Earth Day 2021: Sustainability is a financial imperative
To coincide with Earth Day 2021, we spoke to Brad Blundell, UK Managing Director of Palatine portfolio business Anthesis, about how Carbon Literacy training is arming the wider Palatine portfolio with new insights and tools to operate more sustainably.
Palatine has become the first UK private equity house to put its entire portfolio through Carbon Literacy training. Established by the Manchester-headquartered Carbon Literacy Project, the training provides organisations with an awareness of the climate related costs and impacts of their activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Anthesis is the largest group of dedicated sustainability professionals globally. It became part of the Palatine portfolio in 2021 and is one of the Carbon Literacy Project’s accredited delivery partners.
Brad, what’s Carbon Literacy all about and why is it important?
“Carbon Literacy means being fully-aware of the impact of your business’ activities on the climate and vice versa, and knowing what steps can be taken to reduce emissions as an organisation. The training we’re undertaking with the Palatine portfolio is about supporting the C-Suite to understand the science and, crucially, the business importance behind a transition to a sustainable future by empowering them with the knowledge and tools to make impactful change.
“The Carbon Literacy Project has grown out of its origins in Manchester to become a globally recognised way of encouraging direct action. Research has shown that typical carbon savings of between 5-15% can be achieved for each person who becomes Carbon Literate.
“We’ve entered the decisive decade – with ten years to effect meaningful change to address the climate crisis. The more forward-looking organisations like Palatine who recognise the value of becoming Carbon Literate, the more positive change we can collectively effect.”
You mentioned the business importance of addressing sustainability, what do you mean by that?
“It’s about recognising the financial imperative around sustainability, not just a business’ responsibilities as a good corporate citizen.
“I’ve been an environmental and sustainability consultant for 30 years s and as an industry we probably spent the first 15 to 20 of those looking at impact of business, on the environment. We’ve now flipped that entirely to focus on the market opportunities and profit motive that a transition to a net zero future can deliver, recognising that the environment (if we continue to mis-manage it) can significantly erode business resilience. How businesses successfully navigate the decisive decade and find growth opportunities through sustainability will be key to financial success.
“That growth can come from the many opportunities presented by the green economy and clean tech but also through a recognition that new generations of consumers are much more switched on to these issues and are choice editing what they will consume and which businesses they deal with as a result.”
Palatine’s portfolio is broad and covers a range of sectors. How have you approached the training with this in mind?
“We’re training over 80 individuals from 25-plus organisations – that’s an exciting diversity of businesses. And because of the importance that Palatine places on ESG performance across its portfolio, it’s also an audience that’s already bought into the need to continue to drive sustainability across operations.
“To ensure the sessions are as engaging as possible we’re delivering separate full training days aligned to six industry groups: financial services, skills & training, business services, tech, leisure and healthcare. Our team have curated case studies and workshops which are directly relevant to the markets and supply chain environments the portfolio is embedded in.
“We’re also dealing with a group of senior leaders, so that also shapes the focus of the workshops. The conversation will cover a range of topics – from how HR teams can encourage culture change and align continuous professional development (CPD) to sustainability, to the impact of climate change on procurement practices. Ultimately it’s about resilience and how these businesses can strengthen their position in their markets.”
What will the outcome of the training be?
“The portfolio will come away with more of an appreciation of the material risks, impacts and opportunities climate change presents, and the tools to create an action plan to move forward. It’s not about doomsday planning, rather identifying the commercial opportunities they can realise through positive action.
“It’s also about supporting Palatine’s commitment to continuous improvement in its approach to targeting and evaluating ESG performance and delivering positive outcomes. The training will give the Palatine team valuable food for thought on what that good looks like for each portfolio company and the active role they can play in progressing the action plans that are developed as a result.”
The conversation around ESG in financial decision making has been amplified over the last few years, why do you think this is?
“Over the last 12 to 18 months ESG has sky rocketed in importance in the financial sector. In particular being able to demonstrate robust ESG performance metrics is becoming really important to investors. The COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in highlighting the importance of resilience and at its core that’s what ESG is about – a thorough evaluation of a business’ performance in these areas, it therefore shines a light on where resilience lies and where it needs to be shored up.
“The fact that Palatine has been measuring ESG impact for a decade and was an early mover in impact investing, was a key part of the decision-making process around Anthesis joining the portfolio. Becoming the first PE house to train its full portfolio to be Carbon Literate is another example of that commitment, which is exciting to be part of.
“There’s also a pleasing symmetry to be working with a Manchester-headquartered business in the city where the Carbon Literacy Project was born”.