Ahead of our first annual “IFS Change for Good Sustainability Awards”, we ask Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, IFS Board Member and part of the awards judging panel, to share why ESG is a boardroom matter and how making this a business priority, beyond delivering environment and social benefits, is good for business.
In 2019, Tanya Steele, Chief Executive of the UK WWF tweeted : “We are the first generation to know we are destroying the world. And we could be the last that can do anything about it.”
That message and the undeniable truth behind it have remained with me since and have become the driving force behind my passion for ESG. We owe it to the future generations who live on our planet to ensure the actions we take account for their impact on those generations.
ESG begins with our own individual actions
Of course, we need corporate goals and aspirations, but it is for all of us to play our own part. We can do this by creating a culture inside our businesses where each of us participates in making positive choices when it comes to sustainability. For example, reuse of water bottles, recycling, walking vs. driving and educating ourselves about our own personal carbon footprint. IFS have launched a multi-year sustainability initiative that nurtures and develops this “Impact Mindset”. The statistics that show the impact we can all contribute to speak for themselves.
For example, did you know:
- Recycling a 500ml aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for over four hours
- It takes more energy to make 1kg of paper than it takes to make 1kg of steel – we need to say no to printing documents unnecessarily.
- Switching from the font Arial to Gothic Century saves 30% on printing
- It takes 2,700 liters of water to make a single cotton t-shirt – consider your choices in fashion and in particular, fast fashion carefully.
So while it is heartening that every board I sit on is committed to the ESG agenda and all take climate change and achieving net zero very seriously, the question is: what part can I play? Instead of waiting for someone else to fix it, we have to take some ownership – it shouldn’t be someone else’s problem.
Taking ESG seriously: It’s our problem – so actions speak louder than words
As a business, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. The answer is to focus on what you can do. For the majority of businesses, the path need not be complicated: commit to climate action, ideally through the ‘Race to Zero’, communicate your commitment to your stakeholders, clients and customers, and make a credible plan to tackle your own carbon emissions.
Here’s the business case for ESG
In my experience, the link between profitability and sustainability has never been stronger. As increasing numbers of businesses and organisations – including governments – commit to climate action, they need to be working with partners and suppliers that share the same goal.
It works both ways of course. Customers are asking: what are your climate emissions, and what are you planning to do to reduce them over the life of the contract? Investors are also increasingly seeking to realign their portfolios and mainstream net zero investing.
There is also growing evidence that talent want to work with companies that share the same values as they do. If you commit to net zero, you are more likely to attract and retain the very best talent, and that will ultimately lead to a more profitable business.
Tech industry in a strong position to play pivotal role…
Finally, the climate tech market is booming. We only have a few business cycles to reinvent how we do business if we are to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. We have a real potential to harness the creativity and immense problem-solving ability of the tech sector to help tackle climate change and grow profitable businesses at the same time.
…and governmental and intergovernmental organisations step up too
Events and conferences such as the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) are vitally important to gain awareness and change people and business opinions. Too often we hear that unilateral action on climate change comes at the risk of growth and ambition. But events such as COP26 help to show that there is momentum and real commitment across the economy and the world to tackle climate change.
I think the UK government in particular has been really smart in taking a lead in backing the Race to Zero, the world’s largest alliance of businesses, cities, universities and investors committed to net zero by 2050. Too often we’ve been set back because politicians have been unable to negotiate the commitments and action that is needed. Race to Zero shows that momentum is gathering despite the politics.
Mentors lead the way – and this time we need to follow and make the ESG commitment
I was lucky enough to meet David Attenborough at an event which was focused on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He is an inspiration, easy to listen to and simple to understand. We were of the same mind; that the 17 SDGs defined by the UN address the global challenges the world faces and tackle all dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced and integrated way.
At IFS it is good to be working with other ESG champions too. This includes Lewis Pugh, my fellow awards judge, IFS Sustainability Ambassador and UN Patron of the Oceans—who has been leading his own sustainability charge by swimming in some of the world’s coldest oceans to highlight the impact of climate change on vulnerable ecosystems. Lewis has helped protect over 2 million km2 of vulnerable ocean, an area the size of Western Europe.
But be aware, what you do matters. Sustainability needs to be part of all of our daily lives and jobs so we can attain a future which sustains all of us.
Remember these words: We are the first generation to understand we are destroying the planet and potentially the last generation who can do anything about it.
Check out this blog to learn more about the IFS Change for Good Sustainability Awards, where IFS will recognize sustainability excellence across its community of customers. Winners will be invited to join Lewis Pugh and IFS CEO, Darren Roos in Glasgow at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021.