Dixons Carphone’s recruitment of Moira Thomas to lead a new sustainability drive could hardly have been better timed.
A matter of hours after Thomas’s appointment was announced, the UK government was committing to a world-leading target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.
The target speaks to the government’s commitment to “build back greener” after the coronavirus pandemic and has significant implications for businesses operating in the retail sector, not least because for the first time it incorporates the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions.
Taken alongside an existing government commitment to achieve net zero by 2050, it’s no surprise to see major employers like Dixons Carphone stepping up their own environmental ambitions.
Thomas’s appointment to the position of group director of sustainability and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is a sign of changing times within the retail sector.
Historically, many people working in ESG roles have struggled to have their voices heard in the boardroom. All too frequently they have been shut out of the highest level strategic discussions and then forced to retrofit sustainability initiatives to fit a strategy they haven’t been able to shape.
This makes it hard to actually achieve sustainability commitments, as retail bosses are beginning to discover.
But with public scrutiny of business practices growing, and companies required to meet ever more demanding reporting requirements in areas such as greenhouse gas emissions and gender pay, leaving corporate social responsibility in the hands of a small team with little clout is no longer a viable option.
The pressure to set and then achieve sustainability commitments means that ESG has to be intrinsic to the wider business strategy, rather than an afterthought, otherwise stretching targets simply won’t be met.
The result is the creation of senior roles like the one now occupied by Thomas, whose incumbents have a strong voice in the boardroom and are able to influence strategy accordingly.
Thomas joins Dixons Carphone after 15 years working for John Lewis in a variety of ESG roles where she’s credited with adding value to the business through programmes involving carbon, property, waste, packaging, recycling and communities.
In her new role, Thomas is tasked with elevating Dixons Carphone’s ESG strategy across the group, building on its existing sustainability goals, including a pledge to achieve net zero carbon by 2040 and to transition its delivery fleet to electric vehicles.
Thomas says she is looking forward to helping Dixons Carphone “continue to put purpose at the heart of everything it does”.
Going forward, we should expect many more high-level retail appointments to have a similarly lofty ambition.