APR’s Path to a Sustainable Future
APR’s annual staff survey indicated that one of the key priorities of our staff for the future is to ensure that APR operates in a sustainable way, which is particularly important when considering our growth in the recent past. With our largest intake of staff to date having started this September it is more important than ever that we recognise the need to consider sustainability.
However, it isn’t just our staff that are driving the need for us to become more sustainable and APR recognises the need to stay ahead of the game. The trends being observed in the finance sector, particularly for major companies, are for more focus into environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting directly and for their supply chain. ESG reporting is a new focus for investment that provides scores based on the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment. As a provider of services to these companies it is important for us to be prepared for the future.
When Sustainable X contacted us asking whether we would be interested in working with them, we jumped at the idea.
What is Sustainability?
For the purpose of our exercise, we used the definition of sustainability outlined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as part of 2030 Agenda (SDGs). The prime objective of the agenda is to provide a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for the people and the planet, now and into the future”. The seventeen goals span a broad range of targets whose coverage range from the climate to inequality and infrastructure:
- No Poverty
- Zero Hunger
- Good Health & Well-being
- Quality Education
- Gender Equality
- Clean Water and Sanitation
- Affordable and Clean Energy
- Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- Reduced Inequalities
- Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Responsible Consumption and Production
- Climate Action
- Life Below Water
- Life On Land
- Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
- Partnerships for the Goals
Each Goal has individual targets, events, publications, and actions associated with it that provide further information to support the achievement of the primary objective.
If businesses can do their part to make positive impacts on each of the 17 objectives and ensure the decisions they make keep in mind their impact on the world around them, then hopefully the primary focus of Agenda 2030 can be achieved with peace and prosperity for the people and the planet a reality.
Who are Sustainable X?
Sustainable X are sustainability consultants who aim to help businesses become more sustainable and to benefit from the opportunities that provides. They reached out to us to offer their support to help us understand the challenge and assist us in maximising our potential in this area. They have a wide range of clients across a broad array of industries, showing clearly how sustainability is an important issue for all of us.
To support their clients, Sustainable X leverage their expertise and the UN’s SDGs to identify key areas particularly relevant for each client to focus on in order to maximise the benefit they can achieve, for both themselves and the world around them. By providing bespoke fact-finding sessions and focused action plans in conjunction with their clients they are able to find the best way to support them.
Sustainable X have a variety of different certifications that they offer but APR started with their first step to sustainability – The BaseCamp accreditation:
The BaseCamp accreditation is designed to support companies who are just starting to realise the importance of sustainability and are at the beginning of their journey. The process involves a workshop session designed and delivered by their accredited business advisors, a full report including the current positive impacts, the opportunities available and where priorities should be in the future, an objective and key result action plan, and a sustainability policy. In time, after a review process, when the client is able to demonstrate sufficient progress on their action plan, the BaseCamp certificate and certification logo are awarded.
For further information or to contact Sustainable X directly, see their website at https://sustainablex.co.uk/.
How have we achieved Basecamp Accreditation?
To begin the process of earning the Basecamp accreditation we engaged in a workshop with Sustainable X. This workshop had two primary objectives: To teach us about what sustainability really means and how it impacts us; and to help Sustainable X understand where we as a business can benefit from more focus on sustainability including where we are already doing some positive work.
The session outlined the key features of sustainability, and the UN Sustainability development goals. To many of us it was a shock to learn how much is encompassed under the sustainability banner. The development of new IT systems was not something we had initially considered as featuring in our sustainability plans!
The team that volunteered to attend the session included four members of APR with varying experience, from one of our partners down to a more junior student, with the aim of having insight from all levels of experience.
By working through each development goal individually it helped us isolate and articulate two areas of ideas: which goals have the most opportunity for us to make a positive change; and the goals in which we are already doing strong work. Some goals fit into both of these categories whereby we are doing strong work but there is still scope to do lots more to help the business. An example of this is goal number 4: “Strong Education” where we have a long history of focusing on our actuarial staff development but there is still an opportunity to leverage that emphasis on education elsewhere in the business.
Shortly after the workshop, Sustainable X analysed all elements of our discussion and provided a report on everything we discussed. This provided a breakdown, by development action, of measures and activities that are currently in place at APR and opportunities for us to focus on including prioritisation of each action. Each measure included the benefits we would see and a performance indicator to track progress going forward.
To help focus the direction of the business when considering sustainability, we agreed upon four overarching objectives in conjunction with Sustainable X. Each of these captured a fundamental goal for us as a result of this process. All of the opportunities identified in the report that would help achieve these objectives were then listed as our key results and all were put into a matrix of activities to help visualise how we can achieve our plans.
APRs four key objectives were as follows:
- Build a set of sustainability metrics into the functional structure
- Engage proactively with customers on sustainability
- Enhance APR sustainability as a practice
- Formally review climate change opportunities and risks
Objectives and Key Results
Recognising the challenge of allocating resource to each and every key result it was clear that effective prioritisation was a necessity. Although all results had merit and would help achieve our long term aims we need to be pragmatic to ensure that tasks focused on are completed to the highest standard possible.
To that end we allocated each task into low, medium and high priorities with accompanying planned dates of completion, owners and importantly how to measure when the result has been completed. This last part proved particularly challenging for results that focused on embedding ideas into the business and other tasks that have a less distinct end point.
Having each task allocated to a particular member of staff allocated to the completion of each task also allows further accountability to ensure that nothing gets left by the wayside and assumed someone else’s responsibility, so we felt this was an important exercise to complete to indicate APRs commitment to ensuring sustainability remains a key focus for the business in the future.
To ensure that at the heart of all of these tasks is our focus on sustainability each task was also referenced against which UN development goals it was relevant to and whether it focuses on the Environmental, Social, or Governance aspect of ESG criteria.
Having all the tasks prioritised and allocated the future of APRs sustainability looks bright, but we weren’t done there. Before we could be awarded the Basecamp accreditation from Sustainable X we needed to indicate real progress had been made and that all of this wasn’t just for show.
To earn the accreditation APR had to demonstrate to Sustainable X that our commitment to our new objectives ran deeper than just having them written down on a piece of paper. Rather than insisting on particular tasks being fully completed Sustainable X took a more holistic approach to our work to consider our progress across the board. This was very important to us as a number of the highest priority tasks would take some time to fully complete and we felt that our success in other areas without completion still indicated great progress.
Having said that we were very happy to confirm that upon our review a few months later we could point to a few completed tasks:
- APR had successfully calculated our first ever annual scopes 1, 2 and 3 carbon footprint and reported them through the completion of our submission to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
- As a services company our scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions are minimal so we deemed it important to include the optional scope 3 emissions to give an accurate representation of our business.
- This process involved evaluating each element of scope 3 emissions as outlined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG). With the assistance of carbon emissions experts Aklimate we supplemented our own data with industry assumptions to calculate our carbon emissions by category for the 2020 business year.
- This was then disclosed to the CDP alongside some more qualitative carbon emission considerations we have made for the business going forward.
- APR had signed up to the Actuarial Mentoring Programme (AMP) engaging with both mentors and mentees to help support the retention of underrepresented groups in the actuarial profession and support them with ongoing career advice and development.
These tasks were some of our high priority activities and being able to point to them being completed in such a short time frame, alongside the great progress in other areas, showed that APR had made positive strides across the board. This evidence was sufficient for Sustainable X to award APR with our Basecamp accreditation which we are extremely proud to have achieved.
Where do we go from here?
Despite having achieved our initial goal of Sustainable X’s Basecamp accreditation, APRs journey into sustainability is far from over. We now have our action plan, produced in conjunction with Sustainable X, in place and intend to follow it through over the next couple of years.
Sustainable X offer two other accreditations with their “Journey” and “Summit” opportunities and some time down the line we may seek to work towards these levels.
We fully expect to discover new things and learn a great deal along this journey that we’ve embarked upon that will help to shape and adapt our future sustainability plans as different opportunities arise. However, this experience has helped bring sustainability to the forefront of what we do at APR and we hope that going forward, as a business we will always be conscious of how each decision we make affects our sustainability.