New adventures in sustainable development for the financial company Fidelity

For Fidelity International, the importance of sustainability cannot be ignored. The climate crisis is one of the toughest challenges facing today’s generation and all businesses have a role to play.

This year, Fidelity set a goal of zeroing operational carbon emissions company-wide by 2030, 20 years ahead of the 2050 goal that most countries and many companies are aiming for. are set, along with a series of other sustainability goals.

While the easiest approach when setting a goal is to do the minimum required. It was not enough for Fidelity. She feels it is right that she does even more than she asks of the companies in which she invests.

Lead by example

Ben Clifford is the company’s Global Associate Director of Health, Safety and Sustainability and relishes the challenge of leading the company into a brave new era of environmental responsibility. He’s a man with a wealth of sustainability experience across many industries, but the reconfiguration of the financial landscape has been his biggest test yet.

“My role focuses on our business operations,” he explains. “It’s about identifying our key environmental impacts, managing them from a sustainability perspective and striving to improve them.”

Many of Ben’s goals involve developing “energy reduction sites” – looking at how the business can transition to renewable energy and reassessing all aspects of the business that have real, practical and positive environmental impacts.

Ben has no illusions about the task of Fidelity and the wider industry and believes in sustainability must always be at the forefront of all decisions. He explains: “We are a financial services and investment company, and sustainable investing has long been central to the way we operate.

“We now see clear correlations between companies that have good sustainability performance and good economic performance – the two areas are inseparable. A lot of it is looking back on ourselves in terms of how we function and how we wish to be perceived. In terms of sustainability and risk mitigation approaches, we ask our partners to work with us to find solutions. In turn, we apply these practices ourselves, which increases credibility at all levels. »

zero heroes

Fidelity recently launched its first corporate sustainability report. One of the key commitments in it was a strong commitment to achieve net zero status by 2030 across all company operations. Also, it has committed to net zero on the investment side by 2050.

There has also been considerable activity on the governance side. Ben says, “We’ve done a lot on the reporting and data entry side. Without good data, you can’t see the impact of any of the initiatives you implement.

“In 2020, we set up our sustainability committee – our central body where we manage all the different programs, whether related to the environment or social governance.”

Above all, the company wants to be open and transparent about where it is on the sustainability path – clearly marking plot points along the way. Based on this, Fidelity will set short-term goals around 2024 in different areas.

With that 2024 goal factored in, it will seek to reduce energy by 25%, overall carbon emissions by 25%, water use at Fidelity sites by 25%, and waste generated by that golden number. by 25%.

“It was a fundamentally important decision to set these targets for 2024 – it keeps us focused on the short to medium term and has really helped us to ensure that we are on track for the 2030 target, but also that we align with the 1.5 degree scenario.

people have spoken

The past few years have witnessed an increasingly pervasive culture of sustainability at Fidelity, not just as a company belief system, but on an individual level. Instilling these goals among employees has been key to achieving larger goals. Moreover, it has created the mark of the collective ambition necessary to maintain a true model of sustainability.

“A lot of people understand that’s a big deal,” Ben says. “Whether it’s climate change or biodiversity, they want to know more about mitigating some of those impacts. We want to take them on the journey with us, explain what goals we are aiming for, what they can do to help, but also highlight how it can benefit their normal daily lives.

Not only have Fidelity employees been very receptive to what we need to do, but they have also pushed the company and challenged it to be more progressive in some of the programs it has put in place. In the age of climate change, this kind of symbiotic relationship within the business ecosystem is essential.

Ben explains, “In response to the positive response from staff, Fidelity implemented the Sustainability Ambassador program and we now have over 200 ambassadors across the organization, impacting several different functions. The role is both investment and business focused, enabling individuals to embed initiatives within their regional and functional teams. Ultimately, this gives sustainability a much more personal perspective.

digital watch

The climate change crisis is unfolding alongside the digital age, inviting our lives to change with the ever-increasing evolution of technology. This is particularly stark in the financial sector, which historically has involved considerable travel, paper use and carbon emissions.

Ben believes digital is and will be a huge ally in the company’s approach to climate change. “We have set 2024 as our date to reduce paper by 50%,” he says. “We have also moved to more digital contracts and will continue to move towards more digital solutions in terms of how our business operates. This is a big area of ​​growth in finance and we will strive to move forward in the digital space over the next few years.

The digital dimension was brought to the forefront for the business when COVID-19 hit in March 2020. Ben explains: “Many of our employees started working from home throughout the pandemic and as a result they didn’t print as much, while drastically reducing business travel or work. Additionally, the use of collaboration tools and digital forms of communication has significantly reduced our overall carbon footprint.

The back of the net

With Fidelity’s net zero goal only nine years away, it has applied five key principles to reach the pinnacle of sustainability.

The first is about data, data verification, transparency of that data, and ultimately disclosure in external forums. “We want to challenge ourselves, but we want to make sure we do it in a credible way,” insists Ben. “Thereafter, we focused on the data and the processes around it.”

The second axis concerns energy efficiency. This aspect examines the electricity consumed in Fidelity’s offices – a significant proportion of the company’s operational carbon footprint. Ben says: “We want to increase efficiency, both by improving building infrastructure and researching renewable energy sources, but also by making sure that we use all of our spaces as efficiently as possible. »

The third area concerns business travel and, more specifically, air travel. Another significant proportion of the company’s wider global operational footprint. Remote working has also been a revelation in this respect with far less business travel and a far greater number of virtual events.

Renewable energy is the fourth element of the manifesto, with Fidelity prioritizing a shift to renewable energy contracts or on-site renewable energy generation. This step has already been undertaken in two of the company’s offices, with further feasibility studies underway.

The fifth really analyzes the carbon emissions from Fidelity’s operations that it is unable to eradicate – establishing residual emissions and working to create quick fixes for carbon removal.

Dancing to a different tune

Fidelity International’s sustainability efforts and impact are already being felt across the business.

The company embodies the optimism and determination of neo-sustainable businesses that exceed mainstream standards and have instead begun to navigate the field according to their own higher expectations.

After COP26, it became clear that the future involves companies empowering themselves over their own responsibilities to people and the planet – effectively transcending their own service delivery and making sustainability the defining aspect of what they do. make.

This culture shift was accelerated by Fidelity’s 2024 milestone set – six years ahead of the recommended year of 2030.

By setting this immediate “future standard”, the non-specific vagueness of international conferences and governmental recommendations suddenly crystallizes; representing something people can believe in.

It is the sign of something authentic and above all lasting.

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