How can businesses impact sustainability?

by Emily Taylor, CSR Manager, BGL Insurance

The past eighteen months have been extraordinary, but while, at least physically, the virus divided us more than ever, it also brought us closer to our communities and placed sustainability at the heart of the agenda.

With Glasgow set to host COP26 in November, the spotlight is heavily on the UK – but with such a big global challenge ahead, how can businesses ensure they are doing their bit to drive change and make an impact?

Unsurprisingly, there are no easy answers to this mammoth task. However, for any business starting to consider their sustainability approaches, simply making a few changes, while raising awareness and encouraging colleagues to get involved, learn about the sustainability agenda and understand any actions they can take personally, is certainly a good place to start.

At BGL, we’ve been working hard over the past couple of years on our own sustainability commitments, launching a series of eco initiatives that began with implementing an environmental policy and introducing a team of environmental champions. We also closely monitored our gas, electricity, and water use, increased our recycling points and met some stretching targets to become more energy efficient. In addition, we made several investments in energy-efficient and low carbon tech, such as installing the latest energy efficient lighting and boilers.

Our colleagues regularly tell us how rewarding they find our charitable initiatives – giving them a sense of personal fulfilment, cultivating pride in individual and team achievements, or an opportunity to enhance their skills and confidence. Our approach to CSR has always been about empowering our colleagues to make a difference, and so we are taking the same view with sustainability, having introduced regular volunteering days dedicated to supporting the environment, such as planting trees and park management for Nene Park Trust. Putting bat and bird boxes in place across our sites, introducing more electric car charging points, meat-free Mondays in our restaurants and the removal of newspapers and plastic bottles, are other examples of the small changes that are making a big difference to our carbon footprint.

It’s not always easy to measure the impact of your actions but being transparent on targets and regularly sharing results have had a positive impact across our business and help to keep sustainability on the agenda. Also, being able to achieve a PECT Investors in the Environment’ Green Award was a key highlight, particularly because it was less than two years after launching our ambitious eco programme. To achieve green accreditation, organisations must make strict resource savings each year. Other criteria included having a recycling system in place, adopting a travel plan, calculating a carbon footprint, and setting targets for carbon reduction.

BGL’s achievements include:

  • Reducing carbon emissions by 36%
  • Using environmentally friendly and sustainable products or services
  • Reducing printing by 50% and paper usage by 20%
  • Supporting colleagues working from home and in the office to reduce their energy consumption and promoting green travel
  • Giving colleagues the tools to make healthier, greener choices such as an online hub detailing the best cycleways and walks in Peterborough, as well as meat free recipes

We are immensely proud of this achievement and while lockdown contributed to the reduction in our energy usage, this should not detract from the focus we have had on achieving this target. We have taken the opportunity to analyse where we use our energy most when buildings are not in use. Things like unnecessary lighting, heating and equipment have all been identified as opportunities.

While we have had success in firmly putting sustainability on the agenda, we are only at the start of our journey and there is certainly lots more we will be exploring in the coming months and years.