The conversation surrounding sustainability has accelerated in recent years and the momentum sees no signs of stopping, which is fantastic news.
I spoke to the two chairs of our sustainability employee-led network about their mission to embed sustainability at work and at home.
Sherwyn Vaz and Taelor Daniells met while on our graduate programme, both finishing at the end of 2020. Their shared passion about sustainability and climate change sparked the idea of setting up the network – which is aptly named, Sustainable Futures. It’s one of our newest networks, and like the others, it’s established by and for colleagues.
A step ahead
Sherwyn, Project Finance, Specialist Portfolio Management, joined us after completing his economics degree which included writing a thesis about energy policy. Whilst on the programme here, Sherwyn joined our graduate Corporate Social Responsibility council and utilised his knowledge and ardent advocacy for building a more sustainable world.
For Sherwyn, who grew up in Dubai – a city built on oil – it’s a topic long close to his heart. Years ago, he recalled thinking, ‘Dubai is so sunny, why is there not more solar energy?’
Sherwyn and Taelor met by chance and realised their shared goal was something they should ensure came to fruition. They spent nine months researching, speaking to people across the bank including the bank’s sustainable banking team, and refining their proposition before it was initiated in September 2019. Sherwyn explained the ethos of the network,
‘We’re wanting to motivate and educate people, and to leverage peoples shared passion on the subject and encourage people to consider what sustainability means to them. From my time in the bank, working bank wide, I knew that this would help to really yield the shared knowledge and collective vision.
‘A member of our executive committee is now aligned to the network. We’re trying to change people’s mindset about what they can individually do - helping people to understand what climate change means to them. Building a sustainable future will require immediate action from every individual.’
Taelor, Climate Lead for Coutts completed a business economics degree before joining our graduate programme. It was during her degree when she completed a module on business and climate change that she realised that was where her career path lay, with a growing interest in sustainable finance and climate change, Taelor has marked out the foundations to that pathway ever since. Talking about launching the network, Taelor commented,
‘We launched the network on Net Zero Day 2019, and we’ve seen steady growth since. We’re helping build a more sustainable bank from within by raising awareness, delivering education and training, supporting product development and innovation, delivering colleague change initiatives and finally, through events and collaboration.’
2021 has two key deliverables for Sherwyn and Taelor and their work with the network. Firstly, the Giki Zero platform, which they’ve trialled and hope to drive out further. The app is a digital tool which measures individual carbon footprints. Taelor explained,
‘The app helps the user to understand, track and reduce their carbon footprint and build their personal path to Net Zero. The bank’s executive committee are all signed up to Giki Zero now, which has been fantastic to have their buy in and support.’
Sherwyn added that their second key objective for the year is to launch their Sustainable Futures Champions framework, which aims to encourage personal development in sustainability and support sustainability transformation across the business in individual teams. He noted,
‘Later in 2021, we’d like to see Champions spread out across all teams within the bank. They’ll enable discussions and support learning. We’re trying to champion the potential of our people to address climate challenge.’
The network also launched an incubator for early stage colleague-driven product innovation ideas. They’re keen for people to be able to come forward with an idea, to play a part. As Sherwyn explained,
‘Sustainable Futures connects people and will hopefully drive meaningful change: we’re solutions focused. We want members to get involved, to have the opportunity to come and test out ideas which we’re here to support.’
‘We want to support colleagues to learn and develop their ideas. People will own their own activities, and we’re here to connect colleagues, support their ideas and amplify what they’re doing to spark real, ambitious change.’
Now the network has a committee of thirty people, and around 1500 members. It’s grown quickly, which shows there’s a real interest in the topic across the bank. Sherwyn noted,
‘We ran events last year, such as screening the WWF climate change action film and held a talk about sustainability impact. We’ll continue to explore interesting and informative ideas for future events. Climate change requires new solutions. The old way of doing things won’t work.’
Taelor finished by saying,
‘The network is great for anyone within the bank to get involved with and bring their passion projects to the fore, whereby we can support them to make the changes they want to see in the bank. We think sometimes that colleagues think they personally can’t make a difference, but small actions and collective action can lead to big things.’
As Sherwyn pointed out, his long-term goal would be for the network to not need to exist anymore. For sustainability and climate change action to be second nature to us all.
Let’s all commit to building our knowledge and doing our bit to reducing our carbon footprints. Let’s work together to ensure our future really is sustainable.
We’re committed to doing our bit to guard our environment for future generations.Our sustainability.