Donna Young talks about Sustainability: Is business doing enough?

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Business, Charity, Corporate Communications, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Sustainability

A week ago the Conversation Society hosted its third debate which looked at Sustainability: Is business doing enough? Is it OK to profit from sustainability?

Next to talk from our panel was Donna Young, who is the CSR Programme Director at BT

Donna starts off by looking purely at the environmental aspects of the organisation. Their first environment team was set up about 1990’s and first targets were set in 1992.  Towards the end of the 1990s there were some enlightened souls that worked in BT who really pushed for the agenda and said, “Actually, we need to have ISO 140001 and we need to manage all of our aspects, not because we have a legal requirement but because actually this is really important for the organisation”.

The next strategic intent looked at a bigger picture and Donna’s role was to look at how Climate Change could be embedded into the business as well as creating a business case for it and how it could be driven.

It’s taken  four to five years, but the company now has six strategic intents for being responsible and sustainable business.  One of the things it aims to do is to look at those aspects under those areas and how best to innovate them, create change, lead and support the value chain, from their suppliers through to their customers.

Donna continued to leave us with some food for thought, “if you think about it, at the moment about 80% of the jobs are online.  If you don’t have a job at the moment and you’re not online and don’t have access, how do you get out of that spiral of never having a job?  Most jobs today, any job that you go to, in any industry, most jobs will have some form of an ICT requirement in them, even if it’s working in a retail outlet.  You think, “Oh, working in a shop, I don’t need it”.  Yes, you do.  So how do you actually up-skill these people?”

BT is now looking at sustainability to give every UK citizen the same opportunities and help them out by rolling out a massive programme called “Get IT Together”.  It their digital inclusion programme to decrease the number of people who exclude the digital space and the reasons why people overlook it is because they may not be interested (as it’s usually an age thing with the vast majority of people being over 55.)

Donna continues to talk about the overall carbon footprint of the products that those products and services are producing:  “Looking at the “2% Club”, the airlines are in the 2% club, that they get lambasted by everybody because they’re an easy sitting target.  Telecoms is 2% too of the world problem and it’s set to grow to 4%.  The Jesse report states that ICT can help the carbon footprint by a factor of 5, which means, although it’s going to grow, actually it can reduce other areas to actually help with that overall climate change issue and reduction that the global world is actually seeing at this moment.  Especially when one starts to see the emerging economies like India.  They’re coming up, they’re going to grow bigger.  They want the same lifestyles as us and Why not?  How can we say to India.”

BT as an organisations as an industry have to look at how they can create those level playing fields and help these industries and countries grow, in a way that doesn’t add that extra burden that Jo talked about in terms of 50% more food production, 25% more water, etc, and water being the next — in fact, it is the more scarce commodity going.

Donna took the opportunity to talk about ‘BT MyDonate,’as it comes as logic to everyone that when there is an economic downturn charities tend to suffer the most as people give less.  What BT knows is that when people do give online, they tend to give 50% more than if they were giving on a piece of paper and handing it around.

Donna talks about how the charity is run “we don’t charge them anything. We don’t charge a commission for setting up, we don’t charge them an admin fee, we don’t take any percentage commission of the donation, so everything goes to charities, and it goes to any charity that actually signs up.  It’s their way, again, of giving back to the community, back to society.”

Donna concludes the discussion by saying “Looking at this sort of triple bottom line of sustainability is to try and look at them all hand in glove and say, “How does our technology help resolve the issue?  How does our products and services contribute to making a better world and a better future for people?” The main reason that we get involved in sustainability is because it is good for our business, it’s good for society.  This is actually a win-win situation and that’s really what we’re trying to create.  That’s it.”

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