Building the Environmental and Sustainability team here at SSE for the past two years has taken me on an exciting journey. I am passionate about inclusion, diversity, and sustainability. Most recently, the role has allowed me to develop and drive forward our new Social Value strategy.
Across society we talk a lot about the need for Britain to embrace its diversity for the greater good but often individuals and major organisations are not sure where to start. Here at SSE, we’ve put “Champion a Fair and Just net zero energy transition” right at the heart of our 2030 business goals because we have a responsibility to influence social impacts as we transition out of high-carbon activities and transition into a net zero world. Evidence also suggests that a diverse workforce serves to increase productivity, improve employee happiness, and boost innovation and creativity.
We need look no further for evidence of this than global giant Coca-Cola. Just over 20 years ago, the management decided the workforce demographics were misaligned and decided to “refresh” its worker profile.
In its first year, the ‘Coca-Cola Refreshments’ recruitment strategy saw them employ 32% people from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and 44% women. In the second year, those numbers were 45% and 54% women respectively. The company has credited its diverse workforce for cementing its position at the top of the table.
Challenging inequality is one of the three key objectives of our Social Value strategy. Take our work in Manchester, for example. We are working closely with the Metropolitan University (50% of their students are first-generation attendees) and Green Skills Academy, among many others, to attract and develop the best local talent in the area. We’re also going into schools to educate youngsters on the opportunities the green energy economy presents going forward and to make clear we’re looking to employ people from all ethnic and economic backgrounds.
This summer we took on two interns in our Manchester office - Joel Habteselassie and Senthil Raman - and, for the past year, we’ve had two interns working in our business development team who came to us through our relationship with the charity Barnardo’s.
This summer we took on two interns in our Manchester office - Joel Habteselassie and Senthil Raman - and, for the past year, we’ve had two interns working in our business development team who came to us through our relationship with the charity Bernardo’s - Alex Robinson and Sam Parton.
But our Social Value strategy is about so much more than recruitment. It’s also about becoming a trusted community partner. We’re doing this by engaging with local suppliers and charities, making donations and in-kind contributions to specific local community projects. Earlier this year, for example, SSE colleagues took part in beach cleans in Ayr and Bournemouth in conjunction with Surfers Against Sewage.
The third pillar of our Social Value strategy is about reducing environmental impact. Of course, we are already working on renewable energy projects across the country with plans to install hundreds of EV charging hubs, leading the development of heat networks, and retrofitting businesses with smart energy systems and decarbonising technologies. We’ve also committed to cutting carbon intensity by 80% by 2030, sending zero controlled waste to landfills by 2026, and setting a target of 10% biodiversity net gains on all new infrastructure projects by 2025.
We expect the same level of commitment from our suppliers. We want 50% of our biggest suppliers to have set a net zero plan by 2024 and we will actively work with them to reduce indirect carbon emissions, as well as promoting circularity and human rights transparency in our supply chain. We’ll also be launching a supplier data capture tool to gather Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data from our direct contractors.
The Social Value strategy will play a key role in our Whole Systems Thinking (WST) campaign from here on in. As I’m sure you all know by now, WST is about seeing energy projects as an opportunity to exact meaningful and impactful change on the UK’s journey to a net zero. Making tangible commitments to our people and the communities we partner with is going to be crucial in taking others with us and I couldn’t be more excited by the challenge.