A Special Report is content that is edited and produced by the Special Reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report, but who do not have editorial control.

Sustainability revolution: Best practices and support

Business in the Community Ireland offers advice on driving sustainability nationwide

Businesses need to put their corporate social responsibility  and sustainability policies at the centre of everything they do.

Businesses need to put their corporate social responsibility and sustainability policies at the centre of everything they do.

 

Business in the Community Ireland (BITC) are the leading advisers on sustainability in the country. For over 20 years, their team of experts have advised the largest companies in Ireland on all aspects of sustainable business. Their purpose is to inspire and enable businesses to bring about a sustainable, low-carbon economy and a more inclusive society where everyone thrives.

“We provide access to best practice and support businesses with practical management and monitoring systems. By facilitating forums for reflection and action, we ensure that businesses anticipate and are ready to meet the current, pressing challenges of climate change, the pipeline of talent as well as the issues of social inclusion, diversity and accountability,” says Tomás Sercovich, chief executive of Business in the Community Ireland.

Founded in 2000, they have been at the forefront of driving the sustainability agenda in Ireland and offering advice in four distinct areas; sustainability strategy and governance; corporate volunteering and community engagement; diversity and inclusion; and low carbon and environmental management.

They also run the Business Working Responsibly Mark, the leading independently audited standard for CSR and sustainability certification in Ireland. The Mark is audited by the NSAI and based on ISO26000. It is open to both members and non-members of Business in the Community Ireland.

As the only business network for sustainability in the country, they work with large indigenous and multinational companies and members include AIB, An Post, ESB, IBM, Intel, J&J, Keelings, Heineken, Musgrave, PwC, Vodafone and William Fry.

Core focus

Sercovich says businesses need to put their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability policies at the centre of everything they do.

“We use CSR and sustainability interchangeably. Quite simply, we believe businesses can only be sustainable on a healthy planet and in a fair society. Business can be a powerful agent for change and increasingly investors, employees, customers and communities are demanding that business takes the lead on issues such as climate change and diversity and inclusion.

“For a company to take sustainability seriously, it can never be an add-on, it must be at the core of what you do. We know that businesses with strong sustainability credentials are outperforming their counterparts on profitability, talent retention and attraction of investment. Legislation at EU level on non-financial reporting will also drive the demand for more companies to be transparent on issues such as carbon emissions and supply chains. This has finally moved from a ‘nice to have’ exercise to a business imperative as companies will be left behind if they don’t look at how they are integrating sustainability into their business and have solid governance and reporting in place,” he says.

Collective actions

BITC works with its members in two ways: by providing one-to-one advice and working collaboratively. “Our members come together to collectively address issues so we run peer-group sessions on issues around ESG, non-financial reporting, circular economy, human rights, virtual volunteering, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, biodiversity, communicating sustainability and much more. We also create collective actions as no one company on its own can address climate change or inequality. For example, in March, we launched the Low Carbon Pledge where our member companies committed to setting targets based on science by 2024.

“This has been the busiest year we have faced in our 21-year history. Companies are joining as members and they are at various stages of their sustainability journey. To celebrate 21 years, we are planning a big virtual series of events in October entitled ‘The Sustainability Revolution’ as we believe there is much more to be done to truly embed sustainability at the heart of businesses in Ireland.”