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Global environmental challenges are a significant concern right now. MI-GSO | PCUBED’s Sustainability Community of Practice is committed to protecting the environment and helping clients and employees become more environmentally friendly.
Join Charles Wilman, William Soper, Valeria Devaux, and David Whitmore as they talk about the community of practice, Deliver Green Together.
Charles Wilman: Hello and a very warm welcome from us here at MI-GSO | PCUBED, we hope we find you safe and well. I’m Charles Wilman, and I’m delighted to bring you our latest podcast today, on the topic of Sustainability.
Environmental challenges are growing at an unprecedented scale, and without doubt, the most momentous concern of the twenty-first century. During the past few months, we have seen that regardless of industry, strong sustainability characteristics have been essential to helping companies weather the crisis, and investors have increasingly sought out sustainable investment strategies.
In this scenario, Delivery Green Together, our community of practise for sustainability at MI-GSO | PCUBED is committed to the environment and to making steady progress to reduce the footprint of the business operations and to help the clients and employees become more environmentally aware.
I’m very pleased to welcome 3 of my esteemed colleagues today to talk about this very important topic. Valeria Devaux and William Soper are two of our consultants within MI-GSO | PCUBED Deliver Green Together, hello Valeria.
Valeria Devaux: Hello, Charles.
Charles Wilman: and hello William.
William Soper: Hi Charles, thanks for having us.
Charles Wilman: We’re also joined by our Head of UK Energy Sector David Whitmore, hello David.
David Whitmore: Hi Charles.
Charles Wilman: So, without further ado, let’s dive into the conversation. If I come to you first William; What is Deliver Green Together? Who is involved? And Why?
William Soper: We define the Deliver Green Together (DGT), and the sustainable community of practice, as the intersection of business and sustainability. Managing impact to the three bottom lines, people, planet, and profit.
Sustainability in projects and business is about delivering change that will survive the decades. This change will help end extreme poverty and protect our planet from the effects of climate change. It is about delivering better together. Greener together. It is a value and comes right down to the heart of the services we provide in MI-GSO | PCUBED.
Many studies done about sustainability consider it to be the 4th constraint alongside time, cost, and scope. This would make it an alternative to the measure of quality provided in the centre of the iron triangle. In some cases, sustainable project management is emerging as a new discipline. An exciting opportunity.
The planet itself does not have a voice, unlike us. So we have to be responsible and think consciously about how our decisions on projects impact the planet.
We specialise with PPM services, with incredible skills and expertise in business transformation, agile, change management, as well as numerous other areas and frameworks like Lean Innovation. Deliver Green Together is about delivering those services but doing it at net zero or carbon neutral approach.
DGT supports the global CSR strategy which we recently published on our website, alongside our leading Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Health and Wellbeing practices.
Now that sustainable skills for projects are being regarded more as an essential component in project delivery programmes, we will need these key skills and expertise for the future. It is now commonplace for companies to evidence net zero approaches. Many will have seen the transition to sustainable products and services, say sustainable fuels, or farming practices, in the headlines at COP26.
That doesn’t just mean that we all to behave in a sustainable way. In committing to being responsible, it means we live and act on this when building our products, portfolios, services, and projects. That could be through carbon budget for a product. That could be by managing diversity assessments for digital tools or AI (Artificial intelligence) algorithms.
APM, PMI, and many other leading institutions are building tools and techniques for measuring these risks, and MI-GSO | PCUBED is no different.
MI-GSO | PCUBED, under ALTEN, subscribes to the UN GLOBAL COMPACT, the world’s largest corporate sustainability pact, a voluntary commitment to implement against UN sustainable principles. This is aligned with our main goals being gender equality, responsible production, and consumption, and last but no means least, climate action.
Charles Wilman: Great, thank you William for that introduction that’s brilliant. So, my next question to you is how can this be achieved in practice? How did we get to where we are?
William Soper: Deliver Green Together was founded using our own tools for project delivery that we have at MI-GSO | PCUBED. It was based upon a passion for an open, peer driven community of practice. Through that, the group kickstarted an initiative that enabled a wider company approach and culture change. We have exponentially grown, and now are also looking to train sustainable skills for project management to our teams and are taking on certification and qualifications to grow our skills, knowledge, and expertise.
We, and our suppliers, work alongside our environmental coordinator and our facilities management under ISO14001 certification. We’ve set a high standard set through avoiding any non-conformities in our latest audits related to our operational practices.
In our office refurbishment there has been a focus on recycling rather than disposal. We’ve also introduced thermal, light, water, energy, and natural light efficiencies. We have even begun to build an action plan to address and manage our carbon, improving our travel and booking systems, and utilities. Lastly, the transition into new post-pandemic remote working practices enable our consultants to effect carbon savings. All of these wins add up to reducing our carbon footprint.
We are a leader ahead of many other businesses in the UK, by already giving great thought in implementing these sustainable business practices through our community of practice.
With a good set of internal standards, it is about working together to assess the climate risks for all the projects in our services to clients. These can be transitional; they can be physical. Examples could be scenario analysis of the impact to a project within the next 5-10 years strategically, or an existing service in the marketplace already. There is a need to re-evaluate existing programme roadmaps, and take it as an opportunity to re-examine how they could be re-focused into a climate friendly outcome?
We are reaching the end of a busy year and will soon have great new commitments and exciting partnership announcements to share for that diligent work – so stay tuned.
Whatever the challenge, we at MI-GSO | PCUBED are here to help.
Charles Wilman: Excellent William, thanks for that. Lots of interesting things going on so thanks for sharing. So, if I come next to yourself Valeria, my question to you is what are the challenges of doing projects sustainably?
Valeria Devaux: Well, for me the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that insufficient preparation can have serious consequences. And the main challenge I can see are accelerate and scaling up our clients’ preparation and most important to build resilience around organisations.
Since the pandemic we had the opportunity to make more value and cost-effective decisions. The changing landscape of consumer buying behaviour reveals the growing influence of sustainability. Also, let me say that different trends suggest that concerned consumers are adopting a raft of different measures to shop and live more sustainably.
Minimising food waste or let’s say using energy-efficient appliances, doesn’t just go for consumers in our market, it also comes to our clients who do not want to continue to maintain unsustainable ways of working or redundant systems, processes, or products.
For instance, around a third of consumers are willing to pay for services that will recycle existing product and systems. And, approximately 65% would stop using a service or executing a project if it was found to be detrimental to the environment.
Right now, our service projects are beginning to see these considerations, even in a non-traditional setting. Assessments like whole life cycle costs, or climate and diversity impact assessments are considered right from the out-set. Therefore, our consultants need to be trained with the skills, knowledge, and expertise in how to handle these crucial issues. Not making those considerations, could lead to a product or service that is no longer relevant or even a transitional business risk within the next 5-10 years. I think I absolutely believe that a new way of operating, and a holistic way of delivering green projects is needed with a long-term view toward success.
Charles Wilman: Excellent, thank you Valeria. Clearly some challenges there around doing projects sustainably but interesting to see the things that can be done to address those challenges. So coming on to recent events, we’re all aware of COP26 that concluded just on the 12th November, Friday. A question for you Valeria what does COP26 mean for our clients?
Valeria Devaux: Yeah sure, well COP26, is the UN climate summit, which aimed to accelerate the world’s response to climate change and shape a low-carbon business landscape. This event focused on delivering the ambition set on the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the global rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. It’s a measurable and attainable goal, but never the less, it must be put in perspective for each organisation considering that every small step contribute to the overall goal to reduce emissions.
And I also can say that for companies and our clients, several major topics on the COP26 agenda stand out. For instance, understanding the implications of current and future GHG (greenhouse gas) regulations, also the advance of new technologies that will enable a net-zero outcome, and of course business adaptations. Those were the most relevant topics for our clients.
Charles Wilman: Thank you Valeria, quite right, I think they are the major topics, and it will be interesting to see how they develop over the coming months. So, speaking about development what else would you develop further Valeria?
Valeria Devaux: Well, for instance, policies and regulations that will ultimately incentivise main players to achieve net-zero emissions are not yet in place. Most likely, there will be a large progress in the coming years on the design and implementation of effective climate change policies, and there will also be a mix of price instruments such as subsidies, carbon or energy taxes, and so on. This further emphasises the need to carefully understand the business implications of the complex future regulatory environment.
I will also say that it’s important to underline the crucial role that innovation and clean and advanced technology have in achieving sustainable, resilient, and carbon-neutral development by 2050. So, for instance, same innovative solutions that aim to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses, or to capture them, have already been developed and deployed by private sector actors. We can also say the markets, in this sense, are properly working although in numerous situations trade barriers continue to cause prices to be higher than they would otherwise be.
Lastly during the last decade many companies have announced ambitious plans to reduce their emissions, in some cases to net zero, but few are making sufficient progress turning those ambitions into actions. And we must say, that delaying is not a strategy. Organisations can really benefit by taking action to anticipate such climate-related risks. For instance, these benefits include the ability to better manage and mitigate risk, to decrease costs, increase profits, develop new markets opportunities also the rise of new opportunities for partnerships and lastly, I would say generate engagement with different stakeholders. But I think here comes a key question, how can companies adapt? Well, one of the most important challenges face by business managers today is the integration of suitability into their core functions. Therefore, organisations need to redefine their corporate strategy to better align business interests with climate-change mitigation and adaptation.
Charles Wilman: Fantastic, thank you Valeria. So, clearly lots going on but also lots more to do. So thinking about strategy, if I come to yourself Will, why is it important to integrate sustainability into the business strategy?
William Soper: Well I think you said it quite well Charles, there is a lot more to do and in today’s ever-evolving world, integrating sustainability into a business strategy isn’t really an option, it’s an necessity. Organisations need to address the potential environmental drivers. These can fundamentally change the way that they may operate in the coming decades. However, integrating it is very complex and very challenging as a process.
Companies that embed sustainability into their corporate governance can have a lasting competitive advantage, as long as they have the capability to adapt to changes in that industry, predict trends to their best advantage, and respond to stakeholders’ demands concerning environmental and social issues.
Mark Carney (the former governor of the Bank of England) suggested that climate disclosures, and climate risk management must be transformed. We too believe that the field of project management will also have to be transformed along the way. The climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, which is why the human element to re-shaping this industry is so important. Without imagining an innovative new way of delivering projects, in some of the ways that Valeria outlined before, then the culture will never change. These good stories where we can share expertise across projects and clients, in how to deliver in a climate friendly way, whilst also going above and beyond, those will be the first chapters in a story as to how to deliver projects in this new era.
Success is not delivering a feature, or a new tool. There are a lot of tools out there. From climate calculators to frameworks for implementing a sustainable strategy. But to really deliver success, you must solve the problem – for climate change, it is emissions and waste production. So the challenge, is not to create an albeit innovative one off tool, but to help all of our clients with solutions to eliminate emissions and waste.
Charles Wilman: Thank you Will. I think the way you summed that up at the end really resonate with me. So, David, thank you for waiting patiently. I’d love to come to you next and explore really what is the vision of the Energy Sector in regards to Renewable energy?
David Whitmore: Thanks Charles, well clearly in our Energy business we are in the front line of helping our clients address the sustainability challenge. We set our strategy in 2018 to focus on developing a green energy portfolio and we have made progress against this. But first of all, let’s address what a sustainable energy economy looks like.
Surprisingly that’s not as easy as it sounds and the Government for one is unclear on this point. At one level it could mean more renewables and no carbon-based energy generators. However, it’s complex and you could say there are three components of sustainability: carbon net zero – and everybody understands, but enduring supply – when will the fuel run out if ever, and security of supply – is it always there if we need it. Renewables are probably net zero in the long term, but offshore wind, for example, starts life with a massive carbon debt.
The energy suppliers like to show us the serene images of wind farms quietly producing electricity, but steer away from the furnaces, quite often Chinese for the steel, and therefore dependant on coal, producing that steel for the monopiles; the massive (non-recyclable) carbon fibre blades producing toxic fumes in manufacture; the huge oil funded shipping platforms transporting the massive structures up to 40km offshore. It is estimated that a wind turbine needs to operate for 5 to 7 years to pay back this carbon dept. However, operation in the North Sea, for one, is challenging for the structures and it’s not clear what the lifetime of these structures is. Hopefully more than 7 years.
And by the way, how do you recycle them? But on to the point about enduring supply and undoubtedly Wind power is enduring. It will always be there. That’s clearly not true of oil and gas, even if we can sequestrate, or capture, the carbon the power stations produce. Is nuclear enduring? Well fissionable nuclear fuel (the current technology) will last for a very long time and fusion nuclear power can really be considered to be limitless.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the UK is developing a secure low carbon energy system. Wind power is not much use on calm days and solar is frankly useless in the winter when peak demand is around 7.00pm in the evening. Battery storage is extremely inefficient and unlikely to allow us to consider renewables to be a secure form of energy for the whole supply. Coal and gas is unquestionably the most secure of the energy forms and its capable of being turned on very quickly. Nuclear is also secure, but fission power still carries the stigma of being unsafe, even if the statistics don’t really support that view. For example, it’s estimated that Germany increased its deaths per year from burning additional carbon fuels by over 1,000 when it turned off its nuclear plants following the Fukushima disaster.
So, it is complex and I for one, don’t know what the best energy mix is for the UK. Ultimately, I suppose eventually, it will all be fusion, but how do we get to that point. It is however very interesting, and our clients are dealing with these great challenges, and we are helping them in a number of areas.
We have worked with nuclear decommissioning companies, such as Sellafield and Veolia helping to restore public confidence in nuclear by dealing with the legacies of the past. We have helped UKAEA to develop the programme for the UK’s nuclear fusion programme. We have also worked with Viridor who build and operate waste-to-energy power stations.
The UK electricity infrastructure is key in allowing diverse forms of electricity on the grid at any one time. Nuclear, gas and coal is relatively easy. You press a button, and it comes online and stays online. Wind is very hard to predict. It may not be there when you expect it to be, and the blades turn at variable speeds producing electricity at varying frequencies which would take the entire grid down if not controlled.
National Grid has been investing heavily in transforming the grid and we have been helping them with their planning and their transformation programme. We support Edvance and are also a key part of their planning team for Hinkley Point C in Somerset. We want to do more in the renewables sector and it would be great to work on the recently announced Small Modular Nuclear Reactor programme that is being developed by Rolls-Royce.
We have grown our position in the UK energy sector significantly in the last few years and there is much, much more to go at. We have the right skills that are needed right now to get these complex programmes to fruition and it’s incredibly satisfying knowing that we are helping with what is probably the biggest challenge facing the human race today.
Charles Wilman: Well, David, Valeria, William, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your insight and work around sustainability. It’s great to see we have a dedicated Community of Practice in Deliver Green Together, delivering on environmental improvements for our clients and us an organisation, as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility strategy.
Through this conversation, and amongst the backdrop of COP26, the challenges we face are not lost on me and I’m sure won’t be on our listeners either. However, through our vision, people, and excellent work in the Energy Sector, I’m convinced MI-GSO | PCUBED is in a great place to continue to lead on making impactful change.
David Whitmore: Thank you, Charles.
Charles Wilman: Valeria, thank you.
Valeria Devaux: Thanks a lot Charles.
Charles Wilman: William, thank you.
William Soper: Thanks Charles.
Charles Wilman: And to our listeners we really hope you enjoyed this instalment and if you’d like to read more about our CSR strategy. Thank you and goodbye.
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