Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Wizard of Sustainability

Dare Ilori has journeyed from the bottom up to become Merlin Entertainments’ Group Head of Sustainability and ‘Wizard’ of Sustainability Performance and Progress. Dare has been in his current role for three years, focusing on sustainability strategy, carbon reporting, supply chain management, energy efficiency, waste management and regulatory compliance.

Dare will be joining me at the edie Smarter Sustainability Conference on 27th February 2018 and will present his experience and guidance in one of the morning breakout sessions which is a deep dive discussion on environmental impacts reporting.

Merlin Entertainments is the largest European entertainments company operating in Europe. Merlin runs 125 attractions in 25 countries across four continents with brands that include LEGOLAND Parks,  SEA LIFE aquariums and the iconic Madam Tussauds that operates with many attractions across the globe.

Can't resist digressing, as I recall many exciting visits to Madame Tussauds in London as a child and later with my own kids. You may not know that Madame Tussaud (German wax modeler Marie Tussaud (1761-1850)) founded the first Wax Museum on Baker Street in London in 1835, after learning the art of creating lifelike figures out of wax during the French Revolution, claiming to have made her first ones directly from the heads of the recently guillotined.

Merlin operates many more fun places such as Alton Towers (popular spot for our annual day trips when I was a schoolgirl), Teh Coca-Cola London Eye, Blackpool Tower (another nostalgic brand for me, as all my family summer holidays as a child were spent in Blackpool) and more modern attractions such as Shrek's Adventure in London. So you know that sustainability can be fun, but in a business such as this, it has to be extra super fun! And that was my impression after talking with Dare Ilori, who I am looking forward to meeting in person at the edie Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference in London next year.

"I graduated as an industrial chemist 17 years ago with a great passion for environmental chemistry. In 2007, I enrolled for a Master’s Degree in Waste and Environmental Management and graduated in 2009. In the same year, I joined the waste and recycling department at Thorpe Park Resort which is owned and managed by Merlin Entertainments. Initially the role was to manage waste and recycling only, but within a year, the role expanded to include other environmental management activities (waste management, energy management, sustainability reporting and environmental management system) for the park. 
I realised that the future of sustainability is that these aspects need to be integrated into the management of the business itself. Over time, employers may no longer be able to recruit an energy manager, a recycling & waste manager, an environmental management systems manager, carbon manager and others separately. 
Not long after that, and based on the interest we generated through a range of activities to improve our environmental performance at Thorpe Park Resorts, I expanded my responsibilities to include all of Merlin Entertainments' strategy and environmental approach for all our sites at a corporate level in 2015. 
Businesses nowadays must factor environmental impacts at a strategic level where knowledge and learnings can be shared and implemented across multiple sites. This increases both effectiveness and efficiencies."

This is a super example of bottom-up sustainability, starting by proving the benefits from the ground up, and demonstrating that advantage to one business unit has benefit to the wider organisation. Dare Ilori has driven engagement at a site-by-site level, with each operation getting involved and delivering results.

For the Group as a whole, Dare manages the Green Capex fund; capital expenditure designed to support investment in environmental initiatives to help Merlin continue to reduce its carbon footprint while at the same time deliver operational savings. As a way of managing energy spend on sites, the company use internal metric of energy spend per £1m revenue to identify sites that will need to be prioritized for energy audits and reduction focus. The Green Capex fund has been instrumental in delivering recommended projects from energy efficiency audits. Some of the projects delivered with the Green Capex fund are installation of LED lights at Sydney Cluster Australia, chiller optimization at Sealife Istanbul, solar powered cars at Junior Driving School LEGOLAND Florida and variable speed drive on air handling units at Madame Tussauds London.

In other areas, Merlin strives to Be a Force for Good and operates several programs designed to positively impact marine and wildlife conservation, support charitable causes for children and ensure accessibility at all its venues. Merlin's Magic Wand, for example, is a charity that makes it possible for thousands of seriously ill, disabled and disadvantaged children to enjoy a memorable day out at a Merlin attraction every year or provide Magic Spaces for those too sick to experience an attraction firsthand.

In terms of reporting, Merlin Entertainments has opted to report its scope 1 and 2 carbon performance within its annual report and accounts.

I am looking forward to hearing his more perspectives and the challenges he has faced and overcome in order to help Merlin Entertainments deliver business and environmental objectives. We will also aim to hear Dare’s view regarding scope 3 emission reporting by Merlin Entertainments Plc.

Will we see you there?

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Ice Cream Addict, Author of three totally groundbreaking books on sustainability (see About Me page). Contact me via Twitter (@elainecohen) or via my business website (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm). Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: 

Elaine will be chairing  the edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018  

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