Background: Spirax Sarco Engineering plc is a multi-national industrial engineering group, made up of three world-leading businesses: Steam Specialties, Electric Thermal Solutions (ETS), and Watson-Marlow. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Within Steam Specialties, Spirax Sarco and Gestra manufacture products for the control and management of steam. Within Electric Thermal Solutions, Chromalox and Thermocoax offer electric process heating products and engineered solutions to industrial customers. Watson-Marlow provides customers with world-leading peristaltic pumps and associated fluid path technologies.
In June 2021, Spirax-Sarco Engineering announced the launch of a refreshed sustainability strategy for the company, ‘One Planet: Engineering with Purpose’. Starting in autumn 2020, Challenge Sustainability was commissioned to provide advice and work alongside Spirax-Sarco Engineering on the development of the refreshed strategy. Challenge Sustainability Director, Jon Woodhead, spoke with Dr Sarah Peers, Group Head of Sustainability, Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc, about the process and rationale behind this work.
Jon Woodhead, Challenge Sustainability: Many congratulations, Sarah, on the launch of Spirax-Sarco Engineering’s sustainability strategy. What are your reflections looking back over the process to refresh the strategy?
Sarah Peers, Spirax-Sarco Engineering: When we started the process we knew that we needed a strategy that would help us to accelerate our sustainability performance and address some of the world’s major global social and environmental problems, but we didn’t know exactly what that would look like. We also wanted to develop a strategy that aligns with our Company purpose, which has sustainability at its core, so that it can be embedded seamlessly into our businesses and become part of the way we work every day. By keeping these objectives in mind, we have developed a strategy that we believe will have significant environmental and social benefits for a wide range of stakeholders.
Jon: How did you decide what issues to focus on in the strategy?
Sarah: In Spirax-Sarco Engineering we are engineers at heart, so we like to see the evidence and understand the science behind a process! Challenge Sustainability supported us by interviewing senior managers from across Spirax-Sarco Engineering’s businesses and key functions, as well as investors, suppliers, customers and other stakeholders. These discussions generated a clear picture of the most material issues for the new strategy to cover. In addition to this, we also considered how we can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, how we can engage our colleagues in sustainability, and how our strategy can help us to create value for multiple stakeholders, while also maintaining our focus on our responsible business foundations. Sustainability is a broad topic and we knew we needed to avoid spreading ourselves too thinly. With your support, and through a carefully planned process, we have now signed off a set of six new Strategic Initiatives, beneath which we have detailed targets, such as achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions (scopes 1 & 2) by 2030, deliver a 10% biodiversity net gain and establish a £5 million education fund, as well as detailed implementation plans.
Jon: The climate emergency is one of the biggest challenges we all face. Spirax-Sarco Engineering is a large, international business and so your commitment to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2030 will require significant action. What are your thoughts on the scale of this challenge?
Sarah: We know that to deliver on all our ambitious targets, not least on climate change, we are going to have to do some things differently. That means investing and ensuring that sustainability is at the heart of all our decision making. It will be a challenge to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from our direct operations by 2030. However, we believe that with sufficient focus this is an achievable target and one that it is right for us to set. The strength of this strategy lies in the way it is integrated with our everyday business management processes. There is a lot of ambition and energy in our teams across the business to achieve these targets. Climate change is one of the defining issues of our times, and we have to act now.
Jon: While environmental challenges are a key focus of the strategy, you have also committed to improving wellbeing in your local communities. Can you tell me more about this?
Sarah: We are deeply embedded in our local communities and we believe we have a responsibility to improve the socio-economic and environmental conditions in those communities where we can. We have established a number of targets and commitments through the strategy to help us do this. We will be establishing a £5 million education fund, in addition to existing charitable donations, as we believe that education can have a transformative impact on people’s lives and to improve social equality. In addition, we’re rallying our 8,000 colleagues around the world to complete at least 150,000 hours of local community volunteering, by 2025. I am confident that our colleagues’ efforts, individually and collectively, will make a significant difference to the people living in our communities.
Jon: Two key elements of the strategy relate to your value chain – the opportunities that Spirax-Sarco Engineering has from quantifying the sustainability benefits of products and services, and addressing impacts in the supply chain. Why are these important to you to include in the strategy?
Sarah: Our aim is to become a leader in industrial sustainability, helping to tackle some of the major environmental and social challenges that the world is facing today. These problems are global and complex, and no one organisation can tackle them on their own. That is why we are keen to work in partnership with our customers and suppliers, to maximise benefits and minimise impacts. We must continue to innovate our product and service offering, because it is through our customers that we can deliver our greatest environmental benefits and achieve our Company purpose of engineering a more efficient, safer and sustainable world. As a significant portion of our impacts occur outside of our own operations, in our supply chains. It is therefore critical that we work with our suppliers to ensure they are also operating responsibly and to the highest possible standards. Through the strategy, we will target those areas where we can have the greatest positive impacts and address shared challenges together with our suppliers and customers.
Jon: Congratulations on announcing your refreshed strategy, Sarah – these are exciting times and we hope it will assist Spirax-Sarco Engineering in continuing to achieve sustainable growth moving forwards.
Challenge Sustainability Limited provides consultancy services to international companies on sustainability strategy, reporting and communications. We aim to work seamlessly with our customers, to provide the highest added value and insight through long term relationships. Challenge Sustainability have partnered with Climate Action Platform group One Tribe to help make a difference to the planet.