Interview with Hill & Smith PLC: How We Established a Scope 3 GHG Emissions Baseline within a Year and Improved Our CDP Score

Hill & Smith scope 3 cdp blog female figure pink cority

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, Hill & Smith PLC is taking significant steps towards reducing its carbon footprint and minimizing its environmental impact. In the last 18 months, the Group has made some impressive achievements and is quickly becoming a market leader in the sustainable infrastructure industry.

In this interview, David Wynn of Cority speaks to Lucinda Farrington-Parker, Group Head of Sustainability at Hill & Smith, about her insights and learnings from their sustainability journey so far, particularly in the measurement of Scope 3 emissions over the past year.

Hill & Smith PLC is a leading provider of sustainable infrastructure products and services for the infrastructure and construction industries. Headquartered in the UK, the Hill & Smith Group currently consists of over 20 operating companies with sites across five different geographies. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. Hill & Smith responds to CDP annually and between 2021 and 2022 the Group improved from a score of ‘D’ to a ‘B’.

What is your role at Hill & Smith PLC?

I joined Hill & Smith PLC in February 2022 as Group Head of Sustainability, a newly created role to drive the Group’s sustainability strategy and ensure we meet our commitments and targets. I lead the Group’s Sustainability Committee and am driving the Group’s carbon reduction plans.

The Group’s operating companies are divided into three main business divisions: galvanizing services, engineered solutions, and road & security. All these companies typically have high embodied carbon in the materials they purchase and use in their daily operations, so measuring and reducing the Group’s Scope 3 emissions, as well as Scopes 1 and 2, is a key focus area for me.

What has Hill & Smith’s reporting journey been like so far?

When I joined in 2022, the company was just starting its sustainability journey. A sustainability strategy had been formed, mainly driven by our investors who were increasingly enquiring about our sustainability initiatives, but also our customers who were asking questions about the sustainability of our products.

During 2021, the company made two significant commitments. The first was to achieve net-zero for Scopes 1 and 2 by 2040.

The second commitment was to develop science-based targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the SBTi ’Business Ambition for 1.5°C’. This presented a significant challenge – as our Scope 3 emissions comprise over 40% of our overall emissions, we needed to establish a full Scope 3 baseline within the 24-month timeframe between committing and submitting targets to SBTi. The Group was not in a position to start collecting any Scope 3 data at that time, so there was a lot to do!

So how did you go about getting a full Scope 3 emissions baseline in one year?

The first thing I did was to ensure alignment with the Board.  Having done this, I sent an email and explanatory note to all our businesses, informing them about our approach and what would be required from them (and reassuring everyone not to panic!).

I then had detailed discussions with each of the businesses individually to identify which Scope 3 categories were relevant to them, which data calculation methodologies were most appropriate and how best to obtain data from existing systems to simplify the data-gathering process.

While communicating with the businesses, I quickly realised that we could no longer manage the data collection and calculation process on spreadsheets, so we looked for an enterprise software solutions provider. I did my research, engaged with key stakeholders within the business and shortlisted six companies. I finally selected Cority (formerly Greenstone) and partnered with the Cority team to implement its Sustainability Performance Management solution across the Group.

Once all the data had been collected and uploaded into Cority’s Sustainability Performance Management solution, we were able to calculate an accurate baseline across the full range of applicable Scope 3 categories to inform our science-based targets proposal.

In July 2023, we submitted our proposed near- and long-term targets to the SBTi, one month ahead of the scheduled deadline. In early December 2023, we were thrilled when SBTi approved our near- and long-term science-based emissions reduction targets and verified our net-zero target across the value chain by 2050.

Looking back, this was a fantastic achievement in such a short space of time, considering that we were not recording Scope 3 emissions at the start of 2022.

What is your one clear piece of advice for other companies embarking on reporting Scope 3 emissions?

It is essential to have a good understanding of the GHG reporting requirements before embarking on a Scope 3 baselining exercise, such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and SBTi Corporate Manual. I had to educate myself very rapidly on these requirements and learned a lot from speaking to colleagues at various networking and industry events.

We decided to engage a third-party auditor to conduct a ‘limited assurance’ audit of our data and this proved very beneficial in identifying some improvement opportunities as well as confirming that we were complying with the GHG Protocol reporting requirements.

What is next for Hill & Smith PLC?

We are thrilled that our CDP score has improved from a ‘D’ to a ‘B’ and hope to further improve on this going forward. We also recognize that now we have established a baseline for our GHG emissions, we need to work on reducing them. This task is particularly challenging with multiple businesses, each with unique operations. The issues and Scope categories we need to address vary in priority for each.

To tackle this, we have developed a carbon reduction plan for each business to own and regularly update. The progress of each business will feed into a group-level climate transition plan that I will develop in line with the Transition Plan Taskforce disclosure framework.

We have come a long way, and achieving what we have so far is fantastic. Our partnership with Cority and its software solution has made the process a lot easier, and the data more accessible in comparison to manual spreadsheets. In the next few years, we will focus on obtaining more accurate data, moving away from the spend method for some of our key materials; and starting to engage more with our supply chain.

Read the interview on CDP’s website.

Cority is a Gold CDP Accreditated Software Provider. Find out more here.