(Photography by Henry Mühlpfordt). (photo: Henry Mühlpfordt)
(Photography by Henry Mühlpfordt).
11.10.2016, 17:01

What Links Us All?

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Carillion's Chief Sustainability Officer David Picton discusses the FTSE 250 support services company's sustainable development strategy following the first ever corporate presentation on the subject at a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Carillion's Chief Sustainability Officer David Picton discusses the FTSE 250 support services company's sustainable development strategy following the first ever corporate presentation on the subject at a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.


The United Nations’ grandiose Geneva headquarters might seem a far cry from a Canadian Ojibwe tribal dancer, a young apprentice teaching a UK politician and a team-member breaking down waste to recycle it all in Dubai’s dusty heat.  But, one thing linked them all briefly on an autumn afternoon – the inspiring sustainability impacts achieved by 46,000 Carillion people.

The UN’s Conference on Trade and Development focused last week in Geneva on International Standards for Accounting Reporting (ISAR33), and support for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  With Carillion’s Annual Sustainability Report seen as a leading example of engagement and trusted reporting, they asked us to present a first-ever corporate case study to show how companies were publishing performance measures beyond just financial metrics.

The amphitheatre’s vast bowl was fairly daunting – with its translators, country name cards and rows of international experts – but we’ve got a great story to tell.  To be fair, as our people achieve and deliver so much, the biggest challenge was what I had to leave out.  Our teams drive local economic growth, employment and skills, community cohesion and environmental quality – good things which translate well in any language.  Explaining Carillion’s integrated services and construction across the full built environment, the incredible influence of our reach was clear.  We have a big responsibility to do the right things, and Bureau Veritas independently verify our financial, environmental and social key performance indicators to prove that we do.

I showed the UN delegates how sustainability and responsible operations underpin our business model, strategy, decision-making and shape our behaviours.  It was quite powerful to explain that Better Business, a Better Society and a Better Environment came directly from our mission to “Make Tomorrow a Better Place”.  The fact that we’d won PWC’s Building Public Trust Award for FTSE 250 Sustainability Reporting in three consecutive years was even more potent independent recognition.

Primarily accountants, the UN wanted to hear about sustainability’s business case – particularly in tough and competitive industries like ours – so I explained our proof points.  Fundamentally, our sustainability evidence supports bids, work winning and growth.  Ironically, I had to smile when I saw a Carillion Bid Manager’s urgent email pop onto the phone just after I’d presented, seeking facts to support a tender.  Investor relations were another strong focus area, as we include financial and non-financial metrics in both our Annual Accounts and in the Sustainability Report.

Naturally, our reputation benefits significantly from Carillion’s efforts to share our stories, and the sustainability agenda generates incredibly uplifting content. I also explained how sustainability evidence supports awards, achieves benchmarks and secures membership of international responsible business indexes.  Most importantly though, we use it to engage people – our own folks, our customers and the communities where we work and live.

Ultimately, the UN’s focus was on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 agreed by the world last year, so I showed how Carillion already mapped to at least nine of them and was sharing that ambition.  After a long session, they said it was good to hear directly from a company actually ‘doing’ sustainability – every copy of the case study disappeared from the back of the room.  Their next steps are to track down more international, cross-sector case studies to build momentum and inspire other businesses.  The SDGs aren’t going away – they’re here for the next 14 years – so we’re all ultimately linked by a shared tomorrow.  Clients, investors, government and the public must now press more companies to prove how they’re making it a better one.



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