Uponor: Sustainability leadership elevated

Region

Global

Timeline

2020 - present

Audience

ESG executives and leaders

Challenge

Uponor has a thoughtful and comprehensive sustainability strategy built on four United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Uponor, like many multi-national companies, balances competing challenges; therefore, sustainability efforts were not always a primary focus of company leadership due to other constraints and priorities.

During spring 2020, the dedicated sustainability staff at Uponor moved out of the marketing department to report directly to company leadership, increasing their impact and influence. This change resulted from good relationships with company leadership as well as the desire to increase the visibility of circularity work within the company. They met monthly with leadership to report on progress and presented at all-company staff meetings. When the opportunity to suggest a restructuring appeared, the Director of Brand and Sustainability took the initiative to ask for the reporting structure change and felt comfortable taking that risk because of the growing importance of sustainability to corporate strategy.

Result

This change has more deeply integrated circularity in the business culture including by elevating the role of the sustainability team–a growing cross-functional group of staff representing finance, marketing, operations, and supply chain that develops and implements projects to further the company’s sustainability strategy.

With fresh energy and knowledge, the sustainability team developed new projects. Based on the suggestion of a colleague in Research and Development, the group is working to develop a circularity gradient to standardize the concept of circularity and create a means to measure solutions. The metric will help the team stay on the same page and track progress on projects across the company. The team developed a sustainability survey to help determine with the vendor selection process. This project grew out of a recognition that the company needed to have better tools to incorporate sustainability criteria into decision making around vendors and suppliers. The projects coming out of the energized team demonstrate how a new organizational structure creates space for meaningful change in integrating circularity into business practices.

There are many levers, or approaches, that can create and scale up change to existing systems in our society. Uponor’s restructured sustainability work represents an example of instituting catalyzing platforms. The new organizational structure elevates sustainability as a company priority and, as evidenced through the sustainability team, energizes staff to develop tangible projects that will apply company priorities in business practices. This case study demonstrates how companies can utilize organizational models to prioritize circularity principles.

Lessons Learned

  • Create structures to regularly update senior leadership on circularity projects.
  • Highlight sustainability efforts at all-company meetings.
  • Share compelling research and examples from other companies to inspire colleagues and encourage healthy competition.
  • Develop a sustainability team of cross-functional staff (supply chain, finance, operations, marketing) who are working on projects to achieve company sustainability goals.
  • Create shared knowledge around circularity among staff and leadership through resource sharing and conversations.

There seems to be a deeper listening from leadership than before. There is a general recognition that something has changed with COVID-19, that business as usual isn’t such a great idea and we need to switch to business as better.

Ingrid Mattsson, Director of Brand and Sustainability, Uponor

Process

During spring 2020, the dedicated sustainability staff at Uponor moved out of the marketing department to report directly to company leadership, increasing their impact and influence. This change resulted from good relationships with company leadership as well as the desire to increase the visibility of circularity work within the company. They met monthly with leadership to report on progress and presented at all-company staff meetings. When the opportunity to suggest a restructuring appeared, the Director of Brand and Sustainability took the initiative to ask for the reporting structure change and felt comfortable taking that risk because of the growing importance of sustainability to corporate strategy.

The marketing department’s reorganization was timely in that it presented a chance to suggest a different structure for sustainability personnel’s place within the company. Despite off-site work imposed by COVID-19, the team is very pleased with the increased opportunity to have greater interaction with senior leadership and several high-profile projects are underway.

They meet with the president regularly to report on progress and invited leadership throughout the organization to participate in Greenbiz’s Circularity 2020 conference. These ongoing efforts to create greater awareness of topics like sustainability and circularity are having an impact on the company culture.

Uponor’s sustainability staff leveraged years of relationship building and a recent department reorganization to integrate circularity more deeply into company culture, including notably at the C-Suite level.

Uponor’s experience showcases how sustainability champions within a company are successfully increasing efforts to integrate circularity into the business strategy of their company. The organizational restructuring both reflected ongoing efforts to provide colleagues tools to incorporate circularity into their work and created a more energized staff to advance the company’s sustainability goals. As more employees, customers, investors and consumers demand sustainability within the private sector, Uponor has showcased how building relationships across the company, providing resources, and identifying both tangible projects and structural changes advance circularity.

Uponor: Sustainability leadership elevated

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