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ESG – What does it mean for sustainability, Whitefox and the future?
Across various industries, businesses are putting more effort into ESG practices. Currently, over 90% of global firms have adopted ESG into their corporate strategy. Rapidly growing in both investor and consumer attention, ESG stands for ‘Environmental, Social, Governance’ and is used as an umbrella term for sustainable and responsible business practices. ESG considers the needs of, and ways to, generate value for all stakeholders of a company, whilst doing the same for people and the planet.
Whitefox’s General Counsel, Peter Tarn, reflects on the increase in conscious business practices and the rise of ESG that have occurred throughout his legal career, and how ESG is much more than the buzzword it has become.
The Road to ESG
When Peter began his career in the early 2000s, business initiatives and thoughts around ESG, especially societal aspects, were nothing like they are now. Business concerns around the environment rarely went beyond ensuring that the lights or computers were turned off at the end of each day, and even with this it was unclear whether those initiatives were just to cut costs or whether companies were actively considering the environment. Today’s picture is very different.
It was during his years living in Brazil, one of the world’s largest producers of hydroelectric energy and a pioneering user of biofuels, that Peter was able to view first-hand the effectiveness of some practical alternatives to the traditional fuel methods present in much of the world. For example, filling up a car with 100% ethanol is a standard option in Brazil and has been for many years, despite the reluctance of some countries to fully embrace this greener alternative.
Remarking on that experience and on moving from private practice to an in house role as part of this return to the UK, Peter commented, “I had that nagging feeling about trying to have as positive an impact as possible, and then I came across Whitefox.”
The Whitefox Blueprint
Peter joined Whitefox in 2019, enticed by the organisation’s vision to ‘produce more, waste less’ and its use of the Whitefox Blueprint – an underlying approach to the business, how it interacts with others and its foundational purpose – to reduce energy and water waste in industrial processes.
By following the Blueprint, Whitefox strives to be a guardian for future generations through reducing energy and emissions, cutting water consumption, educating stakeholders on energy efficiency, and honouring its duty to protect the natural world. A key element of this is societal and Whitefox acts as, and employs, good citizens while also considering the impact of its decisions on the wider community.
ESG – Beyond a Tick Box
Fortunately, thanks to the Blueprint, the heightened pressure on businesses to incorporate ESG principles into their operations has not been as much of a strain for Whitefox as it would be for organisations with less of a positive purpose. However, given the importance of the topic and concerns around greenwashing, when communicating ESG narratives, clarity and authenticity are fundamental.
Last year, Peter led Whitefox in undertaking a baseline assessment of its impact across both a global and local scale using a publicly available and widely recognised framework. There are many different frameworks that organisations can utilise to measure the effectiveness of their practices. As ESG considerations and requirements differ significantly between businesses and industries, so do the available frameworks. It is fundamental for organisations to consider what their key drivers are, and what’s important, given their philosophy and the purpose of their organisation.
Refining sustainability strategies with this in mind strongly supports translating conscious narratives. Peter emphasised here that Whitefox found it extremely helpful to hold open conversations with consultants and like-minded people and to consider the ESG strategies of other organisations. Through these conversations and the use of a market-tested framework, the business was able to question its own practices and identify gaps.
“For us, the aim is similar to building a house, brick by brick, starting from solid foundations and then working on specific sections of the structure before eventually moving on to the decorations and regular maintenance.” Over the next twelve months and beyond, Whitefox aims to adopt an integrated, cross-functional approach to ESG improvements, focusing on specific aspects of the business to make continued improvements across the organisation rather than setting up a discrete project run by a separate function of the business.
The goal is to drive constant, meaningful change in both behaviour and attitude. When asked to consider any key learnings so far, Peter noted that it’s fundamental to have this movement led from the top down in order to collaboratively drive true cultural change within the organisation. Creating a personalised strategy to implement these processes should allow for a more cohesive workforce to support a seamlessly conscious integration of improved ESG principles.
The environment was always our starting point
As for ‘environment’ in ESG, Whitefox has an inherent advantage given that its products are built on resource conservation for its customers. Ever since Dr. Stephan Blum began developing the first generation of Whitefox technology, profit has never been Whitefox’s sole business purpose. So, now that Whitefox is enabling many customers to improve their impact, why stop there?
This is the natural starting point for Whitefox’s future ESG commitments. As Peter commented, “We know our products achieve great things. We can reduce carbon emissions, conserve water, and ultimately, produce more from less. In addition to that, from our supply chain to our offices and within our labs, we are also striving to improve our internal environmental aspects.”
To achieve this, Whitefox will utilise a measurable approach to various aspects of the business, enabling higher quality data to be collected in the future and ensuring as far as possible a continually positive environmental impact. The organisation also plans to adopt a collaborative approach with suppliers, partners and customers where possible to drive and contribute to systematic change across the board.
Driving a conscious society
The societal element of ESG is arguably where the biggest shifts have occurred in recent years. Whitefox is extremely proud to have a hugely diverse mix of people, nationalities and backgrounds. As Peter remarked, “I’ve never worked anywhere that’s nearly as diverse. The collaboration of ideas and people within Whitefox, with such a rich accumulation of diversity in both experience and perspectives, is vital to us and our philosophy to continue to grow in the right direction.”
To support the societal element of internal ESG strategy building, the HR function is key. Due to Whitefox’s purpose and values, inspiring and empowering conscious employees comes naturally – everybody in the business is very clear about the organisation’s aims and supports them – however, with a growing business and consequently an increasing headcount, recruitment processes become fundamental. Onboarding younger generations is also seen as an extremely valuable part of Whitefox’s growth as their voices are essential in identifying future needs and they can provide an authentic, integral part of the business’s identity and voice.
Whitefox has recently looked to strengthen in this area by hiring a new Head of People and Culture and is thrilled to have Samuel Cushing join the team. Samuel will be tackling a broader role than a traditional HR manager, looking to blend the different cultures together and utilise the benefits of this to further enhance the Whitefox culture.
Governance is a growing goal
“Although it may not be the most exciting part for many under ESG, governance is a vital aspect and we have made huge strides on governance within the last four years I’ve been here,” Peter explains. With a robust structure and strong processes in place, Whitefox has been commended for its effective governance. The organisation is now looking to enhance this area too and is actively looking to recruit a Chair for the Board who will enthusiastically support the importance of having a positive impact.
The future for Whitefox’s ESG strategy
What does the future hold for ESG at Whitefox? Peter responded, “At Whitefox, we aid our customers on a path to Net Zero. But further to this, our aim is to be Net Positive. I think a lot of people at Whitefox are proud of the fact that they work for us – because of who we are, and what we’ve achieved so far. If we can add to that, all the better.”
Read all about Whitefox’s journey, plan, and motivations on its website.
About Whitefox Technologies Limited
Whitefox Technologies, with 22 years of industrial experience, is a leading solutions provider for fuel ethanol and other alcohol production processes. Specializing in technology development and process integration based on proprietary membrane solutions, its efficient designs reduce energy and water consumption in fuel ethanol and other renewable fuel and chemical production processes. Whitefox provides solutions for alcohol producers in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and South America.
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