When it comes to sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility (CSR), it's no longer enough for companies to simply 'abide by the rules' or engage in isolated acts of philanthropy, says Marian Troy, Head of Corporate Affairs at energy company, SSE Ireland. Troy says that approach to corporate sustainability might have impressed customers and communities in the past, but now they are — rightly — demanding more.

 

Isolated acts of philanthropy aren’t enough

 

These days, organisations have to continually demonstrate what they are doing to be ethical, responsible and balanced. What's more, any company that views sustainability as a box-ticking exercise is bound to fail, because the real-life stakes are just too high.

“We have to do all we can to help achieve economic, social and environmental wellbeing for current and future generations,” says Troy.

 

Employee-led programmes motivate staff

 

It’s clear that many companies are taking the commitment to operating sustainability seriously, yet as lovingly crafted as a sustainability strategy might be, it's no good if the people in an organisation aren't behind it.

Employee-led programmes are important in this regard because they get staff motivated. These programmes can be beneficial in many different ways, notes Mia McCarthy, Head of Sustainability at SSE Ireland. SSE allows its team members to take at least one day a year away from their job to volunteer for a charity or community group of their choice. It's an idea that's been a big success, with up to 85% of employees taking part in a given year.

“As well as being a fantastic opportunity to make a positive difference for our communities, they give people a chance to network and strengthen relationships with colleagues from other parts of the company,” she says. It's a win-win, in other words.

 

Meeting environmental challenges

 

Then, of course, the public wants to understand how companies are responding to today's environmental challenges.

Renewable energy is key to tackling climate change and transitioning Ireland to a low-carbon economy, and Stephen Wheeler, SSE Ireland Managing Director, believes offshore wind energy presents oceans of opportunity for the country. “In addition to making the single biggest impact to Ireland’s climate action and renewable energy targets, the development of offshore wind projects can reinvigorate coastal communities and create sustainable local jobs,” he explains.

The time for talking is over. Businesses have to step up and prove they are serious about sustainability.

 

Sources: Marian Troy, Head of Corporate Affairs,

Mia McCarthy, Head of Sustainability

Stephen Wheeler, SSE Ireland Managing Director