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Bringing Biodiversity and Business Together

Q&A with Amanda Williams, Head of Sustainability (Steam Specialties)

25/10/2022

There’s no doubting the urgency gathering pace to tackle climate change. The signs are so stark, the science so certain, and the determination to act so definite, there is cautious optimism that a breakthrough is possible.

But progress on biodiversity has lagged behind, with a recent World Economic Forum article noting that the “absence of an urgent response from global leaders to the crisis has taken the loss of the world’s biodiversity to a crisis point.”

Whilst it may have been postponed four times, this December the long-awaited COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference will take place in Montreal. Just a month after the COP27 event focusing on climate change, it should put protecting the Earth’s ecosystems firmly on the map. In the meantime, some businesses are already taking strong nature-positive action and putting biodiversity at the forefront of their sustainability strategy and action plans.

Since the end of 2020, Amanda Williams has guided our focus on all aspects of sustainability in her role as Head of Sustainability (Steam Specialities). Amanda is a member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and became a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) in 2018.

Bringing over 18 years of experience with her, Amanda is also the Strategic Initiative Lead for the Group Biodiversity initiative and Strategic Project Lead for the Group Developing Sustainability Knowledge project.

Q: The Group’s One Planet: Engineering with Purpose strategy includes a strategic initiative which aims to protect and restore biodiversity. Can you tell us a little more about the main objectives of this initiative?

A: The Biodiversity Initiative is one of six strategic initiatives in our One Planet strategy. The others address net zero emissions, environmental improvements in our operations, sustainable products, supply chain sustainability, and community engagement.

We are committed to protecting and restoring nature and in 2020, we commissioned an assessment of the biodiversity issues and opportunities in our direct operations which enabled us to set the following targets for the initiative. 

  • Protect an area of land equivalent to (at least) the footprint of our global operations every year for five years
  • Deliver a biodiversity net gain of +10% for all new manufacturing sites and facilities 
  • Deliver at least one biodiversity improvement per Group Operating Company by 2025

We are also currently carrying out some work to understand the biodiversity aspects and dependencies within the Group’s supply chain, which will allow us to set further targets.

Q: The Group’s One Planet: Engineering with Purpose strategy has set what seems to be an ambitious goal to protect an area of land equivalent to five times the global operational footprint of the business by 2025.

What was the driver for this particular objective?

A: We identified that the most significant impact of our direct operations on nature is the land our business occupies. Therefore, in partnership with the World Land Trust (WLT), Spirax-Sarco Engineering is funding the purchase of 2,585 acres of previously unprotected habitat in Argentinian Patagonia to help establish the first-ever protected area on the Somuncurá Plateau. Protecting this predominately shrub-land habitat is of urgent importance to protect a host of endemic and persecuted species currently threatened on the degraded Plateau.

Habitat loss is the single greatest threat to wildlife worldwide so we felt it would make an extremely powerful statement if Spirax-Sarco Engineering gave back to nature five times the footprint it occupies with its direct operations. By working with WLT, we have taken ‘nature positive’ action to address the land take associated with our operations. This action is in line with the ambitions of the draft ‘Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’ which indicates that between 30% and 50% of the land and sea area of the world should be protected for the benefit of nature.

As the operational footprint of our business grows we will increase the area of land we help to protect.

Q: One area where there seems to be really positive action for biodiversity is with the many local projects initiated by operating companies around the globe. It seems that it’s an issue that’s ignited strong feelings amongst Spirax Sarco people.

Has the response so far surprised you, and how are you supporting these projects?

A: I have been overwhelmed by the positive response. A key benefit of this initiative has been that it has been a fantastic opportunity to engage colleagues around the world in sustainability, and more specifically in protecting and restoring biodiversity. Since the One Planet strategy launched in June 2021, the Group has seen a high level of engagement from its teams, with a wide range of biodiversity improvement projects delivered either on-site or in partnership with wildlife organisations in their local communities. A total of 80 biodiversity initiatives have been delivered by Group Operating Companies to date and this number is growing all the time.

These projects have included the design and development of a rooftop garden, installation of wildflower meadows, development and restoration of ponds and other wetland features, provision or insect hotels, bird boxes and other forms of shelter, beekeeping projects, providing support for reforestation initiatives, invasive species removal in the local community, habitat restoration projects, lots of tree planting and much more.

We have provided detailed guidance for delivering these projects to ensure they are suitable for the local context and make meaningful improvements, we developed a portal for reporting projects, and we provide advice and support as required, even getting involved with volunteering at some of them (which is probably the best part of my job)!

Q: With biodiversity such an important, and large topic, are there any other areas you hope to see Spirax Sarco engaging with in the future?

A: The next steps for this initiative involve focusing in on our supply chain. We are currently working with an external consultancy called Nature Positive to develop a supply chain hotspot analysis to examine biodiversity impacts and dependencies. The supply chain is often where the greatest impacts on nature can be found so this is a really important area of work. The output from this exercise will enable us to set further targets to reduce any impacts and dependencies in the supply chain and develop ways to engage key suppliers on this important issue.     

Q: The news surrounding biodiversity and climate change rarely makes for happy reading. With your role focusing on these issues day in, day out, what gives you cause for optimism that we can turn things around?

A: The simple answer to this is the passion, enthusiasm and engagement of our teams around the world! It has been great to see the level of involvement and genuine interest in protecting and restoring nature. Our Operating Companies have been coming up with a wide range of local biodiversity improvement projects and these are making an immediate difference at a local level. I have always believed that we all inherently value nature to some degree, and this initiative has given our teams the opportunity to demonstrate that in a really tangible way.

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