Four steps to an environmentally-sustainable business

Sopra Steria’s UK Aerospace Team recently attended the Paris Air Show, a landmark event held every other year that brings together all of the industry’s major players. This show is where deals are made, contracts are announced and the latest technologies and aircraft are unveiled. While Industry 4.0 and intelligent automation still dominate conversations, at this year’s show sustainability was propelled to the top of the agenda. Seven of the world’s largest companies – Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, GE Aviation, Rolls-Royce, Safran and United Technologies – joined together to commit to the development of cleaner, ‘greener’ aircraft and engines to reduce CO2 emissions.

In a statement issued during the show the Chief Technology Officers of the seven aviation leaders were keen to espouse the benefits of air travel, while emphasising the extent to which the industry is serious about reducing the impact of climate change:

‘Aviation connects our world by efficiently and rapidly moving people, opening new economic opportunities and transporting food and goods all over our planet. Aviation promotes global understanding, generating rich cultural exchanges and thereby contributing to peaceful co-existence.

At the same time, climate change has become a clear concern for our society. Humanity’s impact on the climate requires action on many fronts. The aviation industry is already taking significant action to protect the planet and will continue to do so.’

It seems that environmental sustainability has taken the world by storm, from the very corporate examples demonstrated at the Paris Air Show to the recent headline-grabbing pink yacht blockade of the Extinction Rebellion.

At Sopra Steria we are proud of our exemplary approach to sustainability, and, in the section below, share four practical actions that businesses can take to address their environmental impact.

Nudge

‘If you want someone to do something, make it easy’ said economist Richard Thaler in a recent TED Talk. Making it as easy as possible for employees to recycle, remember to switch off equipment and make plastic-free choices – so that it is no more effort than the alternative – is a great start. At Sopra Steria, we were able to divert 100% of our waste from landfill by having removed desk-side bins and ensured that refuse areas are clearly labelled. We are also working to replace plastic packaging with an alternative that is compostable, which will eliminate over 498,000 items of single-use plastics – equivalent in carbon emissions to eight flights from London to New York.

Demand

Businesses order a lot of things – from pencils to storage cabinets! Being mindful of a supplier’s environmental credentials in procurement is a great way for a small process tweak to have a significant impact. Feed back and feed forward; businesses can and should demand more from their supply chain when it comes to environmental concerns. Key suppliers to Sopra Steria are required to participate in our Sustainable Supply Chain Programme, including independent assessment and a requirement for them to manage supply chain risks proactively, establishing measures and targets. We have outlined an expectation with 90% of our key suppliers that they have greenhouse gas reduction targets in place by 2025.

Stay

Typically, most service companies’ emissions come from business travel. Although meeting face-to-face is beneficial for productive relationships within and outside of an organisation, it is vital that employees question whether routine meetings could be handled remotely to reduce their environmental impact. At Sopra Steria we encourage and equip our staff to work and meet remotely using tele- and video-conferencing technology. To make the environmental cost of business travel more explicit we introduced shadow carbon pricing, which has led to a reduction in emissions per employee from business travel of 20.9% from 2015 levels.

Practise

…what you preach. Don’t just focus on the changes that can be effected internally – pass on best practices to customers too. At Sopra Steria all services are certified CarbonNeutral®, which we enhance with our formalised Sustainable Service Delivery (SSD) approach to managing economic, social and environmental concerns as an integrated part of our work with clients. SSD establishes a sustainability policy and a programme of improvement initiatives that are tailored to our customers and their own sustainability and social value priorities.

The United Nations’ recently declared that we could have just 11 years left to limit a climate change catastrophe, so the time for businesses to act is now.

The Armed Forces community and the corporate world; transferable skills to add business value

This weekend, more than 300 events were held across the UK to mark Armed Forces Day.

As an Armed Forces Corporate Covenant signatory Sopra Steria encouraged employees to support their local events, in order to acknowledge the community who protect our nation with honour and courage.

The Armed Forces community – including not only veterans, but reservists, cadet instructors and spouses of serving members – plays a vital role in the fabric of Sopra Steria UK. This is not an accident; the Armed Forces equip individuals with exceptional training, resourcefulness and transferable skills, all of which can enhance an organisation’s effectiveness.

However, the civilian workplace can sometimes be a worrying prospect for a member of the Armed Forces community – particularly new veterans who may be struggling to adapt to their new way of life. A Sopra Steria employee recounts: ‘I thought leaving the military after 25 years and moving into the corporate world would be extremely daunting.’ Happily the employee in question grew to recognise that the skills he gained were extremely valuable to the business: ‘They helped me to see that skills and experience I had gained over the years were transferable, which immediately put my mind at ease, making my transition into the civilian world so much easier.’

This is sadly not the case for all veterans, as outlined by the charity Veterans Work following a recent report: ‘Across the country, three in ten businesses admit they have not even considered employing veterans. While the majority claim to be more open minded, 60 per cent of businesses rule out recruiting someone if they have no industry specific experience. There are roughly 700,000 veterans currently in employment, over half find themselves in routine, low-skilled or low-paid jobs. It is an alarming waste of talent.’ In this company we recognise the potential in Service veterans, even if they often don’t recognise it themselves.

It is in the interest of businesses like ours to facilitate such transitions by creating welcoming and supportive working environments, underpinned by core values; this resonated with me when I joined Sopra Steria as an Armed Forces veteran. We have more work to do as part of our pro-active Armed Forces Engagement Initiative, but I’m proud to lead a team that includes many members of the Armed Forces community who are thriving and fulfilled in their careers.

Vern Davis, Head of Aerospace, Defence & Security