Portico & Friends: Adopting sustainable procurement practices and final advice for your ESG journey

Earth Day Portico & Friends
22 April 2024

On Earth Day, we are delighted to share the insights from our recent Portico & Friends panel discussion, focussing on ESG strategy and the role FM and Guest Services play in its delivery. We were thrilled to have a panel of industry leaders sharing their knowledge, real world experiences and examples, leaving our guests with actionable insights to implement successful ESG strategies within their business and teams.

In our final blog, we take a look at the key takeaways from our Portico & Friends panel discussion with some final advice for your ESG journey.

Q: We can’t have a conversation in the conversation room about ESG without talking about supply chain and procurement. So, what role do we play in adopting sustainable procurement practices?

Annelie: Sustainable procurement is two simple words but a massive topic, but it’s so crucial. Being a food and service provider, I would say 80-85% of our corporate carbon footprint comes from the goods and services we buy. So, it is critical for us to be mindful about the suppliers we use and select. For an example, if you think about the breakfast we had this morning, there was bacon from a Lake District Farm, where they’ve got more of a regional approach. Even though we do use meat, we have made sure that meat is sourced with low impact on the environment.

For Portico, a significant area for us to work on, identified through our data, is the impact of uniforms, where we now have quite ambitious targets. We know that we have a lot of used uniforms, so we are working closely with charities who reuse and repurpose the clothes to support people with proper clothing for job interviews, ensuring they can feel confident and comfortable in taking steps to build their future in employment. So, a great example of how the supply chain is very important.

Q: Let’s talk about the role guest services play in creating communities in workplace. Tell us about Portico Pulse – an online platform for Portico clients, offering a range of carefully curated events and experiences to help clients sustainably source local and social enterprises from across the country…

Denise: Yes, Portico Pulse also gives the opportunity for our clients and our people to educate on sustainability. With various options of things around uniformed service, food and flowers, which is a big one for Portico, I think it’s a great platform to educate and provide opportunity for clients and people. An ever-evolving initiative.

Q: Can you give one piece of advice for today’s delegates on their ESG journey?

Melanie: I think Duncan had a really important point of saying ‘I’m not social enterprise’, which is great because a lot of social enterprises don’t tend to have very good impact outcomes. One of the key findings of my research is that they have lower success rates with their impact and they struggle financially – hence the title ‘Lead Like a Genius’.

Those that do the best both in terms of impact and commercial outcomes, have managed to do both things in one; combining commercial value with their impact, their purpose, their mission. I have an example on inclusion and opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds from someone who works with mothers who have been out of work in Scotland, by training and coaching them for employment. Like a lot of these organisations, this one is funded and I asked why are you not charging companies, because you’re essentially a recruitment business for these mothers. Surely they can pay you a fee? And she said, “no, we’re government funded and they didn’t want that model”.

Often, that lack of focus on value means that women are not matched so well, and they’re not really creating value. Which in turn means they don’t stay at a job for long, or don’t progress very well, which doesn’t really serve anybody.

Secondly, ask the question “are you excited by this?”. Have at least one thing in your sustainability strategy that really excites you and the people in your organisation. For example, I was at a conference and the Sustainability Manager of Interface was saying how proud everyone in the company is of an initiative they did two decades ago. Working with their supplier and the Zoological Society in London, they collected discarded fishing nets in the Philippines and Cameroon, serving to massively reduce their emissions by using recycled nylon and lessening their polluting, all whilst having a huge impact on those communities with economic opportunities.

I would always encourage companies to pick one area that you already focus on and can make a lot more of, that excites you and other employees, but also excites customers and all the stakeholders around you. That’s when it becomes a competitive advantage.

Duncan: The first piece of advice sounds a bit cliche, but just get started. We’ve definitely learned that doing something is better than doing nothing. By doing something, you might find that you start a movement inside your business and that’s where the magic happens – do something because it’s better than nothing.

The second thing is to link that very closely to your mission and purpose as a business. Don’t just think about the financial goals. I think there’s more power in asking how to link it to the mission of the business. How can you make it so central to the core that you can’t strip it out again.

Denise: Similarly to what Duncan said, don’t just look at the look at the financials, but look at the targets around retention of your people from an inclusivity perspective. ESG is not going away, it’s going to get bigger and it’s going to evolve. So read and ask the questions. We’re not expecting everyone to be experts in certain fields, but ask the inquisitive questions and reach out to the experts.

Annelie: The key thing is about getting started. Then, start to measure the outcome and impact you’re having, because that is what will allow you to scale up. It’s in the scaling up where we need to have the systemic changes that we are talking about. Just get on with it!

You can find our ESG blog series here, to read more on the insights shared at Portico & Friends: Is ESG Your Second Nature?