Thinking sustainability

We launched an online training module in 2014, to build a sustainability mind-set across the firm, and help our people to understand the implications of social and environmental issues in their client work.

94% of our people completed the course, exceeding our target of 90%, and over half of those surveyed confirmed that it led to them adopting more sustainable behaviour.  It was voted the best internal engagement project by the sustainability network 2degrees at their 2014 awards, and also won two silver medals at the e-learning age 2014 awards.

Called ‘Think Sustainability’, the training opens with this video, inviting our people to look at their client work through a new lens.

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Hi there. Sitting comfortably? Good. It’s time to talk about sustainability. But, before you hit snooze, let’s take a look at your phone. Smart, isn’t it? In many respects, it’s revolutionary. It gives us information on anything, anywhere, anytime. It’s connected the world. And it's a lifeline for millions of people in developing countries.

But let’s look at things from a different perspective. Say this handset is manufactured by one of your clients. For them, smart phones are an incredible opportunity for growth. But there are also hidden risks.

Take tin. It’s used to make solder. Solder connects the electrical components in your phone. But it comes at a big cost to the environment. Mining irresponsibly can pollute water supplies and destroy valuable forests. A lot of tin comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the proceeds have helped fund a brutal war that has cost millions of lives. That’s why companies are now being asked to disclose where their tin comes from. Does your client know? And what would their customers say if a media campaign linked them to these ‘conflict minerals?’ It’s a question of trust.

Look again. There are over a hundred times more gold in mobile phones than in the same weight of ore. So old phones are, quite literally, a gold mine. Yet the average handset is discarded after just 18 months. So why are only 3% recycled?

In fact, the average mobile contains over 40 different elements. Turning them into a phone requires huge amounts of energy and almost a thousand litres of water. And then the components need assembling. So your client needs a factory. Asia has plenty and the cost of labour is low. But are the workers treated fairly? Or could poor conditions, long hours and low pay blow up into another scandal about the tragic death of workers.

Let's look closer to home. What about the carbon emissions from getting the phone to you? …or from sharing all your files, films and photos?

But let’s not get hung up on phones. The point is we all need to think differently about every part of every business because there’s a complex web of interconnected issues hard-wired into everything we make and buy today affecting us, affecting our clients. That’s why it’s time for us to put a new lens on business. That’s why it’s time to think ‘sustainability’.

Contact us

Bridget Jackson
Head of Corporate Sustainability
Tel: +44 (0)20 7213 2435
Email

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