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Regardless of the type of business activity a firm is engaged in, or its size, it has an environmental impact. To make the foregoing example clear, simply stated, if the business activity did not exist it would have no environmental impact, thus no matter how benign the activity there is an environmental price in the form of electricity, waste, and other contributory factors.
Corporate sustainability represents an extended facet of corporate social responsibility in that it includes the understanding of business practices and impacts, along with their social as well as environmental aspects (Cowe and Porritt, 2002). In terms of a practical and understandable framework that has a guideline, which is not either mandatory, or universally utilised, the Triple Bottom Line represents a means via which to look at and equate business engagement of a corporate sustainability (Colbert and Kurucz, 2007). Another way to describe the Triple Bottom Line is to say it represents " - the place where corporate and societal interests intersect" (Savitz and Weber, 2007). In terms of applicability, the Triple Bottom Line looks at people, in terms of human capital, and the manner in which they are utilised within a corporate structure, whereby the considerations of labour, profit, wages, working conditions, fair treatment, and non exploitation are the principle facets (Colbert and Kurucz, 2007).
Natural capital, as represented by planetary resources from the second part of the Triple Bottom Line equation, takes into account environmental practices that are sustainable, through the management of energy consumption along with non-renewables, reducing business output waste from manufacturing and other actions, and reducing the toxicity levels of toxic waste before disposal (Topfer, 2000). The last of the Triple Bottom Line facets entails profit, which represents not just the bottom line accruing to the company, but the economic benefit of the enterprise to the society in which it operates (Topfer, 2000). The preceding includes the economic impact on society (Topfer, 2000).
This examination shall look into the Corporate Sustainability of the BT Group (2008), a communications company that maintains digital networks throughout Europe, serves and consults on ICT networks for clients, has a telecom subsidiary in Italy, BT Albacom, a voice and data network for corporate companies called BT Infonet, and Radianz, a provider of connectivity to the financial sector. Formally known as British Telecommunications Plc, the company maintains a network of telephone exchanges, a trunk network, as well as other assets. The BT Group shall serve as the subject company for the study of corporate sustainability, with an emphasis on its environmental factors, for the areas a contained herein.
BT Group Sustainability Comprehensiveness
The company indicates in its report that it complies with the "Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Reporting Guidelines 2002, utilising the AA1000 Assurance Standard for the telecommunications sector that calls for three specific principles to be met (BT Group, 2007). The preceding represent 1. Materiality, meaning the report must contain all data on sustainability performance to inform the public, 2. Completeness, as represented by containing material aspects, 3. Responsiveness, which refers to the company having responded to the concerns of stakeholders, and applicable policies along with standards, and that these have been communicated adequately (BT Group, 2007). To ensure impartiality, BT's Sustainability Report was reviewed by Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance Limited to certify the materiality, completeness and responsiveness of the information and data compiled by the company (LRGA, 2008).
The preceding procedure indicates that the company utilises a comprehensive environmental management system, in that it seeks certification from an independent body. Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance Limited has signed off on the company's adherence to the indicated three part principles, Materiality, Completeness, and Responsiveness, stating that their recommendations entail the company continuing its course of environmental data collection for operations outside of the UK, and introduce " - a more formalised, monitored programme for environmental data verification audits - " (BT Group, 2007). Internally, BT's Board meets to review the company's CSR strategies and performance at least once per year, being kept informed of developments, issues and other areas on a consistent basis (BT Group, 2007). The company has a formal structure in place that includes a dedicated CSR Department, Operating Committee, CSR Steering Group, Community Support Committee, Environmental Policy Implementation Committee, Task Force operation to ensure compliance, and a CSR Practitioners Forum (BT Group, 2007).
BT Group Management Strategy
The foregoing represents an overall management strategy to oversee internal compliance and directives that represents a top down committed approach that takes in environmental areas of operational and employee integrity, climate change, and supply chain compliance (BT Group, 2007). The company is also a member of the Green Alliance (2008), Forum for the Future (2008), Aldersgate Group (2008), which are all environmental action organisations as well as CSR Europe (2008), the definitive association for Corporate Social Responsibility compliance. In addition to the foregoing, BT is a partner with the United Nations Global Compact (2008), the Global Reporting Initiative (2008), the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (2008), and the Centre for Economic and Environmental Development (2008). These associations, memberships and alliances clearly indicate the committed nature of BT's approach to corporate sustainability and the environment.
BT implements its policies through active engagement of the 5R Concept that entails "Refuse, Return, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" (EarthResource.org, 2007). The company actively engages in the concept of 'refuse', which means the avoidance of buying and designing products and systems that generate unnecessary waste (EarthResource.org, 2007). This is accomplished by the company's business development processes that incorporate sustainability into product development and design (BT Group, 2007). This facet, 'refuse', includes working with the University College of London to explore the issue of obsolescence with regard to the products it buys and designs, seeking ways in which to add longevity to the relatively short usability life spans of telecommunications and IT equipment (BT Group, 2007).
'Return' represents re-routing the materials used for packaging for products received back to their suppliers (EarthResource.org, 2007). BT's materials did not make reference to this technique.
The company engages in the principle of 'reduce', which represents the reduction of waste at the source, via the identification of services as well as products that have been designed, and or conceived utilising sustainability foundations (BT Group, 2007). The foregoing includes the selection of new technologies as well as approaches that contribute to that end, along with more industry harmonisation, thus reducing waste in interconnectivity with differing systems in different countries (BT Group, 2007). In all of the preceding BT tracks and monitors its compliance with the effective performance of reducing waste through management reviews designed to cut costs, and adherance to sound environmental principles (BT Group, 2007).
BT handles the 4th concept of the 5Rs, 'Reuse', meaning reusing everything possible, through shifting components that have and are being replaced in more technologically advanced countries to lesser developed countries it operates in (BT Group, 2007). The foregoing enables the company to cut component operational costs, while operating in an environmentally responsible manner. The BT Group also consistently seeks ways in which to reduce data processing and storage, and energy saving initiative, along with new and more efficient working methods that include teleworking, along with global sourcing (BT Group, 2007).
Recycling, the fifth "R", represents a weak point in the BT Groups environmental programmes as the company recycled 34% of its waste material in 2004, but has consistently improved its efforts, recording a 42% standing for 2006 and 2007 (Galbraith, 2007). The preceding record in this area takes on meaning when one understands that the NTT Group of Japan (2008), a company also engaged in telecommunications, achieved a recycle rate of in excess of 91% in 2006 (Galbraith, 2007). BT actively promotes the utilisation of the 5R concepts through the Global e- Sustainability Initiative (2008), which is a voluntary association formed in 2001 that promotes ways for telecommunications companies to improve their performance and results in sustainability as well as through the use of new technologies that help to achieve that end. The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (2008) works in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme, and the International Telecommunication Union that includes companies engaged in the telecom and ICT sector, representing " - manufacturers, network operators, service providers, trade associations, and associate organisations connected to the industry". The preceding indicates BT's active position on the marketing of environmental sustainability factors that also includes its supply chain relationships.
In keeping with the preceding, the company maintains an active voice as an advocate for the utilisation of new technologies and approaches that reduce energy use, along with governments harmonizing their standards as well as regulatory frameworks that would reduce redundancies in equipment required to cross connect systems, this saving on waste (BT Group, 2007). The preceding includes promoting ICT as a cost, and energy saving measure that can be employed in economic development for information transfer and business / governmental operations as an energy conservation method (BT Group, 2007). BT sees the relevance of its operations as a means to further not only its own business interests, but also those of energy conservation through the advanced applications of ICT.
The preceding analysis of the BT Group with regard to its performance in conjunction with Corporate Sustainability, emphasising its environmental track record, has uncovered a company that is committed to the practice as being integrated part of its operations. The preceding conclusion has been arrived at by the examination of points as set forth herein that have shown the wide ranging industry associations and organisations the company works with in this area. More importantly, the BT Group has been rated by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as the number one telecommunications company in the world for six consecutive years (BT Group, 2007). The BT Group has also been rated as one of four companies to score in excess of 95% in the six areas of 1. Community Management, 2. Environmental Management, 3. Marketplace Management, 4. Workplace Management, 5. Environmental Impact, and 6. Social Impact by the "Community Corporate Responsibility, Environment and Community index, which " - is an independent business-led charity based in the UK" (BT Group, 2007).
Further evidence of the stellar record and approach to corporate sustainability is provided by BT's number one rating by OEKOM Research AG (2008), a German organization that reviews the performance of companies in sustainable development, providing company rankings. The list of BT's achievements in being a good corporate citizen is also evidenced by it being rated as "one of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World" (2008), for three straight years. The preceding distinction means that the company has been selected for its " - ability to manage strategic opportunities in new environments and social markets" (BT Group, 2007).
The list goes on and on. BT has won or been awarded as Britain's Most Admired Company in 2006 as well as being named " - as the world's leading corporate organisation for sustainability reporting..." based upon the results of a survey conducted by SustainAbility (2008). The foregoing study was conducted in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme as well as Standard and Poor's (BT Group, 2007). As stated, BT throughout this examination has demonstrated a record of corporate sustainability that almost seems to good to be true! With the exception of its record in recycling, the company has seemingly no flaws in its approach to its adherence to the principles of maintained and furthering its responsibility to limit its environmental impact.
Given its committed approach, the company would be well served to shore up its indicated shortcoming in recycling through the emulation of the achievement recorded by NTT of Japan. Given the fact that the company has elected to utilise Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance Limited to certify the completeness and accuracy of its corporate sustainability and environmental programmes, BT has and is demonstrating its understanding of the meaning of being a good corporate citizen, in almost all regards.