Making a difference: How DSW is enhancing its social and environmental impact

In the first of a series about our ESG framework, we speak to the leaders of one of the four ‘cornerstone’ groups – Katie Walton, Cath Priestley and Jess Bradbury.

What are the ESG cornerstones, and how were they decided?

DSW’s ESG framework is built on four cornerstones – Social & Environmental Impact, Diversity & Inclusion, Empowering our People, and Responsible Business Practices. They were developed by listening to our stakeholders, who increasingly value companies with strong ESG principles at their core.

What is the role of the Social & Environmental (SEI) cornerstone group?

It aims to make a positive, long-term impact on our local communities whilst minimising our environmental impact.

Why did you decide to join the SEI cornerstone group?

Cath: I’ve always been passionate about giving back, and working at DSW has given me the chance to continue this in a meaningful way. One of the highlights has been working with The Joshua Tree, a charity which supports families with childhood cancers. As a mum of three children, I find their work really resonates with me, and they’re based not far from where I live. It’s been rewarding to be hands-on with them, whether it’s painting a room in their new centre or getting involved in fundraising activities.

Cath Priestley, Recruitment Manager

Jess: When the SEI cornerstone was set up, Pete Fendall, Chair of DSW’s ESG Committee, asked if I might like to join. The SEI group really resonated with me as I’ve always wanted to be more proactive in the community. While time can be challenging in my role, this was a perfect way to get involved and contribute positively. Being part of Camlee, within DSW’s network and based in south Manchester, it’s a great opportunity to engage more with DSW’s Daresbury HQ.

Jessica Bradbury, Associate Director with Camlee

Katie: Coming from a background at a charitable trust, joining the SEI group felt like a natural step. I was always involved in community activities, whether making videos, taking photos or spreading the word about NHS-funded classes. Continuing this work makes me happy – not from a selfish perspective, but because I know that giving back, even in small ways, boosts my well-being. DSW has been making great strides on the environmental front, and I’m keen to play a role in our evolving strategy and help drive positive change.

Katie Walton, Brand and Marketing Manager

What do you hope the SEI cornerstone group will achieve in the next 12 months?

From an environmental perspective, we’re committed to continuing our efforts and, over the last year, have reduced our Scope 1 Emissions by 53.4% and Scope 1 & 2 Emissions by 31%. As a 120-strong organisation, we aim to be carbon neutral by 2025 and carbon net zero by 2030.

We’ve integrated several initiatives into our daily routines to support these goals. These include promoting energy efficiency, reducing, reusing, recycling, and utilising sustainable office supplies and practices. We also support flexible work-from-home policies to cut down on commuting and undertake regular training and workshops on sustainability.

With our social agenda, we are rolling out a strategy to boost our fundraising efforts, enabling us to make a bigger impact with charities close to our teams’ hearts. We’re finalising the next year’s activities after gathering input from across the firm.

We also propose to the network and the Board that volunteer days be included in our benefits package. This will give our staff the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, develop skills outside their usual roles, and provide valuable support to charitable causes.

We will be rolling out a series of events – from beach litter picking to charity and gifting days. Focusing on awareness days, weeks, or months has proven effective and is an inclusive opportunity for staff. Recently, we participated in Mental Health Awareness Week in May and International Women’s Day is a firm fixture on our calendar.

How do you involve and communicate with staff?

We stay connected with staff through DSW’s regular firm-wide networking calls. During one of these sessions, we’re able to host break-out groups to focus on specific initiatives, share ideas and priorities and gather feedback, ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard.

The ESI cornerstone group meets monthly, and we then report to the ESG committee quarterly to review progress and explore new initiatives with the outcomes shared across DSW.

Read more about DSW’s ESG journey from our COO Pete, or visit DSW Capital for our dedicated overview.