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Going greener – leaning into the creation of a more sustainable world

In 2020, we launched a new Group Environmental Strategy to address key challenges and opportunities over the next ten years and beyond, focusing on carbon and climate, resource efficiency and environmental protection. It will require more collaborative working with our customers, supply chain and wider stakeholders such as environmental charities and the communities in which we operate. Key to our progress will be an increased focus on our environmental behaviours and culture across our people and practices.

At the helm is Michael Lynch, who joined Serco in 2007 and was appointed Group Head of Environment, Energy and Sustainability in 2020.

For Michael, protecting the environment is part and parcel of Serco’s purpose:

“The vast majority of our customers are governments who recognise the urgency to act on the climate and environmental crises and have committed to the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Environmental sustainability is a critical factor in the wellbeing of society. As a trusted partner of these governments, therefore, purposefully focused on making a positive difference to our fellow citizens, it is imperative that we lean into our opportunities to help create a more sustainable world.”

The unprecedented events of 2020 have been a significant catalyst for many issues of global concern, including the environment.

“Covid-19 has exposed the fragility and interconnectedness of our global society, giving us a taste of the dire consequences of not looking after our world. The need for real, immediate change is clearer than ever before.”

Despite the scale of the challenge, Michael remains hopeful for the future:

“The global effort in fighting Covid-19, and the focus on green recovery and building back better through economic policies that prioritise sustainability, are cause for optimism. There is further hope when we see influential governments around the world committing to ever more progressive environmental policies. The net zero race is well and truly on, and we are pleased to be a part of it.”

Going forward, the impacts of climate and environmental emergencies will be felt ever more acutely across the public service landscape, driving evolution and innovation to keep pace with the changing needs of society.

“We are already seeing greater emphasis on the wider sustainability and social value outcomes of public services,” says Michael. “Governments, service providers, supply chain partners and wider stakeholders will need to adapt and collaborate harder, better, faster and stronger to meet the climate and environmental challenges.”

Unlike Covid-19, there is no vaccine for the environmental crises; solutions will need to be multi-faceted.

“Public services will need to complement government visions for low carbon society whilst providing for fundamental changes in service user behaviour and service consumption. Service providers will need to harness digital approaches and disruptive technologies and work closely with their supply chains to develop the most sustainable solutions.”

Michael is proud of the numerous ways in which Serco is already contributing to a greener society across its many sectors.

“We deliver and support low carbon travel options via ferry, rail and cycle hire in the UK, Europe and Middle East; promote resource efficiency and deliver recycling solutions for customers around the world;  protect the environment by managing hazardous waste streams in North America; and support the response to marine environmental incidents in Australia and the UK, often in areas with environmental sensitivities and protected status. We support Earth Observation for the European Space Agency, which gathers and disseminates critical environmental data; and we have designed, built and will operate the new Australian icebreaker vessel as a scientific research platform for the Antarctic region.”

Each Serco sector and region has nuances around the environmental agenda, shaped by a multitude of different factors.

“For example, opportunities to transition to renewable sourced electricity or electric vehicles vary by region, due to the maturity of policy, legislation, market availability and infrastructure. We have different waste management approaches by region for similar reasons.

“Where our agenda aligns globally is in our opportunity and appetite to drive continuous improvement wherever we have influence, through our behaviours, culture and supply chain.”

A strong culture of environmental stewardship is key:

“Our people are ambassadors for the government policies that shape the services they deliver, including environmental policies. A strong ethos of proactive environmental responsibility permeates our workforce, while new generations of like-minded employees are finding Serco to be a natural home for their own progressive environmental agendas.”

The challenge is how best to empower and promote this culture.

“We have ramped up global engagement activity in recent years, such as through our annual World Environment Day and Zero Harm Week programmes. We are also exploring new ways to upskill our workforce for sustainability through our new corporate partnership with the globally recognised Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment.”

Most importantly, we want all our colleagues to know they can take the lead, take action and be supported in doing so. Michael has high hopes for Serco Goes Green, an employee-led environmental engagement and improvement programme launched in Europe in 2019 by Gaetan Desclée, Managing Director of Serco Europe, and extended to the UK and Middle East in 2020.

“Through Serco Goes Green we’re celebrating and amplifying the energy, determination and expertise of our people with engaged executive sponsorship and a passionate network of volunteer ambassadors who are leading by example at all levels.

“We want Serco Goes Green to become a dynamic global community whose core philosophy is that everyone can help to make a difference – encouraging our people to think big and act local and embedding everyday green thinking and behaviour across the business.”

The number of ambassadors has already grown beyond 100, with many projects completed or underway. These range from internal improvements, such as eliminating single-use plastics in the workplace, to collaboration with customers where appropriate opportunities exist, such as enabling paperless meetings for the European Commission.

Serco Goes Green is set to launch in North America and Asia Pacific in 2021.

“Given the global and inter-connected business environment in which we operate,” says Michael, “it is vital that we foster a creative, adaptive, ethically-aware workforce and embed distributed leadership on sustainability to help it become core to everything we do.

“We are a team of 50,000 people, based in more than 20 countries around the world, representing nearly, if not more than, 100 nationalities and thousands of communities. Together, we are integral to society in the services we provide and the spirit in which we provide them. To understand global society, therefore, we need only look in the mirror, and it is there that we will also see all that we need to create a better future for ourselves and everyone – and everything – with whom we share this planet.”