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Managing our environmental impact and supporting customer environmental objectives

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. An increased focus on our environmental behaviours and culture across our people and practices is another important dimension.

Here we share some examples of our activity within the three key pillars of our new strategy.

1. Carbon and climate

Our focus on carbon and climate addresses our consumption of energy. All our operations are required to carefully manage their energy use with a view to limiting and reducing wherever possible as new opportunities emerge. However, certain of our Contracts and Business Units within our full operational control represent a greater environmental impact, and these are where we prioritise our effort and investment.

Meanwhile, across more than two thirds of our business we work on our customers’ premises and are not in direct control of environmental impacts. In such cases, we work collaboratively with our customers, supporting them in applying their own environmental management systems and objectives.

Recent examples of energy efficiency action in some of our most energy-intensive Contracts include:

NorthLink Ferries Contract, Serco UK & Europe

Our NorthLink Contract accounted for 34% of our global 2020 emissions due to significant marine fuel use. In 2020, our best practice interventions continued to be implemented by the Contract / client (captured within our ESOS energy audit recommendations in 2019). Our bespoke monitoring system continues to assist carbon reporting and to help evaluate performance on individual voyages, assess the impact of operational changes and benchmark sister vessel energy performance, helping to deliver energy savings. In 2020, the monitoring system was utilised to evaluate the MV (Motor Vessel) Hamnavoe’s data and delivered an energy saving equating to 13% for this vessel over the period.

Citizen Services Environmental Services Business Unit, Serco UK & Europe

Our UK Environmental Services business accounted for 9% of our global 2020 emissions. From a fleet energy perspective, it remains one of our most energy-intensive business units globally. In 2020, as part of one new Contract, we included three electric supervisor vans and a 7.5t hybrid waste collecting cage vehicle to replace existing diesel vehicles, reducing our energy and environmental impact. This also included the installation of two double electric vehicle (EV) charging points. The Contract has projected an annual 5% fuel saving, equivalent to 21,000 litres of diesel. Our fleet of new recycling vehicles (up to 26 tonnes) are Euro 6 specification, replacing Euro 5 specification vehicles. All meet the new Transport for London Driving Vision Standards, holding permits for operation in London effective March 2021.

In 2020, we also provided two Local Authority (LA) clients with a proposal to move from standard B7 road diesel to Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil fuel (HVO) for refuse collection vehicles, to reduce carbon by up to 90% and lessen the impact of wider air emissions. The Council in question has now had full approval to implement HVO with an implementation target date of April 2021. This fleet of Council vehicles currently represent around a quarter of the total Council CO2 emissions; the move will be significant step towards the Council becoming carbon neutral by 2030, as pledged when both LAs declared climate emergencies in 2020.

More widely, the Business Unit is collaborating with the Serco Business Services Fleet team to trial and plan for the widespread roll-out of electric refuse collection vehicles. We also have fuel-additive trials planned for 2021, to reduce harmful emissions in diesel engines ahead of the transition to electric vehicles where practical. We have telematics across a significant proportion of our fleet which monitor fuel efficiency, clutch control and braking style, enabling training interventions to influence more fuel-efficient driver behaviour to ensure our fleet energy consumption is constantly managed.

Leisure Business Unit, Serco UK & Europe

Our ISO 50001 certified Leisure Business Unit accounted for 5% of our global 2020 emissions and remains one of our most energy-intensive business units. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, our sites remained closed for a significant portion of the reporting year.

However, when open, we continued to drive forward energy efficiency measures and maintain current controls, including monitoring and targeting, pool covers, LED lighting upgrades, insulation upgrades, Variable Speed Drive / plant upgrades, time schedule reviews and housekeeping. We are reviewing our approach to our utility monitoring and targeting system, with 2021 seeing the arrival of a nationally recognised energy manager software package. 2021 also sees the arrival of a new Microgeneration 180kw Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit to one of our Southern sites. This system utilises the waste heat of electricity production to the swimming pools with operating savings of 40%. We are also reviewing the CHPs (often managed via contracts directly with our clients) on our sites and exploring the opportunity to benefit from excess power generated by CHP units to power EV charge points as public demand increases. A number of Serco personnel have already taken (or are awaiting) delivery of company EVs with EV charge point availability a critical element to success and take up. In 2021, we are looking to appoint a national provider, offering a turnkey solution with an expanding network.

2. Resource efficiency

Our focus on resource efficiency aligns closely with our commitment to Operational Excellence, a collection of principles, systems and tools which eliminate waste and variation to improve efficiency and effectiveness for the benefit of our customers, service users, employees and our business. Our OE vision is a continuous improvement culture that improves efficiency, effectiveness, engages our customers and makes a difference every day.

Operational Excellence (OE) is therefore a valuable mechanism with which to facilitate transition to a more circular economy, where maximum value is extracted from resources for much more of their lifetime and waste and pollution is minimised.

The Serco OE programme is deployed globally. Several thousand Serco employees around the world have already completed their training, externally accredited by the Institute of Continuous Improvement in Public Services.

In 2020 we updated our OE benefits guidelines to increase focus on environmental benefits. This has already prompted more than 30 projects with specific environmental impact benefits.

For example:

  • Geoff Barker, Waste and Liquid Operations Manager for our Maritime Services Contract in Portsmouth, delivered an OE project focusing on the management and transportation of contaminated waste. Specifically, Geoff reduced the processing time to remove contaminated waste from a customer vessel from 16 to 3.5 days. Furthermore, the optimisation of vehicle transportation resulted in a carbon reduction of 8 Tonnes Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per annum and financial savings for our customer.

  • Callum Lloyd, Serco Graduate Management Trainee at University of Southampton Hospital, delivered a project to raise wastage awareness among our catering team and reduce waste in the catering department, resulting in an average reduction of 66% in sandwich waste, plus associated financial savings.

  • Camilla Westwood, Custodial Operations Manager at the Serco-operated HMP and Young Offenders Institute Doncaster, explored ‘end of life’ disposal options for old bedding, focused on maximising value and diverting waste from landfill. The recycling solution she identified is now being explored for all Serco-operated prisons in the UK.

3. Environmental protection

Our focus on environmental protection recognises both the climate and wider environmental emergencies. Around the world, Serco delivers services that support the scientific analysis needed to help protect biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems.

For example:

NorthLink Ferries Contract, Serco UK & Europe

Our NorthLink Ferries contract collaborates with a wide range of partners on initiatives helping to celebrate and protect nature. The longest-standing of these is our work with the Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey (CPRS). Established in 1931, CPRS is the most geographically extensive marine ecological survey in the world, having covered more than 7 million nautical miles since its inception.

As a large-scale global survey, CPRS plays a unique and vital role, providing the scientific and policy communities with a long-term measure of the ecological health of marine plankton, which sustain life on this planet by producing almost half the oxygen we breathe; they are the planet’s second lung.

Plankton are very sensitive to key variables in their habitat, such as temperature and pH, and their rapid turnover makes them excellent indicators of change in the marine environment.

To gather this data, a global network of vessels, including the Hildasay Ferry operated by Serco, tow plankton recorders. These datasets inform marine environmental management issues such as harmful algal blooms, pollution, marine litter, climate change and fisheries, enabling evidence-based advice to policy makers and ecosystem managers.

European Space Agency Centre for Earth Observation

We provide engineering support to the European Space Agency and ESRIN (European Space Agency Centre for Earth Observation) within the framework of the Copernicus Programme. Copernicus satellites (named Sentinels) enable earth observation focusing on atmosphere, marine, land, climate, emergency and security. The Sentinels offer a complete overview of our planet with constant observation and monitoring, such as land use, geological events and weather patterns.

By supporting this programme, we are helping to raise awareness and understanding of how the Earth is affected by natural events and human impact and provide crucial data for a vast range of organisations worldwide.

One example of how the Copernicus Programme addresses biodiversity and climate change is a focus on coral reefs. Reef damage is becoming more prevalent, leaving previously thriving marine ecosystems devoid of life. The Copernicus EU Sentinel-2 satellite is an important tool for the study of these hyper-sensitive and hugely important environments.

Another example is the identification and management of fire hot spots and the spread of natural and industrial fire events. Fires linked to climate change are an increasing threat, such as the devastating Australian bush fires in 2019 which affected c.3 billion animals.

We operate and manage a cloud-based platform, ONDA DIAS, funded by the European Commission, that enables users to discover, manipulate, process and download Copernicus data, freely and locally through a range of resources and services including CLEOPE (Cloud Earth Observation Processing Environment).