01 August 2022

Why ‘society’ matters for good ESG practice in landscape maintenance

Many organisations assume that ESG is solely to do with reducing carbon emissions and yes, this is a key element of good practice, however, with landscape maintence contrators the ways they support society and champion key issues is also vital.

our head of ESG, Gordon Whyte, examines how the built environment sector can play its part in applying measures during daily operations for the benefit of the immediate vicinity and surrounding areas.

The term ‘social’ covers a broad area, ranging from workplace conditions and safety, through to how a company’s actions and/or products affect society, like giving a percentage of its profits to a local community project for instance. Within the built environment sector, this attribute of ESG is every bit as visible as the physical results of daily operations.

If we take a public greenspace such as those we maintain at The Nurture Group as an example, there are, of course, clear achievements linked to the physical environment (using electric equipment over diesel for example), yet these can, and often do, cross over into society. Well-maintained public parks provide a space for social interaction and for local charities to hold fundraising or educational events in collaboration with specific corporations involved in the park’s upkeep, therefore benefitting the area from society’s point of view.

Deloitte’s 2021 report, The Impact of Social Good on Real Estate, makes a series of key points exploring the link between ESG, infrastructure, communities, and where the activities throughout the supply chain support this link. For instance, the idea of smart and eco-friendly buildings has been explored in numerous settings, however, it is important that the social issues of affordability and public health are at the forefront of development discussions.

Covid-19, the report adds, has affected how members of society interact and engage. At the height of the first UK lockdown in 2020, open spaces became areas to exercise or take time away from the same four walls and, as restrictions eased, places to reconnect. Maintaining upkeep of these areas ensured they provided the haven that people needed and to one degree or another, helped support mental wellbeing during a challenging time.

LC Fosse Park 046.jpgNow that we are coming to terms with the aftereffects of the pandemic on society, it is becoming increasingly clear that employee expectations have evolved to the extent that wellbeing measures, once seen as a perk, are now at the forefront of many organisations’ offerings to prospective colleagues. Those measures can be wide-ranging, but often yield results in terms of productivity, job satisfaction and financial investment. In addition, a clear career pathway, with evidence of what training and development opportunities will be available along the way, not only retains talent, but provides vital skills which potentially may not have been accessible for one reason or another.

A company providing opportunities and training for jobseekers within the local area is also a means of giving back to its community. Ensuring these and all other team members have a safe working environment and are paid a fair reflection for their work, is the second strand to that commitment.  Initiatives such as paying the Real Living Wage and having strong policies in place to protect team members from multiple forms of misconduct reinforce this commitment.

In recent years, many of us have experienced hardship, be that as a result of Covid-19 or the rising cost of living, or through physical and/or emotional detriment. Employers always have a natural duty of care to give an appropriate level of support, however, in the context of social ESG, this support goes a few steps further than the legal requirements.

Collaborating with industry-specific charitable organisations is a two-fold support process. Being a corporate partner for a mental health charity, for example, can open opportunities for colleagues to access confidential support for work-related stress, while contributing to the charity’s operations within the local community. This is just one example, of course, and each company will have different levels of support that they can provide, however, measures like this are being seen as less of a PR exercise and more as a visible statement by an employer to both its colleagues and the services that they may need to lean on outside of work hours.

Social in the context of ESG is, unquestionably, a key influencer for prospective clients, colleagues, and other external stakeholders. The case could be made for the FM sector being under a particularly strong microscope, given how visible the work can be. We ourselves at The Nurture Group have increasingly seen the need to convey strong of ESG credentials to our existing customers and those exploring our services for the first time. From the very first contact, delivering a sustainable solution is what drives us forward.

Social in ESG rarely follows a one-size-fits-all manual, due to the unique links between the community, the issues which impact different groups, and what is important for an organisation’s team. Recognising and understanding the characteristics of each of these, form the bedrock of conducting operations in a manner that is sustainable in every sense of the word.

The first ESG and Landscape maintenance article in this series is available on i-FM.

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