Looking Through an ESG Lens
While developing its FY21-FY25 strategic plan, Ovivo decided to raise environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues to another level by fully recognising ESG as part of its strategic plan. Gwen Klees is now spearheading this objective, adding ESG to her role of Senior Vice President, Business Support. Gwen is passionate when speaking about her new role: ‘’When we decided to focus on ESG as an objective, we wanted to ensure that Ovivo remained transparent about its corporate social responsibilities and that we take the right steps, while maintaining a good balance’’.
Hence the key word: balance. Companies need to focus on profits and growth for future generations. But there’s also another piece to consider: the ESG perspective. As Ovivo plays an important role in helping to protect water, environmental issues have invariably been a part of our corporate social responsibility. Governance has also been a key element of our core foundation, based on our history as a public company with a global presence. And these are reflected in our corporate values, which include integrity and high ethical standards.
For Gwen, this balance has always been a part of who she is, viewing her work, whenever possible, through an ESG lens. She hopes to create more of a focus and heighten the interest in ESG within Ovivo. And based on a recent survey, she has the ongoing support of a large number of employees.
‘’We want ESG to become more and more part of our daily thoughts and discussions, in addition to being part of our mission and strategic plan.’’
Ovivo’s employees are passionate about protecting water. This is because Ovivo’s mission is to provide sustainable and efficient water treatment solutions to help clients address their water challenges while becoming more sustainable. But other key issues have also been addressed, such as the general well-being of employees, hiring and retaining more women in the workplace, designing products with smaller footprints or using less energy and water, etc. These are just a few examples of initiatives that have been a part of Ovivo for many years.
Creating Awareness Among Our Employees
In the fall of 2021, Ovivo launched an ESG Challenge inviting their worldwide offices to implement new environmental practices in their workplace. A prize was awarded, which included a donation to a local non-profit organisation, for the location which achieved the highest number of efficient environmental initiatives. Local actions were shared with employees to encourage taking on these practices.
‘’The only way we can get change in an organisation is when employees believe that change can happen. If they don’t believe it and they don’t understand it from their position, it just won’t happen. Employees also need to feel empowered. And that’s when they will begin to look at their work through an ESG lens when travelling to the office, designing equipment or choosing materials required by a customer, reducing their plastic consumption, etc. Once you’ve laid that foundation, in terms of making sure that people are at least conscious of ESG issues and feel that they can make a difference, then I think things will move forward faster’’.
Gwen’s goal is to set Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets in the near future while considering many variables, such as company acquisitions. It’s not a simple task as you need to measure by creating the proper infrastructure to track and then implement changes. To create awareness, a survey has gone out to all employees inquiring about their commute to the office and Ovivo is also tracking its GHG emissions quarterly. Commuting to the office is a small portion of GHG emissions but the company believes that if they don’t consider every little piece that they have control over, they’ll never get to the bigger ones.
‘’We realise that our biggest impact on GHG emissions will not be our worldwide offices, our business travels, or our employees commute into the office. Our biggest impact is going to be through purchasing and producing equipment for our customers which has reduced GHG emission. In the long term, that’s really where we can make a big difference, in addition to focusing on protecting water through innovative equipment and solutions.’’
The Building Blocks of ESG
Ovivo started many initiatives since implementing its’ strategic plan last year. Yet these are just the tip of the iceberg. Gwen’s plan is to focus on a few strategic objectives while promoting smaller initiatives which, like little drops of water, will come together to make a difference.
Although she is responsible for leading Ovivo’s ESG initiatives, Gwen knows that it’s not just one person that takes ownership for ESG in a company. It’s every employee that says:
– I can make a difference
– I can innovate in a more sustainable way
– I can contribute to a local foundation, by either donating or giving time
And just by creating that focus, Ovivo will be in a much better position for long-term sustainable changes.
‘’We have an obligation to progress on ESG initiatives while keeping the right balance for our employees, our customers and other stakeholders to ensure sustainable growth. We made this decision not because ESG is the new thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do.’’