The Carey Group is a leading family-owned construction business operating in the UK. The combined group of companies provide specialist construction services – civil engineering and dry lining together with resource recovery services across multiple industry sectors. We speak to Anna Baker, Head of Sustainability at Carey Group, about the group’s sustainability vision and plans to decarbonise the business’s operations.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No two days are the same, which is part of the reason I love what I do. In the last week I’ve worked on a few tenders with significant sustainability requirements around social value, carbon and noise. I’ve facilitated an FSC audit, liaised with a client sustainability lead to discuss a project reporting requirements, posted on Yammer (our internal comms tool) some exciting project updates including the use of electric plant and talked to a number of our supply chain providers to begin building relationships with key people.
I’m mainly home based at the moment due to the current COVID -19 situation and so I spend a lot of time on Teams calls or doing the actions from them! As I’m relatively new to Careys I’m also looking to visit all our sites too and really ‘get under the skin’ of our organisation. That’s essential if I’m to get the sustainability strategy and direction of travel for the company right!
What is Carey Group Sustainability Vision?
Careys overarching vision is to be recognised as a socially responsible organisation. Our sustainability strategy is therefore key to the delivery of that. It’s an exciting time to be part of Careys at the moment and we are just about to launch our 5-year strategy. Our sustainability approach is a golden thread that I’m pleased to say runs throughout the wider business strategy themes.
Do you have short, medium and longterm goals and milestones?
Yes, the short-term focus is between now and September 2021, which is when the new strategy really begins. The goals are based on establishing a baseline, target setting and then delivery of those targets in conjunction with the 5-year strategy.
How will the effects of climate change impact your business?
We are seeing the effects now. Largely in the form of our clients and their clients looking for full transparency around carbon and data to ensure the risks of investment are limited. This will only increase with time and I think that those organisations that can’t adapt, innovate and deliver with reduced impact will get left behind.
The other key area I must highlight here is around materials and material scarcity. Careys are large consumers of some pretty significant materials and in large volumes including concrete, aggregates and timber. Again, our innovation around the use and reuse materials like these will be significant.
How will your carbon reduction efforts be communicated internally and externally?
Carbon is a key focus for our sustainability strategy and so our first priority internally is to share that along with what we are doing in the short term to kick start our journey to net zero carbon. We’ll focus on internal communications as a priority with the intention that we get our people comfortable with talking about carbon and what our roadmap looks like. That’s the first step. Our external communications will come once we have something to share which we think others will benefit from.
What are the roadblocks / accelerants to decarbonizing your business?
I think the biggest roadblock for all organisations is the ‘white noise’ that surrounds carbon and in some instances the lack of transparency about what people claim with regards to performance. In some instances that’s closely linked to challenges around data and the quality of that data, I’ve seen that first hand in the work we’ve done with Alfa on SECR. We have plans to address that and learn from it, after already doing a lessons learnt session following our first SECR report being completed.
If you’re transparent, honest and willing to share information about data I think there are real opportunities to accelerate your approach as well as learn from others. The key to unlocking both roadblocks and accelerants is competence. If we can easily explain what decarbonising means for us in a way that people can understand and more importantly share, that’s when good stuff starts to happen!!
What element of your business operations produces the most emissions?
We have data from our SECR report so far which looks at our scope 1,2 and employee business travel for scope 3 emissions. Our largest emissions based on that are associated with the fuel used to power and transport our plant and fleet. I don’t think this will always be the case though.
What have you learnt to date as you embark on this journey?
We need to bring people along with us and as I said before, if you can do that, then the good stuff starts to happen. To do that, we need to show how their contribution, either as an individual, project or business unit impacts the journey and most importantly what they can do to change that.
What would you say to other companies also considering ramping up their sustainability journey?
Go for it! As a sustainability professional, I’m obviously biased, but I’ve long believed and been able to see the benefits to organisations who ‘walk the talk’ with regards to their sustainability approach. What’s also key here, is that’s only half the story, there are efficiency, cost, wellbeing and work winning benefits too.
Why was SECR important to the business?
Honest answer in the short term has to be legal compliance. But to be fair to us, we always saw SECR as a starting point for our wider carbon aspirations. SECR just scratches the surface and there’s lots more we can and will do.
How has VISION made tackling your sustainability journey easier?
I’m a new VISION user and have been impressed with the system’s ability, especially in being able to cut and calve the data differently. I also found it really intuitive and easy to access the info I need quickly. I also liked being able to export information and have used the graphs and tables in presentations already.