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Looking after our environment and climate

We are committed to addressing the environmental and climate emergencies and supporting the net zero carbon ambitions of our clients and wider society

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What it's all about

Our environment is facing a crisis on so many fronts. Every day we see the impact of climate change, loss of biodiversity, increasing air and water pollution, and waste.

To prevent further harm, and to turn the tide before it is too late, it’s clear that the world needs to act decisively and together. At Serco we have set ourselves to do our part to address the environmental and climate emergencies we all face and help to build a better world for future generations. 

So we have committed ourselves to follow or develop practices that reduce the environmental impacts of the services we deliver, the products and services we buy and the ways in which we operate. 

The extent to which we can positively impact the environment varies in each market we serve and depends on the nature of the services we provide and the level of influence we have at any given Contract. 

Where we have direct control of environmental impacts, our activities are managed locally through effective environmental management systems. These are all about actively managing any environmental hazards and risks that our activities may cause, and constantly looking for better ways to reduce our impact.

In more than two thirds of our business, we work on our customers’ premises and are not in direct control of environmental impacts. However, we can influence our behaviours and supply chain improvements. We work collaboratively with our customers, supporting them in applying and improving their own environmental management systems and meeting their objectives.

We have to keep the pressure on ourselves, our suppliers, and our customers to continually reduce our impact by sharing ideas and best practices and setting ourselves ever more demanding targets. 

Ultimately we need to work with our value chain and re-think and re-model many of the ways we currently do things. So together we can get to a place where we operate within the limits of our planet and better look after the environment and natural world which sustains us.

“At Serco we all have the chance to contribute to a cleaner, greener world, small changes in our behaviours are vital in delivering wider cultural change.” 

What we all need to know and do

  • We treat the environment we work in and the people we work among with care, respect and thoughtfulness.

  • We are carbon-conscious and aware at all times of how we use energy and resources. 

  • We always comply with our environmental policies and procedures, as well as the environmental regulations and any special legal controls that apply where we work.

  • We offer ideas for how to improve or re-think the tasks we do and how to use less energy and resources.

  • We strongly support initiatives that will help us meet our environmental targets.

  • We immediately report any breach of our environmental policies and procedures, or any risk of harm to the environment.

  • We listen closely to the concerns of the people and communities we work among. 

  • We Speak Up if we think Serco is failing the environment, or if we have an idea about how to improve things. We insist on our right to be taken seriously.

  • We engage and support initiatives to help drive improvements where we work and help meet our environmental targets.

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I’d been working on the boat for around a year. I really loved the job, and I guess the stories I told back home about the sea had had a real impact on my young son - he read everything about the ocean and watched every programme he could. I even started learning things from him! His big thing was what human beings were doing and how we need to stop the pollution and destruction of the marine environment.

There was this one day when I went into work. There’d been a big storm the week before and as usual all sorts of nasty rubbish had washed up on the shoreline. I was thinking about what my son might say if he’d seen it. 

Anyway, when I got to work, a couple of the lads were talking about a supplier we’d used a while back. There were rumours that they were illegally dumping waste into the ocean offshore. 

They were only rumours, and the view was that someone was just spreading malicious gossip. Besides as one of the lads said, the supplier wasn’t working for us anymore so it wasn’t any of our business and what could we do anyway?

But I kept thinking, ‘What would my son say?’ So in the end I decided to report it. 

It turned out that the rumours were true. The supplier was investigated, and it was found that their illegal practices had done untold damage to the sea grasses on the ocean floor where they were doing the dumping. They received a very heavy fine and went out of business. 

My son taught me a real lesson - that the environment is all our business, and we need to speak up if we think there are practices going on that may be doing harm. 

We immediately report any breach of our environmental policies and procedures, 
or any risk of harm to the environment.

We’d been working on the bid for months. It was a really important new piece of work with a customer who has facilities all over the world. 

They had particularly asked us to look at how we could improve their environmental performance as they wanted to be in line with the COP26 recommendations and were keen to be seen as a leading light in this area. So it was a really exciting project. 

They gave us a whole morning to present our recommendations to them, and we were thrilled when we heard we’d won - especially as we were up against some pretty strong competition. 

I think we all felt that as a company that often has to work for other organisations in their premises and with their environmental policies, this time we could really set the bar. 

The client seemed delighted too and asked us to create a presentation that they could publish showing the world what they had committed to. So we did, and we signed our name to it too.

And then the problems began. In meetings we’d find that the client wanted us to ‘find less expensive solutions’ or ‘to wait on this one until the technology is better’ or ‘that we have to cut the budget so we won’t be doing that part of the project’. 

The result was that we often found ourselves putting measures into place that fell short of our own environmental policies and standards - and even more than that, in a couple of cases we were being asked to go ahead with processes that were actually harmful to the environment. 

And all the while they insisted on publishing progress updates that took no account of what was really going on. As one of my colleagues said, they were falsifying their reports. And we had put our name and reputation to a programme that wasn’t being implemented. 

If we’d gone on like that, we’d have been accused of faking it just like the client. 

There were some on the team who just thought we should carry on and keep quiet. But that just felt so wrong to me. So after thinking long and hard, and talking it through with a few people I trusted, I decided to speak up. 

Yes, it’s caused us a whole load of problems and we’ve lost the contract. But as my boss said to me, ‘If you’d said nothing, it could have damaged our reputation beyond repair. And I don’t want to do business if it means we can’t hold to what we stand for and who we are. And you stood up for that! Fact is, if you hadn’t, it could well have damaged our reputation beyond repair.’ 

So no - no regrets. 

We immediately report any breach of our environmental policies and procedures,
or any risk of harm to the environment.

I guess most people think waste collection isn’t the best job in the world. But I really loved working with the team. We had a lot of fun, and the boss was a great guy. Some days when we were short of people, he’d come out on the trucks with us and work like everyone else. 

It was one of those days that it happened. It was time to take a break for breakfast and he asked if we’d mind taking the trucks to a yard nearby where he just wanted to have a quick chat with someone. 

Of course, no one did, so we parked up at the yard, and we ate our breakfast while he went off to find whoever it was. 

When he came back, he said, ‘All done. We’ve just got to collect a few extra items here. Let’s go!’

None of us thought anything of it - we just did what the boss said and started loading the stuff. Then Sanjay called me over, whispered for me to look at something. There were some cannisters. The labels had been scraped off but on one of them you could still see the skull and crossbones sign that represented hazardous or dangerous waste.

‘This doesn’t look right’ Sanjay said. ‘We need to report this.’ But before I could answer a couple of the others came along and when Sanjay showed them, they just laughed it off. ‘Must be plutonium for a nuclear bomb!’ one of them said. 

When we’d finished the boss had a little word with us round the back of one of the trucks. ‘So I want you all to know - I’ve made a little arrangement that is going to be good for everyone. You drop by the yard here first Monday of each month, pick up whatever they’ve got, and there’ll be more of this for each of you.’ And he handed out cash to each of us. ‘But this is off the books, okay? No one else needs to know.’

Everyone else said, ‘Yes sure, boss - you bet! Thanks!’ I went along with them, but I could see Sanjay wasn’t joining in, and a few weeks later he was gone. 

We went to that yard three or four times before we were finally stopped. We were told the team was being investigated - and every one of us was being suspended meanwhile. 

When the others heard that it was because Sanjay had reported what was going on, they called him every bad name under the sun. But when it became clear that we had been illegally picking up highly toxic waste all I could think of was that I wished I’d had the courage Sanjay had to question what was going on and report it. 

We Speak Up if we think Serco is failing the environment

Working at one of Serco’s customer sites, you notice that employees are putting glass bottles into the paper waste bins. You ask why and are told that the glass bin is full so there’s no other choice. 

This is a customer – so can you do anything?

One of the contracts you’re working on is especially bad at recycling. You talk to one of the managers but he dismisses you with, ‘Look, I’ve got better thing to do, okay?’ 

What might you do now?

Working on one of our ferries you keep seeing customers throwing trash overboard into the sea.

What action could you take?

One of our vessels has been leaking oil into the sea for quite some time. You’ve reported it, and have been told that it will be fixed but it’s going take a few weeks, and in the meantime the vessel will continue to be used as there would be serious disruption if it was to be taken out of service. 

What would you do - accept this, or take it further?

Raise a concern

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What happens if we don’t follow mycode?

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Speak Up

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Staying safe, keeping well

Our vision is Zero Harm – no one harmed by the work we do.

Respecting our differences

Creating a workplace where everyone matters.

Respecting human rights and preventing modern slavery

We respect and protect everyone’s rights and dignity.

Fair treatment

We treat each other fairly and provide equal opportunities.

Coming to work free from substance abuse

We always come to work in a fit state to do our job.

No bullying, harassment or violence

We never bully, intimidate or act violently.

Hiring government officials and competitor employees

We never use someone else’s confidential information to gain an unfair competitive advantage.