The 2nd of May, 2019 became a historic day for the UK, when Parliament approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency. This symbolic move recognises the need for urgent and serious changes in order to combat the climate crisis.
The state of emergency declaration follows demands made by the Extinction Rebellion, a group which led a number of protests across the UK in recent weeks attracting worldwide attention, with parts of London grinding to a standstill and celebrities including actress Dame Emma Thompson and novelist Philip Pullman adding their voices to the movement.
With calls for urgent remedial action including a “green industrial revolution” and changes to transport and agriculture, there is increased pressure on governments across the world to become zero-waste economies.
What does this mean for businesses?
This will no doubt mark the start of a push for businesses in the UK to become more environmentally conscious and find more sustainable ways of operating.
The ‘Attenborough effect’ has already changed the way individuals view the impact they have on the environment, with a reported 53% of people saying they have reduced the amount of plastic they’ve used in the last 12 months. But many businesses have been slow to make impactful changes with some seeing the cost of implementing ‘green initiatives’ as too high, and the benefits as not great enough. With the UK, and potentially the rest of the world, now facing a more official environmental crisis, it appears that accepting the risk may no longer be optional.
A McKinsey report into ‘How companies can adapt to climate change’ identified six key risks posed to businesses by climate change – physical, pricing, product, ratings, reputation and regulation. The physical availability of certain products, the cost of them or their popularity and demand are all impacted as our environment changes. Ratings, reputational impact and changes to regulations all vary between industries, but what’s true for all is that doing nothing isn’t an option any longer.
In order to mitigate the risk to an individual business or industry, organisations need to look at the wider impact across their entire operation, not just at those obvious changes right in front of them. Reviewing the entire supply chain, from manufacturers and suppliers through to end customers and consumers, businesses can get a broader view of the risks – and work toward addressing the materials, water and energy being used.
The environmental impact on Sedgwick
A major part of our business is handling surges in claims as the result of extreme weather events, like storms, floods and subsidence, and as part of our core business, we investigate, research and predict the frequency of these events. In recent years we have seen a growth in weather-related occurrences and, as an example, last year saw a surge in subsidence claims following extremely hot summer weather.
With services like Weathernet, we are able to more accurately predict these events by understanding temperatures, precipitation and pressures, and this information is shared with our clients, but without meaningful and urgent changes, we’ll continue to see an increase.
Sedgwick recognises its obligations to minimise its impact on the environment, and has committed to support an environmental management system. This focuses on working in three areas;
1. Improving our consumption of limited resources by
- Reducing the volumes of products needed, using fewer limited resources, including in insurance repairs – i.e. restoring contents instead of replacing them
- Giving preference to suppliers who use fewer limited resources
2. Limiting pollution and damage to the environment by
- Improving energy consumption and efficiency throughout the business
- Reducing the usage of motor vehicles, and encouraging the use of lower emission vehicles
- Increasing use of greener travel alternatives
3. Recycling and reusing by
- Encouraging the identification and recycling of water
- Giving preference to suppliers who utilise recycled materials
- Giving preference to suppliers who supply recyclable material
Our UK performance in 2018:
- The number of documents printed was down 40% – we used the equivalent of 71 trees
- Our total paper use was down 15% – in 2018 we used 1877 fewer boxes of paper
- Our repair and restoration team was able to complete 1857 restoration jobs on damaged contents, well above our target of 300 for 2018 – saving an estimated 5kTCO²e
- Our reduced vehicle usage meant we were able to save 126TCO²e
However, as we adapt to the demands of merging and coping with new business, we’ve seen a rise in our electricity use in the UK, up 26%. Energy is now a key target for us as we manage our buildings and vehicle fleet. For example, our new offices now use lighting sensors to reduce energy use, and we are looking at ways to encourage smarter and more energy efficient working practices, such as better ways of virtual meeting.
We’re proud of the achievements we’ve made in 2018 to reduce our environmental impact, but we must now look at how we can make improvements.
In 2019, we will submit our Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme return, which will help us identify and highlight improvement and areas where the business could save energy. Our commitment to providing sustainable claims means we actively seek to reduce our environmental impact in fulfillment of claims, often through the development of new technologies and working practices. This development will continue in 2019 and beyond, to the benefit of everyone.
We’re by no means there with our environmental initiatives, but we’re incredibly proud of the achievements we’ve made so far.