What Sustainability Managers need to prioritise in 2021

The year ahead for Sustainability Managers and how to achieve your targets

Although last year was very much focussed on battling through with unpredictable changes and the challenge of the pandemic, the topic of sustainability and the climate crisis has not gone away. In many ways, the case for implementing more effective sustainable methods to reduce pollution has only been amplified and recognised even more on a bigger level by governments, organisations and communities. This can be shown by the UK government introducing the mandatory climate disclosure in which organisations will now be required to declare their emissions and to show their progress in reducing their pollution.

Other advancements include organisations taking further steps in the right direction with new initiatives to tackle pollution, governments raising the stakes on the climate change discussions, and campaigns by governments or broadcasters to shine a light on what more can be done to improve the global warming crisis.

2021 will of course be about ensuring recovery from the pandemic but as part of this, organisations and communities are looking at how the strategy of recovery involves sustainable methods and actions without being detrimental to normal business activity. Organisations realise the urgency to keep up with the challenges of reducing pollution but 2021 is all about revisiting plans and finding the best routes to be on course for ambition pollution targets. If you’re looking for inspiration for top tips and methods that organisations are already using to effectively reduce pollution, then download our free guide: “Start achieving air quality and net zero targets today”.

We’ve shared three core areas below that will be essential for Sustainability Managers to focus on in 2021 to stay on track with net-zero targets and to maximise efforts to reducing pollution.

1. Prioritise your focus and maximise the effort

Many organisations and leaders have always expressed their concerns and ambitions to really make a difference when it comes to climate change. However, as conducted research shows and shared in our other blog posts, there are still signs that the change is incremental and not enough. In the Sustainable Leaders Forum, Anglian Water’s Head of Sustainability Andy Brown stated, “pushing and challenging the board has been at the top of the sustainability professionals 2020 to-do list and it will stay there for the new year in 2021. We aren’t talking about developing a statement of purpose and putting that in our reports and accounts; we fundamentally embedded purpose in the heart of our business by changing our articles of association”.

It’s without a doubt that to make meaningful progress, companies need to have complete buy-in from all leadership and stakeholders, as well as forming a strategy that prioritises what changes can have the biggest impact. By having a collective and coordinated approach it will help to make positive strides with hitting clean air targets. Andy Brown shares this view in his talk which confirms that ambition in not enough and that ensuring this strategy is at the purpose of your business and stakeholder engagement is key to driving change.

2. Drive collaboration and consistency

Leadership buy-in is important but collaboration with business partners or different departments in your supply chain is just as important. To really drive continual efforts for sustainability, Sustainability Managers will need to focus on effective communication between teams and third-party companies, so they understand the goals, vision and are motivated towards the same sauce.

EDF Energy’s head of large business Raghav Singh said, “Whilst the traditional, linear link between large generators and end consumers remains, it is supplemented by a range of smaller, independent generation, energy storage and flexibility. This highlights the fact that everyone can play a proactive role for net-zero.”

Across recent industry events for sustainability managers, we’ve seen that many people agree that it’s a real company effort. The Sustainability Manager needs leaders to be behind the cause and driving it as well but every individual needs to play their part.

In our recent report of “50 leading organisations tackling sustainability”, 53% of companies targeted net-zero as a goal but only 14% cited air pollution reduction as one their core focuses in their sustainability strategy. Having net-zero goals and a commitment to SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) does help but as we’ve explained in this SDG article, it really does not go far enough. This is because there is not a completely dedicated SDG to clean air. Such a commitment is essential to drive action.

 As EDIE, a leading source for sustainability news states: “Commitment is nothing without effective delivery”. Companies need to invest time and money into new sustainability projects and to measure what’s working and what’s needs changing.

As the Director of Global Goals Maria-Jose Subiela stated, “Sustainability Managers may wish to remind leaders… of the sweeping global support for the Sustainable Development Goals. More than 10,000 businesses are now signed up… and the Goals have received backing from most nations, too.”

Over the past decade, initiatives like the SDGs have been effective in committing more people to the cause of sustainable development. The 2020s is the decade where Sustainability Managers will be crucial to holding people accountable and driving real change for these causes.

3. Identify risks and opportunities

One of the most important steps that Sustainability Managers will need to continue to focus on and improve is the reporting of pollution reduction and sustainability progress. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, it is becoming a necessity by law for organisations to start sharing these reports due to the UK mandatory climate disclosure, but also because the only way to know if you’re making real progress is through accurate reporting and evidence.

Anglian Water’s Head of Sustainability mentioned that “people respond best and place their trust in businesses when they can see direct positive outcomes. This in turn, can empower them to feel as if they are part of something bigger – be that nationally or globally”. Sharing success stories of reducing pollution (be that air, noise or material waste) can help employees to be more engaged and feel closely connected to the company. Authentic CSR (corporate social responsibility) not only engages your employees more but it also engages your customers and elevates your brand. Customers will connect with meaningful causes.

The challenge of visually seeing the data of your organisation’s pollution is a major challenge. There are so many moving parts and activities that can impact pollution so having a tool like EMSOL can help to monitor of all this to identify risks and opportunities. By learning more about what emissions can be reduced the most or what is the easiest process to change, you can start to make meaningful actions that can cause positive outcomes. To meet net-zero goals, Sustainability Managers will need to constantly assess these risks and opportunities, as well as have a pollution monitoring tool to accurately show progress, what’s working and what can be improved.

Do you want to find out how you can take targeted action against pollution to hit your net-zero goals?

Download our free guide to discover a range of tactics and methods available to Sustainability Managers who want to achieve their air quality targets and create more sustainable value chains in their organisations.