It is said that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. Having suffered getting around London during the Tube strike, I can say that even the least ambitious destinations can involve difficult journeys.
There are few organisations that truly embrace sustainability as at the core of their business proposition. Many are on the journey and many have set ambitious destinations but very few show the determination, imagination and tenacity to make solid progress. I tend to “big up” those who do in my writing, training and consultancy work.
While it is my role to be a “critical friend” to London 2012
, ODA is setting new standards and we have the potential for a great, sustainable Olympic Games. I am usually pretty complimentary about Marks & Spencer, Skanska and United Utilities too. However, I have a secret north of the border that I would like to share with you… a company you’re unlikely to have heard of, called FMC Technologies.
They are part of a global organisation and make subsea Christmas trees – or oil wells. These are heavy, technical bits of engineering kit that sit on the bottom of the seabed at unimaginable depths for 25 years or more, extracting oil and gas from the earth. There are four companies making this type of kit in the world and with a 50 per cent share, they are market leaders.
Their current sustainability achievement is remarkable: zero waste to landfill in 2010, 28 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2010 compared to 2005, and 25 per cent reduction in water consumption in the same period.
The next stage of their journey is even more incredible. They have planning consent to build a 1.5mW wind turbine on their site to generate electricity and they plan to make carbon part of their competitive evaluation in the near future as they strive for a zero carbon supply chain in the long term.
At this point you may think they are a little mad because we are dealing with the manufacture of big lumps of forged steel, heat treatment, welding and all sorts of activities that must use fossil fuels. It’s true there will always be some residual carbon but that’s where the clever bit comes in. For the past two years they have been donating money related to the emissions of their flights (necessary to support their equipment in the field) to a fund called Greenshoots. This is used to fund carbon reduction projects in the community.
Our first project (I am one of four directors of the charity) was to fund a rural community energy project to retrofit pre-1900 homes not eligible for grant funding. For two years they have been inviting their clients to “pay” for the carbon embodied in their product by contributing to the fund, which has been met with indifference until recently. In the past few months two very large clients have decided to get involved, which has led to the Greenshoots Fund being established as a charity and an application will shortly be submitted to the Scottish Charity Regulator.
FMC will send a speaker to our sustainable procurement conference next February
. They will participate in a panel to talk about how they have innovated to address key sustainability impacts up the value chain to their clients and down to their suppliers, instigating a charity along the way to deal with the residual impacts. It is a truly compelling and inspirational story but it has been a tough journey on the road to a very ambitious destination.