to both Sky and the crowd.
April's Forum was hosted by Bloomberg. It was our first time at this exciting and contemporary space and we thought it did the subject proud.
How can companies that consider themselves a “force for good” engage their supply chain in their journey?
• Should they get incentive financially or otherwise, suppliers to meet sustainability objectives?
• How should the “good” be communicated, and is it important to demonstrate a business case?
• How can companies with limited buying power influence their suppliers?
• Supplier Engagement
o How best to assist suppliers / build capacity? How to move from stick mode to carrot mode?
o Difficult in some cases (especially with small suppliers with slim margins) to clearly identify the benefits of initiatives to the suppliers themselves, who often have huge discount rates.
o How to efficiently survey and audit large numbers of suppliers? Diminishing returns on surveys & audits in a large supply base.
o How far down the SC do you go? Tier 2, 3? E.g. metals: to the smelter, to the mining company?
• Exec Buy In
o Getting executive buy-in.
• Business Parameters
o For small companies, compliance in the form of surveys & audits may not be worth the admin.
o Contradiction: pressure to tick boxes (compliance) drives costs up, while pressure to increase efficiency drives costs down.
o Avoiding 'neo-colonialism' / unintended consequences. Consideration of context. E.g. working hours / pay (voluntary overtime & intensive seasonal working) in Chinese factories. How to strike a balance between this and working conditions standards?
o Getting already pressurised procurement teams to listen to sustainability initiatives.
• End Use
o How to influence end-use footprint? E.g. Tata (tea), end use = 95% of carbon footprint.
o How to communicate to the consumer? Versus choice editing.
o Transport & shipping.
• Product Design
o Bad Product Design will inherently mean more rework and hence unproductive usage of all resources
Red Flags (warnings)
• Reputation risk: many customers will be indifferent / won't express interest in an OEM's SC until something goes horribly wrong.
• Reputation risk: consistency of sell-side messaging with SC performance and product design.
• Building capacity among suppliers.
• Collection and reselling reclaimed resources yields commercial benefit for both OEM & suppliers.
• Pressuring suppliers to procure materials as a group. Aggregating material procurement across SC = crowd-buying, 1 collective tender, brute buying power, a win-win for OEM & SC.
• OEM can underwrite the risk inherent to suppliers' implementation of sustainability initiatives.
• Visit suppliers in person to communicate sustainability initiatives.
• Stimulate executive buy-in: use language CEO's understand, e.g. valuing natural capital.
• Contractual obligation to keep SC clean: include sustainability as a customer commitment.
• Smart product design.
• Procurement teams tend to react more to reputational issues.
• Environmental P&L / Valuing natural capital (Trucost)
• Suppliers who refuse to participate in a clean SC survey may be denied contracts (Capgemini)
• Sky's focus on paper and packaging as consistent with their 1M annual investment in their rainforest project.
• Product design solutions: standby mode, power efficiency, durability, life-cycle analysis (Sky).
• Sky's media production hourly carbon footprint calculator.
• Route mapping, efficient routing.
Carbon neutrality: What is the value proposition for carbon neutrality in 2013?
• Will the current 5% of FTSE100 companies who are carbon neutral expand over the coming years?
• What are the benefits beyond being environmentally responsible?
• Should carbon neutral companies remain neutral forever?
In a lively and well informed debate the table discussed what businesses get out of the process of carbon offsetting beyond the direct emission reduction.
It was proposed in many case that actually it was a PR exercise (both for internal and external consumption) by companies. One respondent noted that offsetting was often used by companies who had yet to get their own house in order and were thus engaged in greenwashing. This view was countered by a respondent who noted that actually offsetting could be a proper engagement tool and if done genuinely part of the bigger picture of a company’s environmental response. In addition, it was noted that FTSE 100 companies that offset their emissions tended to score highly on internal carbon management.
It was pointed out that correctly embraced, offsetting could not only be a useful marketing and communications tool and part of a company’s response to climate change but also an opportunity to develop new products and that a company on the front foot could actually enhance their own product offering by doing so, particularly in the financial sector. Offsetting could help tell a story about the company’s brand strategy, contribute to the company’s entry into new markets, or tie into its supply chain management initiatives. It was agreed that offsetting, ideally, needed to tell a broader story about a company’s activities and have resonance with its core business with the ideal offset for a company closing the loop on its own activities.
Respondents discussed the importance of using quality offsets and independent verification of any carbon neutrality claims to deliver value and avoid the risk of damaging your brand.
The question was raised about how the public view offsetting and why only 5% of the F.T.S.E 100 offset. Problems with the E.U.E.T.S were identified as one reason the public lacked confidence in offsetting. In other cases, companies are complying with the ETS, CRC or other legislation and do not see why they should go further than this. Companies must communicate with the public on multiple topics, of which carbon is only one. Sainsbury’s was mentioned as a good example where a brand has built trust in the carbon management arena even though they do not offset. Participants noted that in general we are heading to more scrutiny and transparency.
A related point was raised about investment in energy reduction measures in third party facilities when the payback period for onsite investments are too long. This would provide cost effective and visible savings, and some participants felt that it didn't make sense that they couldn't count those third party savings against their own targets. This approach has some similarities with international offsetting.
A carbon hierarchy was suggested with offsets being used to help meet reduction targets only as more readily achievable internal opportunities are exhausted and further reductions become difficult. It was summarized that good quality offsets were probably a necessary way forward once you have a plan underway to reduce your own emissions and that the offset program should link back to the company’s core business.
Changing behaviour: Moving beyond ‘fry and die’ messaging, how can organisations change the behaviour of consumer groups when it comes to sustainability issues?
• How does an organisation avoid too much information at the wrong time?
• What language works and doesn’t works?
• What is the value of using role models?
Changing behavior: Moving beyond ‘fry and die’ messaging, how can organisations change the behaviour of consumer groups when it comes to sustainability issues?
Two main issues emerged throughout the discussion:
• The need for a general shift in language from negative to positive
• The need to target language, tone and message according to your audience, both internally and externally
Shift from negative to positive language:
• Lots of talk about language needing to shift from negative to positive. However, the personal stories were generally more having emotional responses to the negatives. So the question is: How do we communicate a positive message to others? Is this possible and necessary?
• Could talk more abound ‘abundance’, rather than the finite doom and gloom However, this message of abundance could also be a dangerous one
• Positivity needs to be projected if you want to get a change - people aspire towards the positive, not the negative
• Does inspiration come from language or example? Examples often more powerful.
• We are being too wordy and rational, but this doesn’t impact on people. We need to focus more on emotions and connections
Targeting your audience – key to communicating and inspiring sustainability:
• How do you get the same level of enthusiasm? No ‘one size fits all’, so need to try different tactics to access and target different people’s motivations
• Business needs to change the types of conversations they have, both with shareholders and customers to get them more on board. With consumers you need to think about how the business can help the customer get more engaged and realize that their personal choices have an impact.
• Language and tone is critical in getting people to listen – colloquial tones and story-telling work well for sustainability – they make it more accessible. Customers only read letters when the jargon makes sense to them
• Virgin Media – shifting towards a digital that makes ‘good things happen’ in terms of people, environment and greater community by setting up a ‘Facebook-like’ intranet to enhance engagement.
• AkzoNobel’s internal engagement strategy was highly successful, in part because they were conscious of the different geographies and cultures and treated people as individuals. This is what they are now doing with their consumer base. Companies should practice the same principles across all their communications strategies
• AkzoNobel has lots of brands with different personalities, but were using generic formal language in their sustainability communication. Now they are looking at targeted engagement strategies with language that is geared to specific audiences.
Other potential parts to the solution:
• Tangible actions - to inspire people you can’t just show them a complex problem, you have to give them a simple associated action. Although the action doesn’t solve the problem, it’s a step along the way and it makes the problem seem less insurmountable
• There is a sense of righteous indignation at the minute. If we could harness this to push for a sense of urgency, this could get us to a tipping point.
• Sustainability is too emarginated - it needs to become more mainstream, more normalized. Need a ‘positive’ normal but which also has elements of responsibility and accountability.
• Dulux dog - can we create a similar icon for environmental issues and ‘abundance’?
The digital revolution is here to stay. What opportunities does it offer for positive social and environmental change?
• What do you understand by the term “digital” revolution?
• How powerful is knowledge sharing, and how do digital platforms help?
• What digital platforms should media companies focus on to accelerate positive change?
• Do you agree that Google has done more for further human rights in China than any other organisation?
1. What do you understand by the term “digital” revolution?
• A digital system is a data technology that uses discrete (discontinuous) values. By contrast, non-digital (or analog) systems represent information using a continuous function.
• Digital is considered to be a broad term, yet it resonates with consumers. It tends to be understood as new technologies, online platforms, etc… However, perhaps this is not a fair representation of the term digital.
• The digital revolution is not just about what we see. Room heating and cooling for example.
• With digital technology beginning in the 1970s and still in its infancy there is a good deal of evolution still to come. An important factor to take into account is how flows of information will influence our lives. Those growing up with this technology will likely have radical new perspectives on how to develop and apply it.
• Those without access, interest or experience with digital technology form another segment of society. There may be a role for media companies to educate, inspire and enable in this case.
2. How powerful is knowledge sharing, and how do digital platforms help?
• Is the digital revolution always a good thing? There are issues around data privacy, how people’s brains interact with information and with the world around them and the impacts on well-being. Will it help us to consume less or more?
o Drop-box will expand to be part of our phones, TVs, and other technologies so that we do not need to buy and own products as much. Rather, it will be the accessibility and availability of information that will have greater influence on purchasing decisions in the future. Zip-cars have begun replacing ownership of automobiles.
• In China, the arrival of social media has created a social space, but at the same time it brings negatives, such as questions around authority, truth, and public humiliation through human flesh searches.
• Ideas can spread rapidly, creating riots or finding out bad ideas more quickly. It can also enable greater transparency into the factors that impact our lives, such as companies and governments. Though there is still a lot of development needed in this respect.
• Too much information can also be distracting and people can rely too much on the internet to form our opinions for us. Are we losing knowledge and life skills from the easy flow of information?
• Technology is often used to share data and support development and enable them to run better, making substantial impacts in terms of efficiency and environment. Data is being increasingly used in modern products and solutions. It is often these transactions behind the scenes that can be most impactful.
o For example, data and software are being used to connect businesses together, enable buildings to communicate to each other and it can connect energy and transportation systems. The large scale social impact of this revolution has yet to really develop.
• Behavior change cannot be forced. But technology can often make the changes for you.
o For example, legislated change, such as the smoking ban, is often the exception. However, reductions in our energy consumption are being enabled through technology, without the need for us to make deliberate changes to our habits.
3.What digital platform should media companies focus on to accelerate positive change?
• Building communities and then how these digital communities are nurtured
o Sky piloting a local-based news networks. Reporters have a digital backpack and can write stories from wherever they are. Reports are published online and connect people locally.
• Combination of platforms across a range of devices needed to accelerate positive change.
o Virgin Young Pioneers is online community to help youth get their businesses off the ground. There is often still a need for a physical platform, but the online community enables the businesses to gain the support they need to make this a reality.
• There is a growth area in publishing around interactive stories.
o Pearson plc is taking existing content and turning it into a game or an app to allow users to create their own stories.
• Another growth area is in education. There is a good deal of exploration happening with governments to understand how students are learning, especially with today’s youth who start learning with digital media.
o Inkling focus on digitizing academic text books and researched cognitive preferences to identify learning a piece of information at a time and incorporating this into their ‘guided tours’ of learning within text books.
• Are certain forms of thinking and analytical skills becoming redundant? For example, linear narrative or logical progression?
o Reading books allows for imagination as does radio programs such as Radio 4. Are we losing something valuable in our learning and imagination when going digital? Narrative is an old human skill; it is part of how we organize society.
• The digital revolution is not just a technical revolution, but also a philosophical one. It impacts lifestyles by having different ways of learning and receiving information. Though perhaps it is impacting ethics as well.
o For example, is our ‘digital break up’ of families causing obesity? Rather than communicating with one another at dinner we watch TV instead.
• There is an important role for people to play in ensuring the content is right. If this is handled well, the narrative will not impact the message. People will always deal with people by exchanging narratives.
• Who should help shape behaviour and support people in understanding how to harness the digital revolution in the best way?
• There is an opportunity for businesses to leverage digitisation in order differentiate their brand when people are shopping in store.
o All Saints clothing company promotes new musicians at their store. Shopping in store is about an experience that cannot be gained online.
4. Do you agree that Google has done more for further human rights in China than any other organisation?
• Google pushed back against local censorship by informing users when information was censored. This eventually led to the Google search engine moving from mainland China to Hong Kong.
Strategy: What are the opportunities for media companies in making a positive contribution to society?
• Should they provide the content desired by their customers, or should they shape content to suit sustainability outcomes?
• What are the key points on which society will determine the social value of a media company?
• How important are social and environmental issues in forming the trust levels of media companies?
This month’s Green Monday focussed on sustainability at British Sky Broadcasting Group plc (Sky) in an interview with CEO Jeremy Darroch. In the roundtable following the plenary, the role of media companies in providing a platform for making a positive contribution was discussed. Sky’s sustainability programme (Bigger Picture Report) was summarised and stimulated a discussion on aligning core strategy, measuring impact, platforms to engage, the role of collaboration, and sustainability in the supply chain.
What follows is a summary of points brought up in the roundtable discussion following the plenary session. Comments are non-attributed. Notes have been categorised as Obstacles (O), Solutions (S), Examples (EG) or Red Flags (RF).
(O) There was consensus that corporate sustainability programmes must be ‘built-in’ not ‘bolt-on’ - ie. aligned to core strategic business. There was some debate as to how the Sky Rainforest Rescue, whilst an admirable cause, was connected to Sky’s core business or was offsetting Sky’s footprint, especially as arts and sports would be more closely linked to their brand.
(S) Sky explained that when nine sustainability proposition were put to customers, there was strong interest in the rainforest programme and working with WWF.
(O) Barriers to investment in sustainability programmes were discussed. Two main points emerged, first the complexity of consumer behaviour and their varying attitudes towards sustainability. Second, the difficulty in measuring the impact of investments on brand reputation and selling this sceptics (eg. CFOs).
(S) Sky’s approach to these barriers was to survey 2,000 customers regularly to track shifting attitudes towards both the rainforest cause, and Sky as a brand. The results of these surveys have been positive, providing strong evidence to continue the investment. (RF) However it can be very difficult to prove positive correlations in brand reputation align to sustainability messages since there are so many factors at play along with time lags.
(S) A strong brand reputation (‘brand favourability’) from sustainability was also discussed as a useful shield to deflect criticism, or help win back customers following unrelated reputational damage.
Platform for engaging consumers
(S) Different platforms were identified to engage consumers on sustainability: via content, via the network, and from continuing strong footfall in stores. There was a feeling that “latent goodwill” exists towards sustainability, and platforms can be used to leverage this into action.
(O) The level of engagement is key, balancing customer pull with content push. (EG) Whilst there exists a danger that overt content will turn off customers and viewers (“consumers don’t want to be bothered by text messages”), a weeklong ‘Green is Universal’ TV schedule by NBC provides a good example successful programming and engagement in US.
(EG) Another example of how customers vary was given in the telecoms industry. Some consumers will always want the latest hardware (eg. handsets) but many are prepared to continue using old handsets, or recycle when upgrading.
Role of Collaboration
(S) Collaboration was felt to provide real potential in achieving positive sustainability impacts.
(EG) It was felt that we are beginning to see collaboration between telecoms companies in certain areas, such as sharing of mobile towers, and the industry wide eco-rating of handsets (except for Apple).
(O) However in this industry there is a lack of understanding on the part off the consumer of where the footprint lies. The handset is only a fraction of the total energy used in providing the telecoms service. (RF) Encouraging customers to use less data goes against current business models.
(RF) A major barrier to collaboration is brand reputation. Since sustainability is becoming a distinguishing factor and competitive edge, there is a limit to collaboration between competitors. “If you want to be known for something, then you can’t share it”. Cross-sector and supply chain collaboration however doesn’t suffer from this barrier.
(S) Sustainability issues do “drip down the supply chain”, and there are big opportunities for sustainability in the 1,000s of businesses that make up the supply chain.
(S) As a supplier, the business case for sustainability is strong because of the demand from consumer facing (B2C) media companies for sustainability down the supply chain. Suppliers are expected to improve sustainability measures as a pre-qualification for working.
(O) However there are barriers to improving the sustainability in the supply chain. First, suppliers currently receive mixed messages from different B2C companies. Second, the number of small companies involved makes coordination difficult. On the whole though, more collaboration would benefit strategic planning in the supply chain to improve the potential for positive sustainability impacts.
Transparent energy: With transparency increasingly defining the relationship between business and society, what is the value of transparency around business energy use?
• Which organisations are leading the way, and what are they doing?
• Which stakeholders are most interested, and what form do they want information in?
• Is there a link between transparency and behaviour change?
The difficulties with defining transparency and its value
• Transparency is defined by compliance requirements and providing access to information for the general public.
• Being transparent may jeopardize investment opportunities.
• Too much information needs organisations and individuals to be able to filter out the noise and pick out the relevant details.
• There should be varying levels of transparency depending on the target audience. Different communicative mediums should be used to reach certain target audiences.
• Value to stakeholders is often unclear
• Organisations need to view transparency according to the stakeholders they are trying to engage with i.e. to differentiate between internal and external stakeholders.
• There is a need to simplify metrics used and have one set that all organisations use.
• A greater value of transparency is generated when real-time data is available rather than one number in an annual report once a year.
• Transparency of carbon content of energy is partially available but needs to improve so that exact sources can be identified.
• Best practice needs to be recognised and it is hoped that this would encourage energy market players e.g. suppliers to respond.
• Existing communication from suppliers and some organisations is not trusted which devalues information that organisations do provide.
• Solutions could include a governmental framework that unifies metrics in to one system that can be adopted by all.
• Changes to the CRC devalued the perceived attributes of the policy to encourage transparency.
Examples of good and bad practice
• OFGEM’s recent report on suppliers shows there is a greater needed for transparency.
• Barcelona is an example on a citywide scale where government and business are working together on transparency and energy reduction plans.
• BSkyB is considered to demonstrate transparency of carbon reporting and energy sourcing. They regularly review existing and set new targets and use Life Cycle Analysis as a decision making tool to determine the appropriate energy policy.
• Given consumers are not demanding better transparency it is up to organisations to collaborate. Provision of a platform for companies to challenge other companies and suppliers could be established by e.g. Government or a group of leading organisations.
• Discussions raised more questions than it perhaps could answer in the time.
• Is transparency an enabler? There is a fine balance between too much and too little.
• Are we transparent because we have to be?
• Who must be transparent?
• Is there potential to collaborate with other organisations? E.g. Barcelona city-wide activity
• Do we really know what we should be transparent about?
• Who demands transparency? Consumers (corporates, public sector and domestic)) can but presently do not. Is the information too complex or have we not hit the social tipping point yet?
• How should Government best support or lead for improved transparency? Corporates need clarity from the government. This could be through clarifying and simplifying current guidance and policies.
• Should we increase existing transparency channels or create new ones? How could existing channels be altered?
Steps to embedding transparency in an energy strategy
• Discussions finished by looking at practical implementation of transparency as part of an energy strategy
• Key elements to ensure transparency is embedded within any energy strategy:
o State in the annual report how much energy is used, from where the energy comes from and by what parts of the organisation and/ or supply chain. Use this to look at turnover vs. growth in relation to energy consumption and the extent to which these are being decoupled.
o Stakeholder mapping: identify who uses and needs what data, where does it come from, who is responsible for what and what are their accountability
o Data: ensuring the data is available and robust with clear provenance and scope of coverage will help to identify energy consumption hot-spots and plans for reducing consumption
o Defined targets clear to internal and external stakeholders
o Clear internal accountability and governance of energy-related decision making that is long term and led from the top
o Integrated reporting so that financial reporting is joined up with sustainability reporting
Closed loop: What are the barriers and solutions for organisations that are seeking to close the loop?
• How should acceptable levels of reuse and recycling be determined?
• How should an acceptable level of profitability be determined?
• What are the best ways of accessing secondary markets?
Supporting sport: Why do many organisations, including Sky and Sainsbury’s, have major initiatives designed to encourage exercise?
• Are sports initiatives valid components of a sustainability strategy?
• Did the London Olympics have a positive sustainability impact on British society?
• Does the positive brand impact undermine or support sport as a sustainability initiative?
This was a lively round table discussion which continued after the official session end. The conversation understandably centred largely around the London 2012 Olympics and the lessons that could be learned from this. In particular, the focus of the group was discussion possible opportunities for Sky to address sustainability and social issues through sport.
Diversity and gender
A key reoccurring theme was the theme of diversity – initially, gender specific and also a wider outlook including airing more disabled sports events on TV and encouraging people from a diverse range of backgrounds to participate in all types of sport. The lack of a women’s pro cycling team at Sky was discussed in some detail, with some voicing the opinion that it was a big missed opportunity whilst others felt it was not as important as other issues that needed to be dealt with. The point was made that if the target audience for women’ cycling was expected to be mostly women, then these women were more likely to respond to other initiatives and perhaps as a group were less interested in watching sport on TV. The question was raised over whether Sky has a major role in promoting gender issues in terms of sport.
• Sky could influence the agenda re. cultural barriers and gender diversity
• Accessibility is also a key issue driving diversity
• Sky could do more to connect women with sports activities
• There are an increasing number of mixed gender sports, however Sky is first and foremost a commercial organisation
• Idea of Paralympics as a springboard – agreed many enjoyed watching these sports even if not participating during London 2012
• Family focused sports program would be useful for addressing more coverage directed at women
Sustainability and CSR
It was agreed across the table that broadcasting provides a platform for communicating the sustainability agenda at grassroots level. The vast audience size for Sky seems to present a great opportunity to promote sustainability awareness.
It was felt by several individuals that businesses should be considering not just giving a cheque to charity at the end of the year to fulfill a corporate social responsibility policy, but to actually engage their staff in CSR to the point that this is “just the way they do business”. The question was posed to the group over whether Sky is shaping public debates on sustainability?
• If businesses such as Sky are engaging in sustainability practices but not necessarily communicating this to their customer, this may be a huge missed opportunity since media companies are well-positioned to enrich and inform the debate
• Broadcasters could take more responsibility for presenting relevant, balanced content eg on shale gas however this needed to be put into the context of sports broadcasting
• Sky could influence the sustainability agenda more didactically
Large corporations have the obvious choice of sponsorship available to them to help implement a sustainability strategy – however the table agreed that companies should be considering other, less obvious approaches which are more focused on the staff within companies taking individual responsibility as part of the company culture.
London 2012 has a legacy plan in place including a range of initiatives designed to have a positive social impact. This perhaps could have been better publicised although most in the group agreed that overall London 2012 was a clear improvement on previous Games. “Inspiration is like milk – it goes off after a while” (quoting a 14 year old working with one of the businesses). The feeling that London 2012 could have done more to connect a more diverse group of people, especially young people, was voiced by several individuals who felt that if young people were not already connected with a particular sport, the Olympics did not help them become connected, but if they were already playing a sport it was possible that the Olympics would inspire them to increase their participation. Program for the Olympics that were implemented in middle-class schools with plenty of resources seemed to work well, but in less advantaged areas these program were largely abandoned.
• Sky could build on the momentum by doing more for community sport – could Sky take what they have done for cycling and apply this to community sport?
• The volunteering ethic inspired by the Game makers could be used as a blueprint for businesses to encourage staff to volunteer
• Sky could look at running competitions for innovation to encourage other corporate
• Also could look at sponsored program to encourage people to participate in sports program e.g by giving discounted Sky subscriptions as a carrot
• http://designedtomove.org cited as an example of Nike providing a powerful call to action on the subject of inactivity in children; coupled with Sky’s ability to bring out sports leaders – both are needed
• Further example of Nike’s initiatives – the Lilian Baylis community hub (converted disused school in South London) – also variously funded by Barclays and others - fits in with the “happiness agenda”
• Companies should constantly be asking the question “are we alleviating or aggravating the problem?”
• Sport in the curriculum is a headline grabbing subject – could broadcasters do more to get into schools and use their material as part of the curriculum?
• Also more training for teachers needed to run P.E. lessons
• Gaining interest in sport from people who wouldn't normally participate – v important
• Channel 4 was successful when covering the Paralympics because they recognised the impact of providing a narrative – people were watching a story unfold
• In addition to promoting participation at grassroots, it is also important to inspire attainment in young people – Sky could do more to empower their customers and invite corporate partners to come on this journey
The flip side of encouraging more people to watch sport on TV is that it may further encourage a sedentary lifestyle. Example of the alcohol industry was cited – encouraging people to drink responsibility – this could be translated to the sports broadcasting sector. It was recognized that consumers in general do not like being told what to do (in an ethical context).
Key question: Are sports initiatives valid components of a sustainability strategy?
Sustainability strategies can encompass gender diversity and culture, not just energy consumption. The best type of sustainability strategy usually involves some sort of grassroots investment/community focus to qualify as good CSR.
Some are seen as vanity projects eg sponsoring a pro cycling team. Businesses vary widely in their approach and culture – some could take a more prominent role in encouraging healthy living, for example (food industry). There was a general sentiment across the table that healthy living and strong social ethics often translate to better sustainability on an individual and corporate level. By framing sport as one of the fundamentals of human beings ie movement, it is seen as extremely important and it also serves as a vehicle for conversation.
• Encouraging social cohesion should be one of Sky’s leading themes – sport is a key part of Sky’s authenticity and they have a moral obligation to promote a balanced, healthy lifestyle
• Businesses can encourage more physical activity eg by staff cycling to work instead of driving
• Sky could look again at advertising and consider replacing their betting adverts with adverts on where people can locally participate in whichever sport they happen to be watching (eg local cycling clubs during cycling programming)
• Sport was agreed to be a highly legitimate part of Sky’s sustainability strategy
• Sky has a number of very high profile media figures and artists available (eg David Attenborough) – could these be utilized more effectively for the sustainability agenda?
Community initiatives are seen as being of key importance – however there is a feeling within the broadcasting sector that customers are faced with a huge amount of information and this type of information doesn’t cut through. It was mentioned that prime time advertising would be a good way to tackle this since prime time advertising always cuts through.
Skills development: what are the skills that organisations need to build a sustainable future?
• What are the core skills needed for sustainability professionals?
• What are the skills gaps that companies are experiencing, and how should they actively nurture these skills?
• How can we share and build the skills needed for a sustainable future with those outside of our organisations?
• Technical skills no longer of such prominence especially as technical detail may complicate the communication of ideas, although still necessary to have some underlying technical knowledge to give weight to arguments.
• Generic managerial skills considered to be very important:
o Leadership: stepping beyond the remit
o Communication: achieving the right level of messaging
o Business knowledge: understanding of the business crucial for communicating the business case
• Does any one person display all of the necessary skills? Perhaps we need to be seen as more than ‘experts’ --> Facilitation: ability to bring people with different skill sets together
• What distinguishes the sustainability professional? Soft skills?
o Value-based decision making: what is important to you as a person outside of the office? How does that compare to your values and decisions in the office?
How do we fill the skill gaps?
• Attracting the right skills
o Companies known for sustainability, e.g. Unilever, attract sustainability-minded graduates --> positive feedback
• Fostering values within current employees:
o Incentivising good behaviour by aligning sustainability goals with corporate goals
Kindling enthusiasm e.g. through Sky’s RNIB out-of-office experiences
Allow ownership of ideas by setting clear sustainability objectives with flexibility as to how they should be met e.g. goals for the communications team
Multiplier effect e.g. by targeting management team
Perhaps many of these skills are there already – it is a matter of normalising bringing home behaviour to work. Need to question where the boundaries lie between impact at home and at work. Where lie company boundaries? What is the right thing to do? --> fostering ‘citizenship’
o Authentic values (not those used as a veil to create more sales) lend credibility
o Job satisfaction shown to increase when individual and corporate values aligned
What can companies do collectively?
• Be a force for ‘citizenship’
• Collaborate to create the skill set in the broader community e.g. through education
Diversity as a sustainability issue: Is it credible for an organisation to aspire to sustainability leadership without having diversity targets in its programme?
• What is the underlying principle that would make diversity a sustainability issue?
• How should a company decide which minorities it should be actively supporting?
• How should media companies be supporting diversity?
Overall, the table established that diversity has a strong role to play within sustainability leaderships. Organisations aspiring to being successful and relevant in the long-term also need to be diverse, not least because of their customer base and the presence of a strong business case. There are however still obstacles to the proper inclusion of women and other minorities at senior levels, in particular, which need to be addressed. Ultimately, diversity can be seen as being about the personality of the individual, although for practical reasons this is harder measure and manage.
• What is the underlying principle that would make diversity a sustainability issue?
- Long-term goals. Sustainability is about being successful and ‘relevant’ in the long run, and being diverse is one of the key ways to be relevant in the long run. To be sustainable, one needs to be diverse.
- Business case. There is a strong commercial case to diversity, much like there is a strong business case for sustainability. For example, being diverse reflects the reality that their customer base is diverse. Also, if diversity is not seen in terms of the business context, then it risks becoming an outlier, a marginal issue.
- Ethics. In the current environment where there is a lot of consideration given to how leaders are running their businesses, diversity has become part of the ethical debate. To the extent that ethics and sustainability overlap, diversity can be seen as a sustainability issue. In terms of running a business, it has become clear that if one wants to be seen as an ethical business, they have to include diversity in their key pillars.
- Practice. Certain organisations are already embracing the synergy between diversity and sustainability, for example Unilever has a specialist focusing on sustainable diversity.
- Diversity is an issue of representation as well as an issue of equal access. Representation can be seen as a stepping-stone to fair access for everyone, although care must be taken to ensure that a broad ambition such as universal access does not result in loosely defined goals.
- Employee and customer appeal. In today’s world, it could be expected that many would not consider working with a particular organisation if it does not have diversity implemented at least in the broader sense.
- Targets. Targets are fundamental to measuring progress, and should be supported by a plan. Without targets, the goal of being diverse risks being loosely defined and dropping off the agenda.
- A core management approach.
• How should a company decide which minorities it should be actively supporting?
- Representation. The employee ratio should be based on a representative sample of the societies where the company operates, and goals should be set along those lines.
- Smarter conversations. One should be cautious to not make diversity a ‘tick-box exercise’ with targets applied universally across operations’ locations, and without regard to the local context.
- Gender. Currently, there is a focus on gender, because most corporations are severely underrepresented in this respect. Gender is also easier to measure than some other diversity targets, such as sexual orientation or ethnic background.
- Setting appropriate benchmarks is a challenge. Setting diversity targets is not always analogous to setting environmental targets (e.g. tons of CO2 emitted). For this reason it requires a distinct approach, at different levels of the organisation.
• How should media companies be supporting diversity?
- Additional capability. Media has the additional capability to contribute to diversity due to ability to determine what is screened. The audience also expects a core element of diversity.
- Promoting minority interest. Increasingly, the focus is not on diversity, but on the character of the underlying persons. For example at the Paralympics at London 2012 the focus was not on disability. This makes for good sustainable content.
Red Flags (warnings)
- Cultural sensitivities. The gender agenda is fairly well-recognised, however that is not the case for some other diversity issues such as sexual orientation and ethnic origin, where there is a cultural sensitivity barrier of talking about diversity. One must also be wary of the act of labeling these areas as sensitive per se.
- Science-led vs People -led. A large part of the sustainability agenda is science-led. Diversity on the other hand is about people. By treating it as a science issue one would not bring hearts and minds on board which is what is necessary for the cultural change that accompanies greater diversity.
- Organisational anxiety. In the field of sustainability, there is a tendency to ‘tell stories’ about the arena, however it could be argued that we are short of telling stories about diversity for fear of ‘saying the wrong thing’ and sensitivity issues. Theory supports this view that there is, still, substantial subconscious bias around communication on diversity.
- The ‘millennial’ generation is a generation that demands different employment models gender issues, flexibility of working hours, etc., that organisations will increasingly have to adhere to.
- Has the glass ceiling come back? There are a lot of considerations around women at senior levels within organisations and whether the organisational culture enables them to succeed.
- Ultimately diversity is about the individual, as it is defined by the person’s character more than by categories set externally.
Given that we are in the infancy of measuring environmental costs in supply chains, what is the role of hot spot analysis?
• Can a company claim to be sustainable without understanding its supply chain impacts?
• How do you draw a line between investing in transparency and recognising the practicalities of running a business?
• How do you ensure that the areas you focus on are robust?
Qualitative vs. Quantitative reporting/metrics
Long-term vs. Short-term targets
Knowing where to start, what to measure and knowing what’s material
Ownership and empowerment of employees and supply chain management
Communication with suppliers, the public and employees is key
- What is trending in the public domain, government direction/policy
- The impact on reputation
- Triple Bottom Line accounting – the search for monitoring and measuring natural capital flow/dependency
- Starting is the hardest – attaining buy-in from key stakeholders, knowing what to measure (qualitative or quantitative metrics)/what’s material, what questions should you ask and where
- Knowing what solutions have the biggest impact or benefit on performance
- Problems surrounding the displacement of impacts (e.g. Indirect Land Use Change, ILUC)
- Lack of power in a broad supply chain. Cannot influence or engage with suppliers as effectively.
- Trust – do consumers and key stakeholders believe in what you are doing?
- Language –Not accessible for those inactive or disengaged in environmental activities
- No current process or recognised way of identifying hotspots
- Too much information for consumers which is counterproductive in driving sustained behaviour change
- Focus on upstream or downstream supply chain impacts?
- Benchmarking – provides an incentive for companies to report and reinforces a particular scheme or methodology
- Media – key in changing attitudes and communicating key benefits to all stakeholders
- TEEB – leaders in communicating ecosystem services and natural capital
- Waitrose – taking ownership of supply chain operations by purchasing farms that directly supply supermarkets. They are in a position to actively manage and control impacts in their supply chain which is part of their long-term vision
- Sainsburys – Investment in lemon procurement – buying produce 10-years in advance. Trying to anticipate supply problems
- Unilever – tried the same as Sainburys but were locked into paying too much for sustainable palm oil for 5-years
Methods that work
Be entertaining – basic communications principles still apply to sustainability, we shouldn’t throw them away just because of the subject matter.
Don’t be passive – people respond to communication formats they can engage with
Be personal and relevant to the individual:
• Selling a product based on other benefits such as quality or cost is often more effective than ‘green’ motivation
• The ‘feel-good’ factor works:
o Help people feel good for helping others
o Match their funding to double their impacts
o Use storytelling to communicate the message and humanise the story
Partner with trusted organizations to show commitment and gain credibility, e.g. Sky partnering with WWF on their Rainforest campaign
Metrics – one challenge is finding good ways to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of communications. E.g. the wide variety of product labels and certifications often confuses rather than helps customers.
Decentralized energy: What is the case for decentralized energy being part of a socially positive business strategy?
• Do CSR leaders tend to invest disproportionately more in local and low carbon energy?
• How does a company’s investment in local generation benefit local communities?
• Should companies measure the social value of local energy investments?
After the introductions at the table we began by considering how decentralized energy was to be defined. It was suggested that decentralized energy is defined as off-grid and could include both small-scale and large-scale generation. At this stage participants felt that often this type of energy generation doesn't pay and hence is hard to justify from a business case. It was suggested that a particular problem lied in the fact that the cost of carbon wasn't typically embedded in the pricing of energy strategies.
After considering how decentralized energy was to be defined the table began considering some of the challenges faced in the adoption of any energy strategy. For example, the financial models used often make 5-yearly predictions which may undervalue the future cost of energy. This is in-turn impacts upon how willing organisations are to adopting a new costlier energy strategy in the short-term. Furthermore, the table discussed how it may make more sense to push for the greening of the grid rather than the adoption of small-scale projects. Indeed, this may result in a larger reduction in a companies carbon footprint. As such pushing for policy to green the grid could be a good strategy for a business or organisation. However, what was stressed continuously throughout the discussion was the need to properly manage the risks associated with energy supply. This could include both energy security but also ensuring a diversity of supply, through both large-scale and small-scale production.
The table then began discussing issues surrounding the reporting of project in the form of carbon accounting. In particular, participants noted that many projects which may have a local community benefit could not be counted whereas international projects could. This results in small-scale local projects often being shelved as they present no benefit to the companies installing them. The table then discussed how through government policy and international agreement on reporting initiatives these problems could be resolved. An example was considered in which a company has funded local projects with the intention of engaging with the local community and taking advantage of government funding.
Finally, with the introduction of dual-scope reporting projects like this will be recognised. As such the incentives for companies to engage in these local initiatives will increase. In conclusion, the table considered the challenges posed to companies in adopting decentralised energy both for financial/technical reasons but also owing to volatile government policy. The need for collaboration between different bodies was stressed as this enables better “district planning” and finally the diversification of energy supply was considered a key step to mitigate risk.
• Offer employees days-off for voluntary work to build a stronger sustainability culture within the organisation. (Example)
• Create challenges, such as a personal carbon allowance per month for employees, to bring these issues to life and enhance the culture further. (Example)
• Lobby government to green the grid, as this can have a larger carbon footprint reduction than the creation of small-scale projects. (Solution)
• Diversify the energy supply to reduce risks associated with security and government policy. (Solution)
• Collaborate with partners to create district plans which can be more efficiently implemented and managed. (Solution)
• The lack of required qualified people for small scale projects presents a challenge in the implementation stage. (Obstacle)
• Reporting standards don't often recognize the local projects that are undertaken in the context of carbon accounting. (Obstacle)
• Need demand-pull from consumers to get many projects off the ground. (Obstacle)
• There doesn't exist a clear set of guidelines across sectors and organisational type on how and when to report environmental/social costs. (Obstacle)
• Small-scale projects often don't pay and as such lobbying the government, to green the grid, may be a better use of company finances. (Red Flag)