Environmental and social responsibility Print

Bird's Eye overview

Like any other human activity, doing business has its impact on our physical and social environment. Social Responsibility (SR) is a relatively new concept that evolved out of concerns of consumers and companies to minimize such impacts to a lowest possible level. In principle SR covers both environmental and social concerns. Environmental concerns have a much longer history and are commonly addressed through Environmental Management Systems (EMS). The International Standards Organization (ISO) has defined a detailed set of criteria and procedures for the implementation of EMS (ISO14001). The ISO14001 standard is relatively complex and demands a commitment on the part of certified companies to constantly improve their performance over time. This reflects the evolution of international environmental legislation which is becoming more demanding in the light of the ever increasing threats to our environment and our dwingling natural resources. Also consumers are increasingly aware of environmental issues and are more critically selecting products that are less harmful to the environment. ISO14001 requires regular audits by a competent certification agent. Altogether ISO14001 is a big burden for companies, both in terms of time investment as well in terms of costs. Social issues are not fully incorporated in ISO14001 but they will be covered under a separate ISO norm (ISO26000), which will be published in the near future.


One Planet Living

One Planet Living (OPL) is proposed as a less onerous and more pragmatic roadmap to help organisations to reduce their environmental and social footprint. OPL was developed by Bioregional and WWF and is a relatively new and rapidly evolving concept based on 10 principles of sustainability:


1 Zero Carbon Eliminating CO2 emissions  from heating, cooling and other electric equipment
2 Zero Waste Minimising waste and flows of waste to landfill in pursuit of resource-efficiency
3 Sustainable Transport Reducing the need to travel and providing realistic alternatives to private transport
4 Local and Sustainable Materials Optimisation of use of materials in terms of their source and their performance
5 Local and Sustainable Food Maximisation of opportunities for use of local food supplies
6 Sustainable Water Minimisation of water consumption and addressing flood risk issues

7 Natural Habitats and Wildlife

Protection of the natural environment and the habitats it offers to flora and fauna

8 Culture and Heritage Protection of the cultural heritage and the sense of local and regional identity
9 Equity and Fair Trade Promoting employment, equity and fair trade within the community
10 Health and Happiness Promoting well-being and healthy lifestyles


Initially the OPL concept was implemented for the development of low footprint residential areas (OPL living communities) such as BedZET (Beddington Zero Energy Development) in London. However it was soon realized that the 10 OPL principles are universal and could be applied for a wide range of footprint applications. It can be used at micro level to help individuals to measure their personal footprint (One Planet Livestyle) and it also can be upscaled to manage offices (One Planet Office ) or even corporates (One Planet Business). Although this work is still experimental there are criteria under development to propose for all of these levels.


What are the benefits of engaging in an OPL project?


Modular implementation.

A typical OPL project begins with a definition of the scale and scope. Modules can be added over time in accordance with ambitions and desires of the client.


Use of internal resources.

The OPL project will propose outside expertise only if internal expertise is lacking. OPL does not require a large suite of external consultants.


Bottom up approach

Many solutions can be found within the company itself. The OPL process will help your company to unlease the creativity and inventiveness of your staff.


Reduced overheads

There is a promise of significant reductions in resource use at your company. This advantage is not unique to OPL but is still an important consideration.


Corporate culture change

As solutions will be mostly proposed by your own staff, the company will have little resistance to change, as the solutions are owned by the staff itself


Increased staff identification

As the staff is involved in the journey towards a socially and environmentaly responsible company, staff identification with your values will increase.


Increased staff productivity

Again, this may not be specific to OPL but there is a promise of increased productivity because of improved staff welfare and less absenteeism.


Increased brand value

As your company engaged itself in a transformational process towards sustainability, your brand will be viewed as a responsible business actor


How do you implement an OPL project?

Every company is different and there is no single template that will be fit for every situation. However there are three generic phases that could illustrate how an OPL project would be implemented over a period of 3 - 5 years:


Assessment phase

  1. Obtain senior management support and broadcast this to all company staff
  2. Consult with senior managers on the scope and ambitions of the project
  3. Help the company to define a (general) environmental policy, based on 2.
  4. Get endorsement & support from executive committee

Gap analysis phase

  1. Set up multidisciplinary cross-departmental working groups within the company
  2. When necessary add outside resource people to these working groups
  3. Each group is to make a gap analysis of one or more OPL themes (e.g. carbon)
  4. Prioritize the interventions of all the gap analysis
  5. Prepare budgets and time lines for all of the interventions
  6. Get endorsement & support from executive committee of the company

Implementation phase

  1. Integrate priority interventions and time lines in work plans & budgets
  2. Monitor progress throughout implementation
  3. Get the executive committee to resolve problems and obstacles
  4. Celebrate successes

How can BICGS help implementing an OPL project?

A detailed budget for your company can be established after preliminary discussions between you and one of the BICGS associates. However, to inform yourself beforehand on a range of available options, we would be happy to provide you with a catalogue with pricing of our service portfolio for Environmental and Social Responsibility. Contact us.