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Growth, Culture and Innovation

We speak to Matt Breakwell, Business Development Manager at Kimpton about the benefits and rewards of having a company ESG strategy, and what advice he would give to businesses who are struggling with taking that first step.

1: What would your advice be to any small business looking to develop an ESG strategy and how difficult is it getting started?

The best advice I can give is just to start somewhere and don’t worry whether or not you are starting in the right place!

Keep it simple! Talk to the team to identify what initiatives you are already engaged in – I can guarantee you will be amazed at what you are already doing without giving it an ESG label. You also need to be realistic – where can you add most impact within your resources? At Kimpton for example, we maximise the skills of our employees, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning engineers for example, to support our partners in a really practical way which benefits both them and us.

Depending on your business it can be difficult to know where to start because the subject is so far ranging. At Kimpton we had some external support to tease out everyone’s values and how they matched the UN Sustainable Development Goals so we could identify those areas where we could best leverage our position to make a positive impact but also where we could really make a real difference, addressing issues like gender inequalities and poverty. Our ESG strategy is essentially based on those values and underpins everyone’s role in the organisation. By using your strategy as a benchmark you might need to rethink some of your activities – do they fit with your values?

2: What is the most rewarding aspect of the work you do?

I feel really fortunate that in my role I am able to provide the link between the commercial successes we have winning contracts with the wider social benefits we provide through our partners like Future Yard in Birkenhead. As part of our partnership we will be providing direct maintenance support as well as supporting some of the wider initiatives they are engaged in. In demonstrating a longer term sustainable and practical approach to delivering social value, we are not just ticking a box – it is embedded in our business culture. Having that transparency gives our clients and customers the reassurances they are looking for – particularly those who have social value embedded in their own procurement process.

Essentially it boils down to the positive impact that we have on people and our communities. The feedback we get from our partners, our customers and our staff reassures me that we are on the right path and not just delivering more – but delivering better.

3: Kimpton are already taking forward some great initiatives in this area – how have you benefitted as a business?

Historically it has always been part of the company’s ethos to contribute positively to the communities in which we live and operate, aligning with our established purpose of creating the sustainable building environments of tomorrow. I’ve picked out two examples of how this translates into action.

When refitting or refurbishing commercial spaces, the team have established an excellent scheme to reuse office furniture, carpet tiles and any other unwanted materials, which are offered to our network of local charities free of charge. They have developed the scheme further allowing us to fund our partner charities through the money raised, for example, from the sale of surplus carpet tiles to local businesses. The benefits are wide ranging including a direct cost saving for us in the cost of recycling the tiles (which is very expensive!) as well as giving the team a real sense of achievement, allowing them to provide a wider range of support to those who need it most. We have even found a new home for a group of lime trees at Alder Hey proving that you can reuse even the most unusual items!

The push towards net zero and wider awareness of the decarbonisation agenda has created a real skills shortage as demand across our sector increases. As a business, Kimpton have always had a strong record in taking on apprentices but recognising there was more to do we have been working with local colleges to support full time diploma courses giving us access to excellent, enthusiastic and committed apprentices (18 plus) and providing us with a future talent pipeline. We have broadened our network to ensure we have an inclusive approach, and I really enjoy going into schools and organisations like Thrive to talk to young people. We recognise however that there is more to do to raise awareness of jobs in the industry, particularly for women and we are delighted to be supporting an initiative called Not Just Men and Muddy Boots.

4: If you had to sum up what ESG means for you in three words – what would they be?

Growth, Culture and Innovation!