Employee focus on ethical issues keeps companies on the righteous path

Joe Dermody

MORE than 180 businesses attended this week’s annual Business in the Community Ireland CEO Forum at the Mansion House, where BT Ireland, the Central Bank, Heineken and Hovione were certified with the Business Working Responsibly (BWR) mark.

This year, a further seven companies were recertified to the standard: Boots Retail, CRH, Deloitte, ESB, Gas Networks Ireland, Intel and KBC Bank Ireland.

In all, 33 companies have now achieved the BWR mark, which is hosted by Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), which assesses applicant companies’ sustainability and corporate social responsibility commitments.

Significantly, this year’s event also saw 43 companies pledge to cut their carbon emissions between now and 2030. The signatories are in retail, manufacturing, agri-food, professional services, banks, transport and ICT.

It is becoming increasingly important for Irish companies to measure and prove their commitments to sustainability, the environment and engagement with employees and local communities. And nudging those commitments on are their existing and prospective new employees, who are becoming increasingly insistent on working in a caring workplace.

“We look at companies’ activities across the board, across their various management practices,” said BITCI’s CEO, Tomás Sercovich.

The companies speak very highly of the mark, and that is because we are very thorough about the audit process. We have 22 auditors who conduct best-in-class audits. Companies find it useful to have a third party come in to observe their policies in practice

“The truth is that companies are also very good at using this mark as a way of differentiating themselves in an increasingly complicated employment market. I know there are people working in life sciences who changing jobs, some just crossing the road to take work with a competitor.” In many cases, the employees are citing ethical grounds when changing jobs. Mr Sercovich said many new graduates are now asking companies policy questions about plastic, recycling and carbon footprint at interviews.

In the case of Cork Harbour industries, would-be employees are asking about any impacts on the harbour. In retail, companies are also becoming more attuned to the ethical antennae of their employees. One Dutch supermarket recently introduced a plastic-free aisle.

“Millennials in particular are looking to work with companies who have deep commitments across a range of issues,” Mr Sercovich said. “They’re digging deep with their questions. They won’t accept a box-ticking exercise, they want companies with real values integrated into their business models and their everyday activities.” This is where BITCI’s support is so important to companies. Going for the BWR mark is not without its risks. Attaining the mark is really demanding, so there is a very real risk of being embarrassed by falling short. Several recipients said they were relieved as well as delighted.

“We’re extremely proud to have achieved the Business Working Responsibly mark,” said Maarten Schuurman, managing director, Heineken Ireland. “It’s wonderful to see the emphasis we place on sustainability and responsibility across all aspects of our business recognised and benchmarked independently.

“The mark serves as a clear signal to our stakeholders and our customers and consumers that we are listening; that we know sustainability matters to them as much as it does to us; and that we are working every day to make Heineken Ireland a truly green brewer.” Kathryn D’Arcy, Heineken’s director of corporate affairs, added: “Our commitment to sustainability and the environment is a long journey. We need to make decisions today that will have a positive impact on the world for the people who are coming behind us.

“Heineken has built up a proud heritage over 160 years. We’re producers of premium beers and ciders. Using only quality sustainable ingredients is at the heart of what we do. The Business Working Responsibly mark is a useful part of our journey. We want our heritage and commitments to be around for another 160 years.”

Meanwhile, Hovione in Ringaskiddy is another of this year’s four new companies to achieve the Business Working Responsibly mark. It is also one of those to have signed up to BITCI’s dedicated pledge to significantly reduce their carbon emissions.

“The award fits in well with our commitment to operating sustainably,” said Paul Downing, general manager of Hovione. “We have done a lot of work in managing our carbon footprint.

Achieving the Business Working Responsibly mark is important to us, and we will be celebrating the award with our staff and the on-site team dedicated to managing this for us. The mark is also important in terms of attracting and retaining talented employees

Dr Downing said it is increasingly a feature for job candidates to ask about companies’ commitments to the environment, their employees and their local community. Membership of BITCI is one useful measure for demonstrating Hovione’s commitments.

“People joining the company frequently ask questions about our corporate social responsibility programme,” said Mr Downing. “The Business Working Responsibly mark is a very useful measure of our environmental and community commitments.”

Hovione is also the first chemical or pharmaceutical company to become B Corp certified. B Corp is a global community of companies committed to collectively solving social and environmental problems.

Business Movers

Ian Lavelle has been appointed as partner in the litigation and dispute resolution department of corporate and commercial law firm LK Shields. He joins from Weightmans LLP in London, where he practised for seven years. He specialises in complex disputes in the construction, property, insurance and professional services sectors. In the last few years, he has acted in a number of large scale and high value cases before the Irish and English courts. He also advises clients in adjudication, mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. He has particular expertise in advising London insurers on policy coverage issues and disputes before the Irish courts.

Julianne O’Leary has been appointed as partnership programme manager with the Guinness Enterprise Centre, enriching the start-up ecosystem on the island of Ireland. She will develop the wider GEC network nationally and internationally and lead the GEC’s Prosper Series. She will create and nurture connections between entrepreneurs, start-ups, investors, mentors and influencers from counties across Ireland and abroad. She was previously international market executive at Enterprise Ireland, where she completed a graduate programme in Milan, supporting Irish businesses in the Italian market. She also holds a Commerce and Italian degree from UCC.

Patrick Shields has been appointed as general manager of the five-star Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford. A Cork native, he has returned from Canada, where he was working with Northland Properties as general manager of the five-star Sutton Place Hotels since summer 2017. He previously worked with the Talbot Collection as GM of the Midleton Park Hotel from February 2014 until July 2017, and prior to that he held senior roles in various Cork hotels. He graduated from CIT in 2004 with a diploma in Business Studies, Hotel & Catering Management, before going onto the Waterford IT to gain a BA Honours Degree in Hospitality Management.

Sinead Buckley has been promoted to general manager of MyMortgages.ie and Sheahan Financial Cork. She was previously manager of MyMortgages.ie for eight years. Prior to that, she was administration manager of PFS Group for two years. Her responsibilities will now include managing all administration aspects of the company’s database of clients and project managing clients’ files. She will also ensure CPC regulatory compliance on all files; and she will design and implement mortgage and life and pension process and procedures. She has worked in the industry for 20 years, both in Cork and Dublin. She holds a diploma in Marketing and Personnel.

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