Greg Laker: Culture change and obtaining board buy in is ‘key’ for driving sustainability

by Isobel Rafferty

23 July 2021: Those businesses that do not take sustainability seriously will ‘ultimately not form part of the supply chain’, says loss adjuster director

For businesses, it is “very easy to run a sustainability policy and to have a sustainability plan”, yet one of the challenges the industry faces is infiltrating a shift in sustainability culture from the “top down”, according to QuestGates director Greg Laker.

One of the first challenges that Laker personally had during QuestGates’ shift towards better caring for the planet was to get “buy in from the board” and to “make sure that the other directors of [the] business genuinely believed in [sustainability]”.

This is a business imperative today because there can often be turmoil among insurer clients in determining the “balance between cost and doing the right thing from a sustainability and environmental point of view”, he added.

Laker noticed, however, that there has recently been a “massive sea change” among the business’s insurer clients regarding diligence and tenders.

“Historically, [due diligence] has been about general governance, policies and procedures”, he explained.  Now, “a big part of what insurers are looking at is our sustainability plan, policy and how you’re implementing it and how you can influence it”.

As a result, businesses that do not take sustainability seriously will “ultimately not form part of the supply chain”, he said.

QuestGates was the first loss adjusting company to establish a service dedicated to the management of environmental claims, with the aim of providing a ‘one-stop-shop’ service for insurer clients.

Braver and bolder sustainability ambitions

To change organisational culture around sustainability, Laker told Insurance Times that “community” and “bringing like-minded people together” are essential.

With this in mind, QuestGates announced its membership with the Business in the Community (BITC) network last month (29 June 2021) because while internal initiatives are important, “you need a partner that will support what you are doing”, Laker advised.

Created nearly 40 years ago by the Prince of Wales, BITC is a charity dedicated to improving responsible practices at organisations.  It also leverages businesses’ collective impact for the benefit of communities.

A core element of BITC includes encouraging businesses to be “faster, braver and bolder” in creating sustainable change – it assists with this ambition by benchmarking members’ sustainability journeys against an agreed framework, as well as implementing science-based measures.

Businesses can therefore demonstrate their steps towards meeting net zero carbon targets.

Another fundamental role for BITC is producing educational materials, such as live webinars and reports like Improving the Sustainability of Professional Clothing (published May 2021), which defined the procurement principles for eco-friendly business wear.

According to the report, around a third of the UK’s total workforce amounts to around 16,000 tonnes of corporate workwear each year, of which 90% is estimated to be sent to a landfill or incineration after use.

Transforming Culture

For Laker, the mindset advocated by BITC is what he is seeking to promote at QuestGates.  He said: “We’re trying to educate and encourage staff to buy into that philosophy because I think the whole thing about sustainability is it’s not just about QuestGates, it’s not just about insurance companies – it’s about all of us being part of it and making a difference to achieve that carbon neutrality”.

To make sure that sustainability initiatives are “not driven by just senior management”, the loss adjuster has also introduced an internal sustainability team that includes representatives from each of the company’s different divisions, for example – from the surveying division, property division and environmental division.

Instead of the c-suite handpicking leaders from the different divisions, Laker shared a note about the loss adjuster’s sustainability plans as a call to action for staff.

As a result, Laker said: “What was quite interesting about that is the people that came forward, if you’d asked me to write the names on the paper, I would not have put their names on it.

“One of the ladies that’s actually on the team, she works in our accounts department – apparently she’s got an environmental degree, so she does a lot around green and sustainability and she’s got a real passion for it.

“It’s funny really because (the team member) is someone that is quite an introvert and quite quiet, but when we had our first project meeting, she was the complete opposite – very passionate, outgoing, quite extroverted – because it’s something that she really believes in.”

Subsequently, Laker explained that “getting those types of people into the forum” and providing them with the responsibility to spread the word within the business is “the key” to achieve success.

Although the loss adjuster has been working on improving sustainability for the past couple of years, it’s current drive is “really starting to gain momentum” so much so that Laker hopes QuestGates will “reap the rewards” in the next 12 to 18 months.

Key targets in QuestGates’ environmental and sustainability plan include:

1. A 15% reduction in travel by driving digitalisation to maximise the positive impact on the environment.

2. Encourage agile and flexible working, with a target of 75% of the workforce working predominantly from home.

3. A 30 % reduction in energy use

4. A 25% reduction in landfill waste from building repairs.

5. Process enhancements to ensure an 100% reduction in the use of paper.

6. A 20% increase in the use of electric vehicles.