Our sustainability focus continues to be centred on those areas that have the greatest impact on our strategy. We believe that acting responsibly is the key to delivering long-term success and goes right to the heart of our values and culture as an organisation. We have identified our core pillars of sustainability as being our People, our Environment and our Communities, as outlined below with references to the applicable UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are committed to building on the efforts outlined below to ensure that we continue to adopt best practices across the entire spectrum of the Group’s activities.
Attracting top talent
During the year, we embarked on a people brand awareness programme to promote the employee experience across the Group. With an ongoing “war on talent” globally, attracting the right people remains critical to our ongoing success. We have invested heavily in our talent acquisition team to ensure we continue to remain strategically aligned to the Group’s goals.
We continue to attract a high number of applications with 12,500 in FY23 (FY22: 12,000) and we hired 928 people during the year (FY22: 1,118). Several of these hires were for key strategic roles across the Group. In order to ensure our approach to talent acquisition is sustainable we have greatly reduced our use of recruitment agencies and directed our investment into our global talent acquisition team.
Creating a culture of learning and development
We strive to continuously create a culture of learning and development for all of our people. By creating an inspirational place to work we empower our people to fulfil individual career ambitions whilst simultaneously increasing the rate of growth in our business. Our focus is on the continued development of our people with high levels of engagement in our learning and development offerings. We continued to enhance both our internal and external training offerings to ensure the training needs of both our business and our people were met.
This has been a transformative year for us with a clearer strategic focus on employee development. Last year we introduced our People Management model, enhanced our continuous ongoing review programme and introduced a route to self-promotion. We shifted the focus to empower our people to fuel their own growth and development and we see this as key to our longer-term success.
|People Manager model||Performance||Leadership programmes||Development tools and recognition|
|Last year we introduced the People Manager model and this year we developed this by rolling out professional and personal development training to equip 500 + People Managers to support their teams and colleagues across the business. The model seeks to establish consistent engagement and people management practices across our business and ensures that every colleague is allocated a People Manager.||We shifted our focus from a traditional annual review to delivering continuous, regular on-the-pulse feedback.
We have also enhanced our promotion process across the Group and for the first time introduced the ability for our people to self-nominate for promotion.
|We have designed two bespoke programmes to offer structured and practical training for both our high-potential leaders (Aspiring Leadership Programme) and our Senior leaders (Leadership Excellence Programme). By constantly upskilling our People we are ensuring we have a pipeline of talent primed to take on leadership roles in the future.||This year we introduced a richly integrated performance management tool which facilitates the ongoing engagement with people and allows for 360-degree feedback and also recognition on a timely basis.|
The post-pandemic climate saw a ‘war on talent’ and in order to remain competitive and appealing we continued to prioritise our reward and recognition strategy. As part of this we evaluated and benchmarked all roles across the business to make sure our people were being paid competitively and fairly for the important work that they do. We value effort and excellence and recognise that we have an exceptionally talented and diligent team, which cares passionately about the work it does and the service it provides to clients.
To ensure our people are fully supported we commit to a People-Care approach. We have an all -encompassing approach to wellbeing to ensure we are addressing the five pillars of wellbeing (financial, physical, mental, emotional and environmental). From global wellbeing seminars to issuing mental health first aid training to all managers we have introduced a raft of measures to ensure that the wellbeing of our people is a priority.
This year we were honoured to be awarded the Silver accreditation from Diversity Mark NI. The Diversity Mark accreditation is a ‘Mark of Progress’ that recognises our progress with inclusion and diversity across the Group. We pride ourselves on the diverse, inclusive and vibrant team that we have built and to ensure they remain at the very heart of what we do we will continue to embed networks and support initiatives across the Group to support multiple diverse groups.
Gender diversity remains a challenge within the wider industry, where just approximately 19% of roles are undertaken by women (Tech Nation, 2022). During the year, the proportion of women in the Group increased to 30% (FY22: 29%). We remain committed to improving the proportion of women in the Group with focused talent acquisition campaigns alongside the delivery of key initiatives such as our internal Strive Mentorship programme and our corporate partnership with the Lean-In Foundation, which is an initiative designed to get small groups of women together regularly for peer mentorship. We also ensure our Women’s Network continues to embed with the appointment of an executive sponsor.
In addition to our efforts to increase our gender diversity we also have two further established networks – FD Pride, representing our LGBTQIA+ community, and FD Multicultural, representing our ethnic diversities across the Group. We have executive sponsorship of these networks and we have also embedded representation from all parts of the Group with the nomination of network representatives. We continue to drive engagement in these networks with a calendar of events to mark key celebrations including Pride and Diwali. We recognise that developing our allies across the Group will be key to the furtherance of our diversity objectives. Subsequently, we have issued mandatory diversity and inclusion training together with unconscious basis training to all of our people.
As a Group we appreciate that neurodiversity is an essential form of human diversity. To the Group, the idea that there is one “normal” or “healthy” type of brain or mind or one “right” style of neurocognitive functioning is no more valid than the idea that there is one “normal” or “right” gender, race or culture. This year we put neurodiversity on our agenda for the first time and took key steps to start the process of embedding this awareness across the Group, including Neurodiversity training to all of our senior managers and ‘Just A Minute’ training to over 800 of our people. This training allows people with a learning difficulty, autism or a communication barrier to tell others they need ‘Just a Minute’ discreetly and easily. We have also partnered with the NOW Group, a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future.
We are now in the fourth year of running our annual engagement survey. There are many positives to take from the Group results including sustainable engagement being at 82%, showing us that our employees are engaged, enabled and energised. However, we accept that there is still work to do around enhancing reward and benefits. The investments made in learning and development together with people development initiatives are all aimed at empowering our colleagues to progress their careers and achieve their own personal development goals. We strive to ensure our people are engaged and we believe that open and interactive communications are key in cultivating an engaged workforce. Our approach to employee engagement is all encompassing from regular town-halls to people recognition awards.
As a provider of technology and professional services, the Group’s direct operations have a minimal impact on the environment. Nonetheless, as the technology sector is forecasted to continually grow, its ability to contribute to global emissions will naturally increase. Therefore, we are committed to reducing our environmental impact. This is central to our relationship with our shareholders, our people, our clients and our communities. The Group recognises that the business community has a responsibility to act to preserve our environment and we are committed to play our part, by minimising the impact our operations have on the environment.
We understand that climate change is an increasingly significant issue for our regulators, investors and clients, and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations provide an important framework for recognising, evaluating and disclosing the associated risks and opportunities. We commit to publishing annual climate disclosures commencing in 2024. We will adopt an effective TCFD aligned climate disclosure to ensure that we comply with the UK Government’s mandate that listed companies should disclose according to TCFD recommendations.
To us, hybrid working is about merging remote and office based working, giving our people greater flexibility to work in the location that best suits them, taking into consideration the needs of their role, their work, their team members, and our clients. Aside from supporting our people to work effectively in a more flexible manner, hybrid working also provides us with a unique prospect to considerably decrease our environmental impact especially with regards to business travel and employee commuting, which are significant contributors to our environmental impact. Our entire workforce has the opportunity for hybrid working and this has had a positive impact on the environment.
Following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic we significantly reviewed our location strategy. Our focus was to localise our employees in region following a short-term deployment, driven by our motivation to help streamline our operational processes across the Group together with reducing the impact that short-term secondments have on the Group’s carbon footprint.
Ahead of any detailed emissions analysis that the Group may make in the future, it is required to report its energy use and impact under the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) regulations.
During the year we focused our efforts on ensuring the environmental efficiency of our corporate real estate, particularly during the refurbishment and upgrade of our Newry office completed in June 2022, in which we upgraded insulation and ensured the use of energy efficient lighting. Further, due to our hybrid working model we were able to consolidate our Belfast office by one floor meaning that our energy usage naturally decreased. During FY23 we implemented the enhancement of our data collection processes so we can publish a more comprehensive data set in relation to our environmental impact, whilst completing ESOS phase 2. In 2023, we will further be setting out a clear and robust environmental strategy, including the targets by which our progress will be measured, whilst working towards ESOS phase 3 compliance. Working with our internal sustainability team to implement an Environmental Management System, the plan will involve a detailed audit of our material impacts and a way forward that reflects our growing business.
For FY23 the UK energy used was 702,325 kWh (FY22: 927,986 kWh/ FY21: 1,013,140 kWh) showing the impact of the efforts to increase environmental efficiency. Using the UK Government’s GHG Conversion Factors Guidance to calculate the quantity of emissions provides scope 2 emissions of 148 (FY22:195/ FY21: 257) tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, representing a 24% reduction in emissions over the prior year. The SECR regulations require a statement of relevant intensity ratios, which are an expression of the quantity of emissions in relation to a quantifiable factor of the business activity. The Group has identified two such intensity ratios, set out below.
|Intensity ratios for the year to 28 February 2023 (tonnes of CO2e per unit)|
|0.00 (FY23)||0.05 (FY23)|
|0.00 (FY22)||0.07 (FY22)|
|0.00 (FY21)||0.10 (FY21)|
Environmental benefits of KX technology
Our customers across industries typically use KX as an analytics platform to enable them to reduce waste and improve yield and for predictive maintenance. Not only is KX an enabler of environmentally friendly operations, in addition we have benchmarked ourselves as up to 100x more efficient than competing streaming analytics technologies and have seen reductions in our customers’ electricity, cooling, space and hardware requirements in the range of 80–90% against our competitors. We are rightly proud of the undoubted environmental benefits that KX delivers through its energy and environmental efficiency and we have continued to focus efforts on ensuring KX remains the most efficient streaming analytics technology available.
Whilst our business operates internationally all of our people remain rooted in the communities where they live and work and helping those less fortunate has been at our core for more than 20 years.
To coordinate our charity activities, we have established a charity policy with the aim of being a good neighbour in the communities in which we operate and to use the energies and talents of our people in charitable fundraising activities.
A team comprising representation from across the Group has been formed to coordinate these activities. We focused our support in FY23 towards fundraising efforts for Ukraine; our employees directly donated £35,000 and this sum was matched by the Group so that an overall sum of £70,000 was donated to charities on the ground in Ukraine. Furthermore, our people have also participated in a variety of volunteering activities. The Group remains committed to investing in youth development, and we continue to promote and support our people in providing mentorship and career advice via several partnerships within our communities.
In addition to fundraising events, the Group also encourages our people to contribute to charities of their choice through a payroll giving scheme under which donations are taken tax free from their monthly salary.
The Group also engages with its local communities by supporting initiatives to train and develop talent. Examples include support at both school and university level to assist with developing business and technology skills and to shape the curriculum to ensure they are relevant to modern business requirements. We have also developed several partnerships in connection with our communities, particularly with a number of universities across the UK and Ireland. We have also partnered with several education based initiatives such as Young Enterprise and Business in the Community.
The Group takes seriously its responsibilities to operate ethically and responsibly, and this commitment is demonstrated through a range of policies, with supporting governance in place.
The Group is committed to the highest standards of security and privacy and is conscious that these matters are of great importance to our stakeholders, such as people, customers and partners. We regard the development and maintenance of privacy and security infrastructure as critical to promoting the sustainable development of the industrialised world because it helps to promote individual wellbeing, supports equality, avoids discrimination and empowers all genders through confidentiality of their information. Privacy and security are also essential to successful partnerships, which can then progress towards sustainable development through cooperation with confidence that shared information is managed safely.
We work with, support and engage with many large organisations from a multitude of sectors who manage sensitive and confidential data. As such, our adherence to high levels of IT and information security is imperative. To ensure compliance with best practices we continue to certify to the UK Government-backed cybersecurity frameworks Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus, testing our controls, standardisation, and procedures. Our controls, policies and procedures take a defence-in-depth and risk based approach to secure – access controls, endpoint and network protection, environmental controls, IT system architecture, remote access policies, multifactor authentication, single sign-on, password protection policies, back-up policies, quality assurance, supply chain governance, change controls and system support. All of our people undergo stringent pre-employment screening to ensure secure user onboarding and must then routinely complete IT security and awareness training to highlight the risks of a modern security climate.
This informs users of the potential impact a cyber-attack could have, and the steps required to reduce the risk of cyber-crime infiltration and data exfiltration. Regular phishing campaigns are undertaken to understand user risk and subsequent failure training, while incident response exercises, alongside penetration and vulnerability testing of environments, ensure we remediate any platform, process, or system risks.
Delivering robust and regular training is essential to ensure our workforce understands our policies and regulations that apply to them. In addition to cybersecurity training, it is mandatory for each employee to complete the following courses: Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing, Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption, Discrimination and Harassment, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Global Code of Conduct. We maintain a quarterly schedule of mandatory training for both new starters and existing employees with training completion rates tracked, followed up and reported to the Executive Committee.
While we believe the Group’s risk of encountering human trafficking and modern slavery may be low in the industry we operate in relative to other industries, we are committed to acting ethically and with integrity in all our business relationships and to having processes to reduce the risk of slavery and human trafficking in our organisation and supply chain. We choose suppliers and contractors which we believe share our commitment. The Board receives an update on the approach to modern slavery and approves the modern slavery statement.
The Group has policies and procedures in place to identify and protect against anti-bribery and anti-corruption risks in its business activities both internally and with third parties. All employees must participate in mandatory training courses in this area. The Group employs a mix of risk assessments, due diligence questionnaires and screening. Our continuous improvement has involved strengthening our use of independent screening tools to assess counterparty risk leading to better customer due diligence. Governance and risk assessment of third-party suppliers has also been strengthened during the year with the addition of an experienced Vice President of Procurement and a review of our third party management policy and procedures . In the event that any concerns are raised of inappropriate business practice related to bribery and corruption, there is an escalation process to senior management.
The Board delegates sustainability authority as follows:
• Board sets strategy and policy for sustainability;
• Board delegates oversight to the Nomination and ESG Committee;
• Board delegates management responsibility to the ExCo; and
• ExCo delegates oversight to the Sustainability Management Committee, which comprises a group of senior executives representing key functions across the Group.
The Group has a whistleblowing policy that enables all employees to confidentially report matters of concern to an independent third party. No such matters arose during the year in question. The details of any such reports, should they arise, will be communicated to the Audit and Risk Committee.