For our last In Conversation piece of the year we are delighted to get to know more about Marian Troy, Head of Corporate Affairs at SSE Ireland.
SSE Ireland are a member of the network and have recently achieved the Business Working Responsibly mark.
Please describe your role and responsibilities and how many years you have been in the company
I’m Head of Corporate Affairs for SSE Ireland, overseeing our Sustainability, Communications, Policy and Public Affairs teams across the island of Ireland. I’ve been working in SSE for five years.
What was your background previously? How did you enter the CSR field?
I studied law at undergraduate level, and then completed a Master’s degree in town planning. I then entered the world of energy policy and regulation, first through an internship with the European Commission, and then in an analyst role with Ireland’s energy regulator, before moving into the private sector.
I gained an awareness of many human and economic rights issues during my law degree, and I think I first developed a real understanding of environmental sustainability when studying town planning. I was introduced to sustainability in a corporate environment as soon as I began at SSE Ireland, as it’s one of the company’s core values. I’ve been lucky to work closely with our Sustainability team since I started with the company, and my knowledge and passion for the field has continued to expand as a result.
How has the sustainability/CSR programme evolved at your company?
A pivotal focus area for SSE Ireland is understanding how we meet the needs of the economy, society and environment in which we operate as we evolve and grow as a business.
Environmental sustainability is key for any company involved in energy generation, so it’s something that is naturally embedded in the fabric of what we do as a company.
We have a number of long-standing initiatives in the social sustainability space, including our employee-led volunteering and fundraising programme, Be the Difference, and our industry-leading Community Fund for projects local to our wind farms. As our wind farm portfolio grows, so too does our Fund; in our last financial year we awarded over €700,000 to community organisations close to our sites, with a total of over €5 million donated since 2008. At the beginning of last year, we became the first large corporate business in Ireland to pay the voluntary Living Wage to all employees. We’re continually developing supports and benefits for our people, including increased health and wellness initiatives, alongside our employee assistance programme and enhanced parental benefits.
On the economic side, we’ve increased our measurement and communication of our national and local impacts. An example of this includes publishing our annual economic contribution in Ireland, alongside the SSE Group Annual Report. At a project infrastructure level, we’ve produced a Sustainability Impact Report, measuring the impacts of the Galway Wind Park project we’ve jointly developed with Coillte. We look to use the local supply chain wherever possible, and we encourage local suppliers to become involved in our projects through ‘Meet the Buyer’ events.
What are the challenges you encounter in driving the sustainability agenda and how do you stay inspired?
For many businesses operating in dynamic and demanding environments, it can be challenging to find the time necessary to prioritise sustainability. This is why I think it’s hugely beneficial to identify it as a core value, and allocate it sufficient resource, which we’ve done at SSE.
Looking back at what we’ve achieved already helps me remain motivated for the years ahead. Being part of Business in the Community Ireland, and hearing about the great work happening at other companies is also very helpful. I usually spend the journey back to the office after BITCI events wondering how and when I can implement the great ideas I’ve heard.
What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?
One of my biggest learnings is just how important sustainability is to people right across our business, and how willing colleagues are to get involved in sustainability initiatives. From our Be the Difference volunteering programme, to our Encouraging Difference group, which promotes and celebrates diversity and inclusion internally, I’m constantly impressed by the energy and enthusiasm our people devote to our sustainability value. Active participation from colleagues allows our sustainability messages and practices to be deeper embedded in our business, with new ideas being generated all the time.
What are the business benefits of having achieved the Business Working Responsibly Mark?
To meet business objectives and manage risk over the long-term, SSE knows that we must operate responsibly. We see non-financial indicators as crucial for judging overall business performance. As well as being a core SSE value, we know that sustainability is important to our customers, our people, our investors and other stakeholders.
The Mark demonstrates to all of these groups that we’re serious about sustainability and CSR, and we’re taking a leadership role.
By going through the Mark evaluation process we also identified some areas for further improvement. It’s important that we are constantly getting better, and never satisfied with the status quo. It’s great to have external validation that we’re on the right track, and to join other like-minded leaders in this area.
What is your motto in life?
Try anything twice! I’m a believer in getting out and giving things a whirl, because you never really know until you do!
What would a perfect day entail for you?
A perfect day for me involves quality time with friends and family, and a mix of good food, music and outdoor activities.
Hear what Marian has to say about the benefits of the Mark.