Championing environmental sustainability in every corner of our business

It is an icy -3 degrees Celsius at 11am on a sunny mid-December morning in Aberdeen, Scotland. Aziza McAdam, Asset Planner working from Petrofac’s Bridge View office, is sharing the little steps we can take in our personal lives to decarbonise our lifestyle and our activity with more than 50 Petrofac colleagues on a global webinar. To talk about decarbonising and preserving energy during a snap of extremely cold weather in the local area might seem like peculiar timing, but the impact of climate change on the environment is a global issue which knows no boundaries and has no respect for timeliness.

The (not so) subliminal message is obvious: there is no planet B.

If we were to label this very diverse group of people as ‘like-minded’, it would be for their genuine care and desire to do better by our planet. They are gathered around an employee networking group named Environmental Sustainability Network and represent different walks of life, time zones, and locations, from the Algerian Desert, Iraq, the UAE, and Thailand, to London, Woking, and Aberdeen, among others.

“The primary goal of the group is to raise awareness and encourage thoughts on how we as individuals can change to make a positive difference and benefit our environment,” Aziza explains in a more private setting to that of a global webinar. The Environmental Sustainability Network (ESN) celebrated its first birthday recently and what started as an exchange of ideas between individuals a year ago is now gaining traction with more than 170 members of a growing community.

"The primary goal is to raise awareness" - Aziza McAdam

“We are an employee-led group, and any member of the community can suggest ideas that they would like to highlight or topics they would like to discuss,” Aziza adds.

The group’s steering committee, supported by the Head of Sustainability, works around a busy work schedule to deliver engaging sessions and discussions, and blueprint initiatives colleagues around the world can implement.

Jonathan Richmond, Aberdeen-based Principal Metering Consultant, one of the early joiners and a member of the ESN steering committee, says that working with people on the committee is very catching: “Everyone on the steering committee is very passionate and dynamic, a group of high achievers, and it is quite nice to be surrounded and work with those kinds of people.”

They have so far delivered several knowledge-sharing sessions and discussions, with one idea starting to take shape as a fully functioning initiative – going meatless on Mondays.

Reducing meat consumption for our own and the health of our planet

Focusing on offshore wind with an unwavering passion for renewable energies and energy preservation, you could say Phaedra Pritchard, Petrofac’s Head of Wind – Operations and Maintenance, dedicated her working life to the cause.

She believes that applying our personal desire to implement change in a work culture where people have a similar thought process makes all the difference. “You will start seeing change on a much bigger scale and Meatless Mondays is only the start of that,” Phaedra says of the initiative she has been closely following (and personally implementing) for the past year. “If everyone in the organisation can do something which requires so little sacrifice, imagine the impact that will have,” she emphasises.

Meatless Mondays is not a novel concept and schools, communities, universities, and work environments have been implementing it in different formats in the past. Now that – thanks to the Environmental Sustainability Network – the idea has been ‘cooking’ at Petrofac for some time with a global internal communication campaign to follow, we are seeing the initiative already being put in practice.

Due to the late stage of our Tinrhert project in Algeria, our team onsite recognised that the time to act is now. They have swapped Mondays for Tuesdays, given the religious considerations around fasting. Munuswamy Murthy, Senior Environmental Advisor at the project, explains that it took some effort to get everyone on board: “We have provided information and videos to the site team, our client, and the catering team. Once everyone was happy, we launched the initiative, and we had an amazing reaction.”

The result was some 300 people onsite eating vegetarian delicacies for lunch and dinner every Tuesday of the month. “Vegetarian food is always good,” Munuswamy responds matter-of-factly when asked about the tastiest item on the menu.

One person makes a huge difference

We have talked about enabling and nourishing a sustainability culture from within at Petrofac for a while, and we have seen concrete steps being taken both at the organisational and individual level. However small, change is happening, and we have Petrofac’s people to thank. Be it for six new Aberdeen office car park EV chargers, reusable coffee cups and recycling points in different locations, or increased understanding of how our personal habits can be more sustainable.

“For Petrofac to enable its employees to make sustainable choices demonstrates that the company believes in sustainability irrespective of the sector that it works in,” Phaedra Pritchard says. “For me, that is a powerful message.”

But how did members of the Environmental Sustainability Network manage to overcome the ‘…but I am only one person’ mentality to tackle problems and tasks the sceptics would label unachievable or Sisyphean? And more importantly – why?

“I want my daughter to have a chance to live in a better world than we are living in now,” Aziza McAdam says. “The idea of making a positive impact, however small, while meeting interesting people across Petrofac, energises me”, she concludes.

“We want to leave the planet in at least as good condition as we found it in, if not better. For our children and grandchildren,” Jonathan Richmond adds.

A more sustainable future for the people we love is without a doubt a prevalent motive in the ESN community. It seems almost unnecessary to ask Phaedra, who at this point in our call is balancing our questions with the attention of a very playful two-year-old, why she dedicates her time to ESN. “I want to know there is a world for him and his children and their children.”

“The changes we can make today will have a huge impact to those generations in the years to come,” Phaedra concludes.

"For Petrofac to enable its employees to make sustainable choices...is a powerful message" - Phaedra Pritchard