What is SwireTHRIVE?
MW: SwireTHRIVE is the Group sustainability strategy, introduced in 2016. The strategy was developed to bring clarity and focus to how we address our biggest environmental challenges.
SwireTHRIVE focuses on environmental sustainability because our success, and that of our people and the communities in which we operate, depends on a thriving natural environment. It acknowledges the important role we play in protecting the natural resources on which our businesses depend. A thriving business needs a thriving environment.
The SwireTHRIVE areas of focus are carbon, waste, water, sustainable materials, biodiversity and climate resilience.>
You had a goal to reduce your carbon emissions and water consumption by 8-10% and 3-4% respectively by 2020, versus a 2015 frozen efficiency baseline. Are you on track to meet that commitment?
MW: I’m pleased to report that in 2019 we have exceeded our carbon reduction target, set when we introduced SwireTHRIVE in 2016, by 1.83%. However, we have fallen short of our water reduction target by 1.26%. This is largely because Swire Coca-Cola acquired more bottling plants.
These targets should be viewed as only the start of the journey. Looking ahead, as the external environment becomes more complex and challenging, and in the light of the Paris Agreement and other international climate change agreements, we need to be more ambitious. This means setting new, stretching, carbon and water targets and addressing other important environmental challenges.
Looking back on the last four years of SwireTHRIVE, what are you most proud of?
MW: Developing the strategy itself proved immensely valuable. It was an opportunity to reflect on the past and to consider as a group the impact of our businesses on the world. We recognise the extent to which external factors can affect our ability to plan and manage our businesses, and how we can position ourselves to respond to sustainability challenges.
Climate resilience and biodiversity, which were considered emerging issues for the group at the time, have proved to be risks that we were right to highlight. These areas have become important in our approach to sustainability and, in the case of climate resilience, central to our approach to risk management. We have far more to do in these areas. Environmental, social and governance matters are increasingly important to investors and other stakeholders. This will lead to much greater focus on these issues.
It’s also pleasing to see the impact which SwireTHRIVE has had, and the actions which it has stimulated, in the Group. Group companies develop their own sustainability strategies and plans. They recognise the overall direction set at Group level, but tailor their actions to their own specific sectors and needs. Swire Properties’ SD 2030 strategy stands out as recognising the value that sustainable development can bring to a business and how thinking about sustainable development can be integrated into decision making.
Swire Coca-Cola’s leadership in water efficiency and management led it to recognise the value of a holistic approach to sustainability. Swire Coca-Cola identified the need to address the use of single use plastics in its own business. It has worked with others in this area through the Drink Without Waste initiative and has formed a plastic waste recycling joint venture in Hong Kong.
What does the year ahead hold for SwireTHRIVE in particular and sustainable development at Swire Pacific more generally?
MW: 2020 will be a pivotal year, both for our strategy and for sustainability generally. We will undertake a thorough review of SwireTHRIVE to ensure that it remains fit for purpose and acknowledges the important progress that we have made in areas including diversity and inclusion. We will need to re-focus our strategy due to the rapidly changing business environment in which we operate and the increasingly uncertain world around us.
We need to increase our strategic ambition for sustainable development. We need to address climate change, key international agreements and changes in governmental policies and regulation. All this indicates a need for more ambitious plans and targets.
We need to look further ahead and do more to integrate sustainable development principles and practices into our businesses, and to ensure that we are increasingly resilient and well prepared for whatever long-term sustainability challenges we may face.