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O2 sustainability roundtable: Building sustainable growth in your business

Will Kirkpatrick, Head of Sustainability and Social Impact at O2, talks about the importance of a sustainable business strategy

If we’re going to tackle climate change properly, reduce carbon emissions and be environmentally friendly, we all need to work together.

That’s why before Christmas, we hosted the first of our online sustainability roundtables. It delivered valuable insight from a cross section of industries and generated some interesting discussions about the challenges and opportunities that sustainability change brings.

We wanted to stimulate a discussion about the steps that businesses need to take towards building sustainable values into the heart of their business strategy. Here are just a handful of the topics we discussed:

How can a business be sustainable?

We’re all increasingly aware of our impact on the planet, but if we’re going to reduce carbon emissions then a vital first step for every business is to be honest about where they are on their sustainability journey.

At the roundtable, many contributors highlighted the importance of getting senior management involved in sustainability change early on. If your goal is to be an industry leader in sustainability, then getting board level approval is an important first step.

So take a look at this leadership model, to see where your business fits. Your business might be a:

    • Beginner – You’re putting policies in place that work towards government or sector-mandated compliances.
    • Performer – Some of your products and services are sustainably sourced to help customers with environmentally friendly choices.
    • Leader – You have executive engagement and sustainability values are an agenda embedded within your organisation’s culture.
    • Pioneer – Sustainability is embedded within your purpose, values and brand. Your actions and results go beyond your sector.

Are you just doing the basics, delivering only what is required as a legal minimum? Or perhaps you’re integrating sustainability into products and services, or even looking to stand out with marketing campaigns focused on sustainability? You might even have made sustainable business your purpose or principal business model?

You can’t do sustainability change alone

Addressing the planet’s environment challenges isn’t something for any single organisation. Besides, as the roundtable discussed, virtually every business involves some sort of supply chain. So inevitably, reaching your sustainability goals will mean working closely with suppliers, and encouraging them to play their part too.

O2 is on a journey to net zero business and aims to achieve net zero in our own operations by 2025. We’ve also made a further commitment to reduce business carbon emissions by at least 30% across our whole supply chain by 2025. If you have a similar ambition, then take a look at our whitepaper: The journey to net zero: Five steps to building a carbon reduction roadmap for your business.

Knowing where to start with business climate change

The roundtable discussion acknowledged how difficult it can be to know where to start when trying to become more sustainable and reduce carbon emissions.

To identify the areas you should focus on, it might be time to reassess and understand your consumer and product journeys, as well as the lifecycle of your products. For example, showing customers how your products are produced can help them understand how you’re going to build sustainable growth in business.

This learning exercise requires data and it’s important to have the right tools to be able to collect and interpret it. Our Green Savings Calculator is one such tool that helps to identify where greener savings can be made, and reduce carbon emissions, costs, and time.

See for yourself how your business could go greener with O2’s Green Savings Calculator.

Building a greener environment together

How can a business be sustainable while simultaneously supporting recovery? It was encouraging to see a lot of commitment from everyone attending the roundtable to continue investing in local communities and employees as part of their sustainability agendas.

There are some difficult challenges to address, however, concerning the impact that COVID-19 has had. For example, if your people feel safer travelling in their own cars, what do you need to do to encourage greener travel instead?

Open discussions, like our first online O2 sustainability roundtable, are vital to share knowledge and learnings, and will be crucial to building a better, greener world together. If you missed it, you can watch our intro video from the roundtable here.

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