How to...

Act responsibly

Individuals and companies can make an impact on the planet, argues Portman’s Dawn Murphy. Start small with early wins is her advice for those starting out on this journey.


Almost every day the media reminds us to act responsibly as organisations and individuals, ensuring the wellbeing of the planet for future generations. It is a message that makes you wonder whether you really can help slow the impact of industry and commerce on our earth. You can ask: does it matter whether you recycle? Will turning off lights really help? Does sending waste to produce energy instead of dumping it in landfill bring a lasting benefit? At Portman, we believe so.

I am a HR specialist and parent, and whether it can be proved or not, each time we do something positive it can only be better for the planet. We are by no means at the end of our journey, but every small thing we do has an impact and by leading by example, I hope future generations will continue what we have started.

With Adrian Parkes, Portman’s chief commercial officer, I revisited our own corporate responsibility strategy and set up Responsibly Portman to monitor our environmental impact and support our journey for ISO 14001 (Environmental Management) accreditation.

As an individual business, it is small, so we wondered how we could make more of a difference. We did this by offering Responsibly Portman as a CRS strategy to our clients.

By connecting with others, sharing our vision and the Responsibly Portman product, we can really be instrumental.

Each day we make a positive contribution and everyone can do this. Start small and gain momentum with easy wins. Ask, can we recycle more? Can we turn the temperature down 1°C and switch off PCs and monitors overnight? How about occasional alternatives to travelling or offsetting your carbon emissions? If having lots of different recycling bins won’t work in your office, can you send waste to an energy plant instead?

All these small steps add up, whether you believe in global warming or not. Below is a step-by-step guide to making a difference.

STEP 1: Why do it? Because it is the right thing to do, even if you just start to monitor what is going on within your own business and understand what impact individual departments may have. It is remembering that every small change makes a difference.

STEP 2: How to do it. Identify what you want to achieve. Ensure these aims link directly to your company strategy, vision and values. Leadership, communication and engagement with colleagues are all key to a successful CSR programme. Consider what training is required for key personnel; you may want to stage a full awareness programme by WebEx for all colleagues.

STEP 3: What or who do you need? Consider how to enthuse your colleagues. What will engage them and how can they join in? Appoint champions to embed new practices, whether by department or location. Learn from others; join a network group like 'Heart of the City'. Tie in your social projects with charities and local communities.

STEP 4: Decide how much you want to do. Whether you just want to monitor carbon emissions from air and rail travel or electricity consumption or wish to offset emissions, there are different levels of activity. We have a solution in-house and for our clients through Responsibly Portman where we work with partners Accuvio to record and monitor our progress and ClimateCare to offset carbon emissions.

STEP 5: Monitor, improve, contribute. Each small step counts, but accept that there may be things you can’t change or improve year on year. Set achievable targets, communicate them, monitor progress, report findings and, importantly, celebrate your contribution. This way you will get your employees on board, so stress the positives already in place and recognise them. As your Corporate Responsibility programme grows, involve others such as your supplier networks and partners and don’t forget to embrace your colleagues’ home environments too. In no time the snowball will start rolling and together, we will make a difference!