Talking Sustainability with Laura McGrath - Quorum Park
To mark the significance of this month’s COP26 conference in Glasgow, Quorum Park will be launching its new ESG Policy in the days ahead.

In the run up to the launch, we spoke to Events and Sustainability Lead, Laura McGrath, to get her views on current environmental issues and find out how she is helping businesses and individuals to become more sustainable.

  • What is ESG and why is it important?

ESG stands for Environmental Social Governance. It has replaced EMS (Environmental Management System) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as the new sustainability acronym buzzword of choice.

That said, ESG has got one important difference which I think could prove to be a gamechanger. ESG assesses the profitability of a business when faced with the uncertainty of climate change. It not only links a company’s sustainability strategy with their bottom line, it makes it clear – from an investment perspective, readiness for climate change and a business’s profitability are directly linked. Don’t be fooled by what you hear, big business has received the message loud and clear. The time for change is now!

  •  What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you?

A lot of people assume sustainability is simply about ‘being green’ and all things eco. Obviously this is an important element, but sustainability is about so much more! It’s about the fine balance of the planet, the people living in it and the companies paying the wages of those living in it! All three need to find a careful balance for things to work in harmony. It’s worth noting that the least influential people in society will be disproportionately impacted by climate change.

  •  What do you do at Quorum Park to help people on their sustainability journey?

At Quorum we use our busy events programme to educate and inform staff on sustainability issues outside of the standard messaging around recycling or utility use. For example we have hosted clothes swap events while promoting messaging around fast fashion and talking about peat free commitments when promoting our new allotment and naming our meeting rooms after the rainforest reserve, we offset our carbon in. Anything going on at Quorum, chances are it links back to our sustainability strategy!

You’ll be amazed how many people are looking for sustainable solutions. We recently introduced a crisp packet recycling scheme and were inundated with donations from people who had previously not had access to this facility and were delighted at the chance to be able to recycle their crisp packets.

  • Sustainability encompasses a whole range of issues. What interests you most about the subject?

Personally, one of the most fascinating topics in sustainability is around gender equality and the impact empowering women could have on population growth. The evidence is clear, educated women with their own income and stability have less children than women living without autonomy.

The essence of this idea being, a world that is cared for, supported and nurtured would result in a plateau of population growth. You might ask how as an individual you can support this. It can be quite a hard concept to translate into action but there is lots you can do: support fair trade, speak up on just causes, value education and invest your money in companies and products with similar ethics.

  • Do you think the Covid19 pandemic has had an impact on how we view sustainability and climate change?

Absolutely. I believe Covid-19 has presented an opportunity for the sustainability agenda and the fight against climate change because we have seen first-hand that when it comes down to it, we can adapt and make solutions when faced with unexpected problems.

Furthermore, we can’t underestimate the positive impact of our stronger connection with nature as a result of the various lockdowns and working from home. So many people suddenly found themselves appreciating the outdoors and now want to protect what they consider theirs. It’s much easier to get behind the concept of making sacrifices in order to protect something, when we can identify with it and consider it important.

  •  When talking to people who may not believe in climate change, what do you say?

If someone disputes the influence of modern life on our warming planet, I don’t tend to get into scientific debates on specific issues, I simply point to the fact that sustainable living benefits everyone and even the most ardent climate change denier is usually passionate about something they can get on board with. Be it simply hating waste, loving nature or strong views on human rights.

So much of engaging people on a topic is about finding the right narrative. Forget the notion that everyone is going to find their inner Greta Thunberg!  Tell them about the money they will save, how much it will improve their profitability long term, ‘wow’ them with nature. Encourage them to get competitive with how many miles they can rack up on their bike – these are all still important steps on the road to Net Zero!

  •  What can businesses and business leaders do to improve their sustainability?

If your workplace wants to commit to being more sustainable, know that change has to be embedded from the top down. Don’t be afraid to make strong commitments, you’ll be surprised how many of your employees expect such commitments from you. They may feel helpless to make change as an individual – they are looking for you to make them part of a bigger movement.

As a business we’ve tried things and made mistakes but that’s OK, just evaluate and learn from them and they’ll still contribute towards your end goal.

  •  Finally, any advice for individuals who want to make a difference?

A zero waste, super low carbon lifestyle isn’t going to be practical for most people and aiming for the impossible is always going to end in disappointment. In my view its far better to make manageable changes and sustain them over the long term. Let me tell you from experience, a chilled-out vegetarian sharing tasty meal ideas at dinner with friends wins over way more hearts and minds than a militant vegan! Share the good stories and solutions alongside the problem and it is so much more likely to resonate within others.

For more information please contact:

Laura McGrath

Events and Sustainability Lead

0191 691 8142