Over the last five years we’ve seen sustainability change from a “nice to think about”, to a core part of how businesses work today.
Consumers, regulators, the Government and society are increasingly and understandably demanding more transparency, accountability and action from big businesses on environmental and social issues.
This pandemic gives us – sustainability professionals – an opportunity to pause and reflect on the capabilities and resources our companies have and how they can be used to create positive change for communities, people and the planet.
Brands provide an incredible platform for creating change, as well as developing innovative solutions and the ability to mobilise millions of people around the world – something that is needed now more than ever before.
Since the crisis began, everyone at Virgin Media has been working really hard to keep our customers connected, and we have been supporting our front-line NHS workers and ensured our employees have everything they need to do their job.
We’re proud to say that we have a strong track record of using our brand to make a positive and meaningful impact on people’s lives.
For the last five years our sustainability strategy has had a clear direction, with five long-term goals that have been aligned to our purpose and our values.
As part of this, we joined forces with the disability equality charity, Scope, to help transform the lives of disabled people.
It became clear from the outset of our partnership, that we could use our brand, connectivity and expertise to drive change in one key area: employment. Huge numbers of disabled people are unable to secure jobs because employers feel awkward about disability, or lack the information or tools to offer disabled people the right support, or sadly, it’s because they are discriminating.
As a result, we set up Support to Work, a digital employment service for disabled jobseekers, with the aim of supporting 1 million disabled people with the skills and confidence to get and stay in work by the end of 2020, and we’re pleased to announce we are on track to achieve this goal.
We’ve also put disability at the heart of our business, with our COO, Jeff Dodds, becoming the executive sponsor for inclusion, as well as implementing a range of measures, from dedicated disability training for our people, to a streamlined workplace adjustment programme – in order to become a better employer of disabled people.
Moreover, through the #WorkWithMe community, we are working with more than 100 big businesses to help them better support disabled people, too.
We have learnt a lot over the past five years, specifically the opportunity businesses have to make a positive change happen. We would never have thought that we would take disability – a topic which many people find awkward – mainstream, from a Premier League football match, to securing newspaper headlines and countless media interviews on the issue.
We have been bold, brave and ambitious and, at times, took risks so we could make a meaningful impact.
We are now setting our next five-year sustainability strategy, and looking at how we can use our connectivity to help communities across the UK – which is going to be crucial with the uncertainty of the months ahead.
We know that it’s vital that we have a strong vision and set clear goals so we can create an impact, as we have seen first-hand how transformational the outcomes can be for so many.
On their own, governments, local authorities, social services and charitable organisations simply do not have the capabilities and resources to solve today’s biggest social problems. That’s why we all have a responsibility to step up and play our part, so our companies can be a platform for creating positive change.
Katie Buchanan, Head of Sustainability at Virgin Media