Paul Aldridge has been appointed WJ Group Sustainability Director, signalling companies intent in the field of corporate social responsibility. WJ understand that their business operations impact on clients, employees, stakeholders, environment and the economy so it follows that sustainability should be at the heart of the decision-making process and that the effect should be positive. Wayne Johnston, WJ Group Managing Director commented “The reasoning behind the appointment is simply that we have a desire to grow, but we believe that our business growth needs to be economically, socially and environmentally responsible. We pride ourselves on being leaders and innovators, so with sustainability and corporate responsibility now having greater prominence, so Paul’s new role has become fundamental to maintaining those values and improving our business and client prospects.”
Paul Aldridge added, “WJ can’t pretend to have all the answers, and don’t. Many of the issues are truly global but as an industry we must accept that, even if only a small component, we are a part of the solution. Climate change, upheavals in migration, technological and social change have been instrumental in shaping policies around the world and moving forward only outward looking, responsible, collaborative companies will survive.”
Within the Highways Industry where site safety is paramount the more forward-thinking
organisations are looking outwards beyond their site boundaries to consider; work related road risk, holistic safety training, wellbeing and social value, environmental reporting, emissions and air quality improvements. Concentrating on the last of these themes, WJ believe the Highways sector clearly has a massive role to play. The UK has been cutting carbon emissions very successfully, largely due to the closing of coal fired power stations, leading to a comparative rise in the significance of emissions from road traffic. As an outward looking industry, Highways should not simply target emission reduction alone but also focus on increasing the safety and efficiency of the network. This means; intelligent collaborative planning and working, life cycle understanding, innovation in delivery and delivery methods, reducing congestion, understanding the vast amounts of data and having the cognitive flexibility to act will all be needed to make our highways network more sustainable for the future.
Society is changing and where corporate excesses were once tolerated they no longer are, with senior politicians very clear that these behaviours are a thing of the past. In parallel, the promotion of the role sustainable business can play, is being lauded. Environment Secretary Michael Gove speaking this month of a post Brexit long term economic plan said “I believe we have a responsibility to ensure our economic model, prices in those valuable economic principles. In other words, we have to have truly sustainable economic growth.” This echoes the increasing prominence and influence of sustainability roles, with many of our leading companies committing serious resource, salaries and authority to them and WJ is aligned to this policy and thinking.
Our world can be volatile and uncertain, so cognitive flexibility and collaborative behaviours are vital to understanding the opportunities and threats that companies encounter. Sustainability is about organisations understanding just that, holistically from a social, environmental and economic point of view. WJ are far from unique in putting Corporate Responsibility at the heart of direct or supply activity and linking their fiscal performance to improved social and environmental policies and practices.
Sustainability also has a positive effect on people and there has been a shift with the millennial generation wanting to work for companies that have strong ethical values, this growing awareness can be harnessed to achieve accelerated change. The idea that business has a role to play in society as a whole is now widely accepted. Businesses working within the public realm, such as WJ, are now expected to demonstrate their positive social and environmental impacts as a part of the bidding process. Statements that cannot be substantiated are also being challenged and the larger a company becomes the greater the reporting requirements.
Paul Aldridge demonstrates a good understanding for the new role, often presenting at lunchtime seminars, safety events, IHE branches and association conferences, extolling the benefits from collaborative realisation of sustainability gains accrued by the supply chain’s efforts.
Paul further states “By 2050 the deadline set out in The Climate Change Act; the world’s population will have reached 9.5 billion; this equates to an increase in population of a city the size of Birmingham every 5 days, for the next 32 years. Yet we are targeting an 80% reduction in carbon emissions against 1990 levels over the same period, innovative business is key to our achieving this.”
Recent changes in quality, environmental and safety standards ISO 9001, 14001 and the new 45001 (replacing 18001) have brought Risk Management to the fore. This requires an ability to understand and then communicate the facts to a variety of audiences internal and external. Gathering information sorting it, reporting on it, and designing strategies to keep the business running safely, efficiently and crucially sustainably improving.
WJ see a key part of the sustainability role is early understanding of and adaptation to change and identifying opportunities and threats as they emerge. Subjects such as Life Cycle Analysis will be critical in newly emerging technologies and methodologies. In highways transportation changes brought on by autonomy are a classic case in point. There are clear social, environmental and economic gains to be had and happily for the road marking industry Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) systems need markings but the delineation required will need to develop to align with new technology. WJ Group, working with many others, locally, nationally and on the European stage are involved in research and development projects.
WJ Group believe context is paramount in this new role and in the wider industry. People leading change within companies need a deep practical knowledge gained from years of experience and a will to work collaboratively with others to deliver greater collective sustainability improvements.