Materiality – creating a bespoke blueprint for our ESG strategy

2nd December 2021

By: Joanne Ballard, E.S.G Strategy and Compliance Director

At the very beginning, the ESG journey can appear to be an overwhelming challenge, even for a company like Maintel which has always taken its environmental and social responsibilities seriously. Unlike our existing ISO certifications, ESG encompasses an almost limitless range of factors outlined in a proliferation of different frameworks, with the aim of contributing to wide-reaching, fully global efforts.

It’s not possible – or helpful – for an individual business to focus on every topic within any set of guidelines. The relative importance of each subject varies across business sectors and industries and depends upon the company’s purpose. Spreading efforts too thinly risks diluting the potential results for the company and wider stakeholder community. Instead, prioritisation of elements that are material and relevant is the first important step towards creating an effective ESG strategy.

Materiality is defining the environmental, social and governance topics that directly and indirectly affect an organisation’s goals and decision making. It’s identifying the issues that matter most to the business and its stakeholders. That means the criteria for material issues will be specific to them and tailored to their priorities.

A materiality assessment is a valuable tool for achieving this, weighting categories by relevance to define materiality. Completed thoroughly, this assessment can become an initial blueprint for the final ESG strategy, prioritising the critical issues that will have the most potential impact on the entire ESG initiative.

Maintel’s materiality assessment

Maintel identified its material issues through a comprehensive stakeholder engagement process. For our first materiality assessment, we surveyed Maintel employees, an employee representative group (Maintel Matters), board members and non-executive directors along with key customers to find out what really mattered to them. 204 responses were received via a short survey, conversation or interview that covered key topics across the whole organisation. These responses were analysed, and we identified the following material topics for Maintel:

Environmental

  • Product and service innovation
  • Environmental protection
  • Clean energy emissions
  • Recycling, waste management and waste reduction

Social     

  • Attracting, developing, rewarding, and retaining employees
  • Privacy and security
  • Diversity, inclusion and belonging
  • Employee engagement
  • Work life balance
  • Career development and training

Governance

  • Business conduct, ethics and regulatory compliance
  • Maintel financial performance
  • Trust and transparency both internally and externally
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Quality of products and services
  • Business growth and stakeholder value
  • Delivering long term value to our customers
  • Gender equality and reducing gender inequalities

 

By clearly identifying these material issues, the materiality assessment empowers us to create and apply appropriate strategy, effectively target internal resources and take decisive action to positively impact the areas identified.

Accountability, transparency and tracking change

From the wide variety of available frameworks and guidance, Maintel has chosen to align its journey with the UN framework, an ambitious programme that aims to address issues across 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. By mapping out areas that can impact sustainability development (both directly and indirectly), our materiality assessment identified 6 SDGs as being material to our business, and where our contribution can make a real difference:

SDG4: Quality Education

SDG5: Gender Equality

SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

SDG13: Climate Action

SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

There are a number of obvious benefits to running a comprehensive materiality assessment. By understanding what our stakeholders consider to be priorities we can proactively weigh up risks and opportunities in critical areas and make robust decisions around investment in the sustainability issues that are material to them. We can stay on top of legal and regulatory issues and stay ahead of long-term risks. And we strive to enhance stakeholder engagement by listening to their opinions and facilitating their ideas to reach our targets.

Our materiality assessment has allowed us to identify and report on our current state, identify future targets, and evaluate the changes necessary to meet those targets. Based on the materiality assessment results and our SDG alignment, we have set bold, ambitious yet achievable goals to support improvement across E, S and G topics.

And being able to measure our existing ESG performance and track it closely as it changes allows us to accurately report results back to our stakeholders.

Maintel prides itself on transparency and accountability, and by regularly repeating a materiality assessment, reviewing our progress against these established targets and recording and openly sharing the results via our ESG at Maintel website, we can clearly communicate the opportunities we discover and successes we achieve along our sustainability journey.

Looking further to the future

As a dynamic business within a dynamic industry, we expect our material issues to change and develop over time, so our materiality assessment will be repeated every two years. And now we have established our initial material issues, we plan to broaden our stakeholder engagement even further by reaching out to local community representatives and suppliers, listening to their concerns and ideas, and updating our focus and strategy to implement them.

In the next blog in this ESG series we will take a look at our first material SDG, Quality Education, why it is important to Maintel stakeholders, and the goals we have set for the coming years.

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