One month after joining The Vita Group as Head of Sustainability, Natalie Watson, reflects on what she has learned about the company so far.
As The Vita Group’s Head of Sustainability, I’m in a great position to look at the business and its social and environmental credentials from a fresh perspective, assessing where The Vita Group is on its green journey and examining where our actions place us within the broader sustainability agenda.
A supportive senior leadership team is crucial to achieving a business’s sustainability aims and at The Vita Group the management team is open and honest, willing to be held accountable – a courageous step many business leaders have been reluctant to do for fear of being found wanting. Without this, achieving the transparency and honesty necessary to move forward is impossible. Meeting ambitious green goals is all about exploring the new and often unknown, embarking on honest collaborations and sharing best practices, all much more complicated to achieve when an organisation is guarded.
Specific examples of this openness at The Vita Group include having several publicly stated, time-bound targets, which it will assess with honesty and transparency, including, amongst others:
As The Vita Group’s representative for the Global Compact UK, I will ensure our operations align as appropriate with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – one of the world’s sustainability frameworks. It’s an area I have worked extensively on in the past, and I’m looking forward to talking with key decision-makers to make further progress in this area.
Why the value chain is invaluable
The Enhancing Everyday Life report The Vita Group published earlier this year, sets out an excellent roadmap for what we want to achieve moving forward. One action point I’m especially eager to work on is further extending the values embedded in this report across the value chain.
Getting into the hearts and minds of suppliers, customers, and end users in any value chain is vital if you’re going to convince them to join you on your green journey.
We are all in this together. If we want to go far, we need to go together. Forming these partnerships across our value chain is crucial for us to achieve our ambitious sustainability targets. I have seen so many examples of this already from across the Group and I’m looking forward to seeing first-hand, what further positive impact these partnerships make in the future.
Purpose and impact
Life cycle analysis is another key area I’m looking forward to exploring in greater depth. Before joining The Vita Group, I worked in the construction industry, a very resource-intensive industry where clear oversight of each material throughout is important to comprehending a product’s social and environmental impact. Understanding these processes, particularly when looking at the upstream stages of a product’s creation, can allow you to identify where sustainable improvements can be made.
Developing data which shows the true impact of a product is a great way to build consumer trust – including the sources of ingredients, its carbon footprint, and how it can be recycled. Doing this requires significant collaboration between stakeholders and suppliers to gather this information accurately. In addition, the sector needs to become better at recording and analysing data.
However, data collection presents a significant challenge – especially when considering the complexity of assessing scope 3 emissions. We are working with expert consultants in this area to ensure our data is clear and comprehensive.
Having purpose-driven organisations is an essential aspect of delivering change. It means the whole business is oriented around a responsible business strategy, something I have a lot of experience with from a previous role.
I’m pleased to see that at The Vita Group, there are firmly established strategies embedded at every level of the organisation that demonstrate that the company is well on its journey to becoming a genuinely purpose-driven business.
The value in going green
The link between sustainable development and commercial success first struck me during my studies. The Vita Group has repeatedly shown this to be possible, proving that it can quickly bring products to market that address market needs while not comprising quality or – crucially – their social and environmental impact.
I particularly love The Vita Group’s dedication to finding new ways to reuse materials to meet zero waste targets. For example, the Orbis range uses end-of-life mattresses reprocessed to extract raw materials. At the same time, Ball & Young is an excellent illustration of industrial-scale recycling in action.
The Vita Group’s impressive, green-focused product collection results from extensive investment in innovative R&D projects. This dedication to leading the industry with new ideas and solutions can be seen in Vita’s four Innovation Centres and its collaborations with industrial and academic bodies, such as the ongoing exciting partnership with Manchester University’s Nobel Prize-winning Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre.
Putting people first
Another aspect of Vita’s ESG journey that’s already become apparent is that it doesn’t ignore the “social” part of the acronym. The business is taking serious steps to empower its people and ensure that their mental and physical well-being is as healthy and robust as possible through initiatives such as Better You Better Life (BYBL) and Women At Vita Everywhere (WAVE). The ‘empowering people’ principle goes beyond the employees, with several projects that aim to map the supply chain to ensure the best social standards are met throughout to make it responsible, transparent, and durable.
I’m looking forward to getting involved in these programmes and helping progress them as much as possible. Like The Vita Group, I am a keen advocate for thinking beyond the current problem and taking a holistic approach to sustainability – working towards that one solution to an environmental problem does not cause an issue to society further up or down the value chain and vice versa. Understanding the complexities of business impact is made easier with the 3-dimensional lens of sustainability and Vita’s four principles map this perfectly (Driving Circularity, Optimising Resources, Empowering People and Acting Ethically). If we put people at the heart of the problem but also the solution, we know that mental and physical health is fundamental to enacting the change we all want to see. Implementing effective mental health projects that encourage self-care, empower safety for self and others, enhance fresh ideas, and ultimately increase productivity. I am passionate with regards working in this area, having become a certified mental health first aid instructor, and using that to form well-being frameworks that were central to sustainable development across organisations
Leading the way
From all this, it’s apparent that a recurring theme regarding The Vita Group and ESG issues is that it’s a business that is not afraid to lead the way. Rather than waiting for others to set the agenda and find the route forward, Vita is eager to be among the pioneers defining the new normal for what manufacturing looks like in a net zero economy and a more socially inclusive society.
I’m excited to be part of a team plugged into current issues and trends and eager to put vital Group environmental and social issues at the centre of every conversation. We are on a future-fit journey with challenges known and unknown ahead, but we are all in and committed. Knowing that sustainability is a strategic pathfinder means I am confident that The Vita Group, and all the partners we are working with, will achieve our ambitious green objectives and make the socially and environmentally secure future we all want to see a reality.
Watch the video where Natalie Watson talks about her role:
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