As we think about the last year, we cannot help but reflect on the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. ERM has been resilient in the face of this global health and economic challenge, which is a credit to our staff, our clients and suppliers who have continued to support us, and my leadership team who have been steadfast and dedicated.
It is important to think about this particular shock within a broader context; it is a foretaste of the kind of disruption and devastation the world will experience if we do not address climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and inequality. The key themes of this report speak to the urgency of both these immediate and longer-term shocks and their potential impacts as we transition to a lower-carbon economy. We demonstrate how ERM is helping our clients to be more resilient, to understand and manage their environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and for investors to account for these ESG risks, and for all to act more decisively, with speed, to shape a more sustainable future.
Leveraging the legacy of 50 years of capability to solve urgent problems
In 1970, a small cohort of passionate leaders established Earth Day in the United States to drive action on environmental issues. As a result, we saw the establishment of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a first "wave" of environmental policy, legislation and regulations. The foundations of ERM also stem from this time, and for (almost) the past 50 years we have been helping clients understand, manage and improve their environmental, health, safety and social performance through a myriad of changes, disruptions and shocks across the world.
As we commence the "decade of action" towards the important 2030 milestone for the Sustainable Development Goals, we are drawing on our 50 years of experience to support our clients as they navigate the immediate challenges they are facing and begin to build greater resilience as they plan for the future. The decisions and plans made now must take into account preparation for, and mitigation of, future shocks in particular the climate change emergency.
Innovating to re-imagine the post-pandemic world
We've learned several things over the course of this global pandemic, which continues to unfold across our global business. First, we learned how to be more decisive and creative in our management and leadership. We accept with humility that this virus obeys the laws of biology, not the dictates of businesses or governments. We improvised, built new relationships within our clients, and leveraged technology in new ways. We have great examples of how our teams have transformed our services to respond to new needs and adapted to travel and other restrictions to provide clients with remote auditing and workshops, training, regulatory tracking, permitting, impact assessment services and continued delivery of selected fieldwork.
Post-pandemic life has to bring with it a new world socially, economically and environmentally. For ERM this is an opportunity to materially change where and how we work, to improve the health and well-being of staff, reduce our carbon footprint and deliver better financial outcomes.
We are also actively involved with leading business and professional organizations to help shape a sustainable future. I am pleased to serve on the Steering Committee of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) COVID-19 Response Program, and ERM is active in a number of work streams, including long-term business resilience and employee health. We are a member of the National Safety Council Nationwide Safe Actions for Employee Return (SAFER) Task Force in the United States through ERM’s involvement in the Campbell Institute. We are also sharing our insights through webinars, papers, client briefings and other channels as part of fostering collaboration and demonstrating leadership.
Living our values
In parallel with advising clients on sustainability matters, we are also managing our own response. This includes our public commitments approved by the Science Based Targets initiative and a strong program to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Although we are making good progress in meeting our annual sustainability targets and long-term goals, we continue to strengthen our focus on those areas where we have not fully met our targets or where we want to aim higher: increasing diversity in our workforce, improving employee well-being and training, and quantifying the sustainability impacts of our work with clients.
We are proud to be a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards Pioneer and to be supporting GRI in a number of its initiatives, including the Corporate Leadership Group on Digital Reporting. This Sustainability Report 2020 serves as our Communication on Progress, an annual disclosure to stakeholders on progress made in implementing the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.
As highlighted in this Sustainability Report, we strongly support the Sustainable Development Goals, the Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), Women’s Empowerment Principles and other internationally recognized standards and initiatives.
Over the past year, my team and I have strengthened our engagement with internal and external stakeholders on issues that are important them, and we reached out to independent thought leaders for their assessment of our materiality process and this report. This feedback informs our focus on the issues facing our world and our clients, which allows us to prioritize activities within our business strategy.
On behalf of the Executive Committee, I extend my thanks to our clients for placing their trust in ERM and allowing us to support them to build sustainable businesses. I also extend my thanks to our employees for sharing their stories, insights and photography for this report – as a result of their efforts, our report was recognized as a top reporter in WBCSD Reporting Matters 2019.
In particular, we recognize the considerable contributions of more than 200 voluntary members of our Sustainability Network who help drive action across the company. The people of ERM deliver on our purpose of shaping a sustainable future with the world’s leading organizations every day: in the services we provide to our clients, the projects we support through the ERM Foundation and the way we operate our business. I am humbled by their talent and grateful for their commitment to our business.
Group Chief Executive