Q&A with Amanda Williams, Head of Sustainability at Spirax Sarco

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Amanda Williams - Head of Sustainability, 10/03/2022



Steam is familiar in nature and part of life every day. Yet this extraordinary fluid is a high efficiency, mission-critical tool for diverse and important industries, and increasingly relevant as part of our sustainable future.

At Spirax Sarco we have our One Planet: Engineering with Purpose strategy which is our commitment to sustainability as well as a roadmap to building a more sustainable future. It guides our operations as we work with others, including our suppliers, customers and local communities, to leave a better world for tomorrow.

We interviewed Spirax Sarco’s Head of Sustainability (Steam Specialties), Amanda Williams – see how it went below.

Why did you choose to go into the field of sustainability?

I’ve been passionate about the natural environment since I was a child. I grew up on a small holding and spent much of my time in nature. My father’s interest in the natural environment was probably what sparked that first interest. But it developed further at secondary school, where a particularly inspiring geography teacher helped it grow. Planting the seeds that first developed into environmental activism and eventually a career choice.

It’s probably important to note that this wasn’t my first career. Despite that early interest in the natural environment I actually started my working life as a news journalist, working on local and regional newspapers. It became clear to me fairly quickly that this wasn’t a good career choice for me, although it did provide me with some great transferable skills that I use to this day. So I went back to my studies, reading geography and environment in the hope that I could find a job that I could be passionate about. A job that gave me a sense of purpose.

What does a typical day look like as Head of Sustainability at Spirax Sarco?

I lead on sustainability for the largest business within the Group and I’m responsible for developing, implementing and accelerating the Steam Specialties sustainability strategy and performance in line with our Group strategy. This involves being a member of the Steam Executive Committee, advocating for sustainability, aligning, embedding and communicating about our sustainability strategy, as well as developing business-level objectives, targets and reporting metrics, which will drive continuous improvement. There is a big engagement element to my role and I’m also both a project sponsor and a project leader for various initiatives and projects.

I am currently leading two really exciting projects – one of them is a strategic project to develop sustainability knowledge in the business and the other is a strategic initiative to deliver a biodiversity net gain. Protecting and restoring biodiversity is essential to a sustainable future and we have established a charitable partnership to fund the protection and restoration of an area of habitat equivalent to the total global operational footprint of our Group businesses every year for five years. That will be a total of 2,585 acres of land protected in perpetuity for the benefit of nature. This initiative also has plenty of potential to engage our colleagues in sustainability, because we are asking all of our Operating Companies to deliver a biodiversity initiative either on site or in their local community, so I’m personally really excited about that.

I’m not sure there is a typical day to be honest. The role is always varied and requires me to juggle multiple priorities. It might include attending leadership meetings to provide sustainability expertise or updates, presenting our strategy to colleagues around the world, representing a strategic initiative team at a steering committee, reviewing data to understand how we are performing against our Group targets, leading the development of training courses, growing the sustainability function, or contributing to national and international forums.

What are our sustainability targets as a group and how will we achieve them?

Our Group One Planet strategy outlines our commitment to climate and environmental action, customer sustainability, resilient supply chains, and community wellbeing. We will deliver this through six strategic initiations that address net zero emissions, biodiversity net gain, environmental improvements in our operations, sustainable products, supplier sustainability and community wellbeing. We have set ourselves some challenging targets across these areas, including targets to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 for scope 1 and 2 emissions, and to include scope 3 emissions by 2050; deliver a 10% biodiversity net gain; send zero waste to landfill; grow sales of products with quantified sustainability benefits; raise standards in our supply chain; and establish a £5 million education fund.

What are we doing to improve our internal sustainability as a company?

This is an important focus in our One Planet Strategy. As part of our roadmap to achieving net zero emissions we have a number of work streams including energy reduction, fossil fuel substitution, renewable energy contracts, transition to electric vehicles and reducing the impact of travel, low carbon culture, and data management. Our environmental improvements initiative is rolling out water and waste reduction action plans, reviewing the sustainability of our packaging, addressing the use of solvent based paints and ensuring that we maintain ISO 14001 certification at all of our manufacturing locations worldwide. We have brought new talent into the business to support this, including a number of Energy Engineers and Environmental Specialists.

What are green skills and why are they important?

We know that society needs to move towards a more sustainable approach to production and consumption and green skills are the knowledge, expertise, and abilities that we need to support a sustainable, resource-efficient society, and drive a green recovery. They are also the kind of skills that will be in increasing demand in the employment market in the future.

One of the projects I lead is a strategic project to develop sustainability knowledge in the business and this is something I am particularly passionate about. If we don’t develop sustainability knowledge and skills at all levels of our organisation, we are not only failing to provide our colleagues with the tools they need to deliver on our own sustainability objectives, but we would also be failing to prepare them for a global economy that will increasingly value sustainability expertise.

Where would you advise companies to start if they’re looking to begin their sustainability journey?

It depends on the nature of the business, including its size and scale, industry sector and where it is operating, but it is important to start by understanding what we mean by sustainability. I know that sounds obvious, but there are many people who are not entirely clear on this.

Consider the context of your business, for example are there particular issues where you operate and can you see opportunities to contribute towards a more sustainable future at a local or regional level, who are your key stakeholders and what issues are important to them, and what resources do you have available to address this.

Establish which of your impacts you can quantify, for example key environmental data points include energy, water, waste, travel and carbon emissions data and key social data points might include health and safety, diversity and inclusion, living wage and gender pay gap data.

Once you have a good understanding of the context of your organisation, the different sustainability risks and opportunities, and your significant environmental impacts, it should be possible to identify which issues are most relevant to you and where to focus your efforts. This is your materiality assessment. You may also wish to consider how your most material issues relate to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and what contribution you can make to their delivery.