As former Downing Street press chief Alastair Campbell pointed out to a packed auditorium at the recent British Frozen Food Federation conference in Leicestershire, recent decades have seen an interesting infusion of public sector values and beliefs into the corporate sector.
Consumers now expect commercial organisations to operate with a holistic moral compass which should embrace corporate, social and environmental issues. As a result these issues have steadily moved up the corporate agenda, driving a more structured approach to setting objectives and monitoring company achievements.
As a leading foodservice company Brakes Group has fully embraced these changing attitudes of our customers and consumers. For over a decade Brakes has championed a number of community, nutrition, sourcing and environmental projects. The companys impressive track record has won it many accolades and in 2008 Brakes attained ISO14001 accreditation.
But Brakes has been ambitious to go further. So, at the beginning of 2011, following a wide-ranging business review, Brakes officially launched its impressive new Corporate, Social and Environmental Responsibility (CSER) framework called Protecting Tomorrow Today.
The new framework focuses on five strategic drivers or pillars to ensure the programme makes a real and sustainable difference, says James Armitage marketing director of Brakes Group.
Our CSER strategy is now an intrinsic part of our overall business strategy. Within each pillar, the company has made a series of ambitious commitments.
But getting to this point has not been easy, and Mr Armitage believes other organisations looking to develop a strong CSER programme need to go into it with their eyes open.
Its not just a case of creating a wish-list of green initiatives or community activities, says Mr Armitage. Developing a CSER framework requires a lot of work to establish your organisations current performance and where you want to get to. This requires a lot of openness between departments and managers and a strong strategic vision to get everyone moving in the same direction.
After that the hard work really begins and this requires everyone in the business to start making a contribution to achieving the organisations CSER objectives, through a vast range of initiatives.
He adds: A lot of organisations are tempted to set objectives which they can achieve relatively easily, or believe they have to make progress on all fronts at the same time this is simply not possible.
Brakes CSER pillars have a number of stretching commitments and targets, which are pertinent to all areas of foodservice and include the environment, responsible sourcing, health & nutrition, community, and our people.
Brakes new commitments are impressive. They are all specific and measurable such as commitments to:
Reduce Brakes Group Scope 1 & 2 CO2 eq. emissions by 25% against 2006 base year by the end of 2013. (indexed to £ turnover.)
Increase products sourced in Britain by the Brakes Group own brand to 1,000 by the end of 2012
Support the Lets Get Cooking Campaign. By 2013 Brakes Group will have volunteered the equivalent of 3,000 voluntary hours to schools that run Lets Get Cooking Clubs.
Mr Armitage explains: At Brakes we have set out our commitments on the CSER section of our Group website http://www.brakesgroup. com/cser/default.aspx and created a simple icon to show how we are progressing against each target. With some we are well on the way, with others we have a lot of work to do. But this is the nature of CSER, the programme is never finished because new challenges will always arise or new technology and working practices will mean your organisation can achieve more.
We feel it is very important that progress on our commitments can be measured as this encourages us to stretch ourselves but more importantly enables us to report accurately on achievements to our customers and stakeholders.
To help ensure that the reporting is independent Brakes is working with Business in the Community, the business-led charity that advises, supports and challenges its members to create a sustainable future for people and the planet whilst improving business performance. Brakes has also joined the London
Benchmarking Group and has committed to measure its social impact, in order to evidence benefits at all levels.
Mr Armitage says: We are not the first to do this and we have benefited from the experience of those organisations that have gone before us. As a result we have been able to develop what we believe is one of the most complete CSER frameworks in foodservice. Our five pillar strategy is an open, honest and measurable approach to CSER and allows us to be responsive to customer and consumer concerns.
He concludes: Our experience has been that to create a meaningful programme organisations need honesty, strategic vision, clear measurable targets and engagement from the depot floor to the boardroom.