Sustainability must be far more than a tick in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) box if we are going to tackle the climate crisis. Wilson James is leading by example by implementing carbon reduction initiatives across its operation and helping its supply chain go greener.
The team responsible for making this happen is Katie Kowalski, Graduate Environmental Advisor, and Bev Cook, Sustainability Consultant. Here they report on some of the work they have been doing, and their aspirations for the company going forward.
With eyes firmly fixed on the world’s next major climate summit – the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) – which is scheduled to take place in Glasgow this November, countries around the world have been urged to get serious about reducing carbon emissions. While government-led strategies and targets are important, in order to turn ambition into reality every person, household and organisation has a part to play.
Meeting the challenge
It’s easy to pay lip service to sustainability. Putting it at the heart of an organisation’s operation is far more of a challenge, but one that Wilson James is committed to by reducing its impact on the environment whilst promoting social and economic improvement. Nothing worthwhile is easy and we have set ourselves the ambitious target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 and reducing our carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 against a 2019 baseline.
Like many businesses, last year wasn’t exactly ‘business as usual’, but we took the opportunity to develop and launch our CSR strategy and objectives for the next 10 years, strengthening the interconnectedness of our three strands of CSR: People, Planet and Performance, as well as aligning our understanding of what this means across our organisation.
We are investing in circular economy practices, optimising resource efficiency, monitoring and reducing our consumption of natural resources, and prioritising the procurement of sustainable products and materials. Beyond carbon, we are attuning our values to embed sustainability in its widest sense into our decision making, bringing together safety, wellbeing, equality, diversity and inclusivity, environmental and ethical performance, and social value. As the team responsible for helping to make sure this happens, we can confirm that by shifting the way we do business, investing in new technology, research and initiatives, and embracing this change, Wilson James is making excellent progress.
Room for improvement
If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it, so by benchmarking the energy used in our offices and fleet, as well as business travel, we are able to identify where improvements can be made. Our next step is to focus on reducing our staff travel carbon footprint. The coronavirus pandemic has obviously changed all aspects of our lives but our newfound reliance on remote working and videoconferencing, along with a realisation that people don’t always need to travel into an office to do their jobs, offers an opportunity to rethink how businesses can operate more sustainably.
Wilson James aims to eliminate its fossil fuel HGV fleet by 2040 and use electric vehicles exclusively by 2030, while initiatives such as car-sharing and a cycle to work scheme have been embraced. We have also expanded our warehousing and consolidation capacity into the Port of Tilbury. As well as being strategically located, it makes the consolidation of goods sourced overseas easier, and with strong multimodal transportation links by road, rail and barge, we can improve our environmental efficiency through the use of the River Thames and other waterways.
Getting everyone within a company onboard relies on good communication and integrating the sustainability message into everything it does. The most effective initiatives are not always the most obvious. For example, Wilson James is working in partnership with Uniform Express to procure an environmentally friendly uniform option for our security officers, with clothing made from recycled materials. Already trialled at two sites with positive feedback, the initiative will be rolled out across other locations over the next year.
Sustainability is positively influencing the supply chain too and tenders increasingly ask for evidence of an organisation’s commitment to this issue. Since 2013 Wilson James has been a member of the Supply Chain Sustainability School – a resource hub for organisations seeking to deliver more efficient and sustainable projects. The company recently achieved gold membership level after demonstrating an increase in sustainability competence and actively sharing its knowledge and experience with other members.
It’s crucial that every company adopts innovative ways to make improvements and there’s a lot to be learned. Wilson James, like many organisations, has proven that we can reduce carbon emissions and add social value by the way we do business, whilst upholding excellent standards of service. The opportunity to become more sustainable should therefore be welcomed in order to mitigate the effect of our actions on our planet.