Seeing is Believing: Innovating for Sustainability

Just before the wrap up of #RBweek, Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President, UK & Ireland, Veolia led a group of senior business leaders on a Seeing is Believing visit on Thursday 27 April in London to highlight how businesses can increase their competitive advantage by having a more strategic approach to responsible business practice.

“To coincide with #RBweek, I was delighted to host a Seeing is Believing visit which included a visit to our circular economy hub in Southwark designed to develop access to resources, preserve and replenish them. As Responsible Business of the Year we firmly believe that being responsible is not just the right thing to do, it is the best thing to do, as people want to buy from, work and partner with socially responsible businesses," Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President, UK & Ireland, Veolia

A report from Imperial College London ‘The Circular Revolution’, which was commissioned by Veolia, investigated the benefits of the circular economy. Its findings revealed a potential £29 billion contribution to UK GDP and in excess of 175,000 jobs. This is any undeniably powerful business argument that highlights how the circular economy is a highly effective business tool for growth.

STEM Skills and future employees

Over breakfast, the senior business leaders heard from Michael Osbaldeston, Senior Adviser of City & Guilds Group who gave an overview of the scale of the STEM skills shortage and how that affects the future of business. He also covered the benefits of apprenticeship programmes and why it’s vital for business to have a responsible recruitment and retention strategy.  It was clear that there is a need for investing in future employees and customers.

Delegates then heard from Deborah Astles, HR Director, Corporate Responsibility & Policy about their employment strategy which helps to secure their talent pipeline. Delegates then heard first hand from apprentices who have benefited from these programmes and it was abundantly clear that business can find the right talent and skills they need for the future in a range of ways.

Embedding responsible business

The business leaders learnt how Veolia’s strategy and operations have gone through transformational change to address the challenges of the future, adapting the business model in order to contribute to the circular economy through closed-loop solutions, reducing carbon emissions and prioritising the employment of people from marginalised backgrounds. Northumbrian Water Group highlighted their integrated operations in Waste, Energy and Water resourcing as well as their journey through 15 years of membership with BITC.  Unipart Group shared how using BITC’s benchmarking tools has helped them improve their responsible business operations year on year, and how using BITC’s frameworks, such as the WorkWell model, helped drive employee wellbeing. The group then went on a full tour of Veolia’s recycling and refuse plant in Southwark.

The competitive advantage of responsible business

Delegates heard first hand examples of the commercial benefits of Marks and Spencer’s Plan A business model and Barclays’ Shared Growth Ambition with how these both link back to the success of their businesses, clear that it has a positive effect on their bottom line.

By the end of the visit there was a general agreement that for business to prosper, there needs to be a business case for taking action and how a more strategic approach to responsible business can act as a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Business’ need to work with their peers and organisations such as BITC to deliver business strategies with responsibility at its core.

Find out more about The Prince’s Seeing is Believing, BITC’s programme giving senior business leaders first-hand insight into key social and environmental issues.

Visit participants

Visit Leader

  • Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President, UK & Ireland, Veolia

Business delegates

  • Deborah Astles, HR Director, Corporate Responsibility & Policy, Unipart Group
  • Dr Karen Blakeley, Programme Leader, University of Winchester
  • Eileen Donnelly, Head of Values & Ethics, The Co-operative Bank
  • Gary Burden, General Manager, Finning Group
  • Kevin Fisher, Human Resources Director, Together Money
  • Kesah Trowell, Group Head of Corporate Responsibility, Dixons Carphone
  • Lynne Smith, ‎HR Business Partner, Finning Group
  • Michael Osbaldeston, Senior Adviser, City & Guilds Group
  • Sarah Perry, Managing Partner, Wright Hassall
  • Steve Shirley, Director - Government, MasterCard
  • Yvonne Smyth, Group Head of Diversity, Hays Recruitment

Read more news and blogs about the Seeing is Believing programme