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We're using technology to drive change: An interview with Kate Wright of DFS Group

AuthorsHelena Davies

We are using technology to drive change An interview with Kate Wright of DFS Group

DFS Group launched its ESG strategy with the Sofa Cycle — a circularity model which is designed to look at every single part of the business. This means that we can really understand our environmental footprint.

For the past two years, we've worked closely with our suppliers and our supply chain to build a model of our carbon footprint.

The Sofa Cycle is based on the principle of circularity, and gives us an overview of everything from raw materials to the manufacturing process and shipping goods around the world, to understanding how our customers use our products, and what happens to them at the end of the product life cycle. 

Sector-wide Action

DFS Group is a publicly listed company, and we have some very passionate shareholders who care deeply about the environment and are really keen to make sure that any business that they invest in is doing the right thing. They use a number of sustainability frameworks to monitor our progress. For example, we do full disclosure with The Climate Disclosure Project who are a really impressive organisation. We also work with the Workplace Disclosure Initiative to make sure that all of our social initiatives are being benchmarked against peers, and all of this is reflected in our annual reporting.

We’re also proud to be a member of the British Retail Consortium Climate Action Road Map. This is a group of retail organisations that have come together and committed to a net zero target of 2040 – ten years ahead of the government guidelines. This is a huge challenge; any retailer will confess that their Scope 3 footprint is a major headache, as is logistics, but it is really important that we are all aligned and working together and collaboratively, across all the different industries to try and solve some of these issues.

Embedding our ESG strategy

Within DFS Group we have embedded our ESG strategy at every single level of the business, from our shareholders and our board all the way through to the team on the shopfloor and our delivery teams. It is woven into every single person’s bonus targets, making sure that everyone is focused on what they need to be. We are using our Sofa Cycle framework so that everybody is clear about what they can contribute and what changes they can make. We have involved the business’s climate champions - an amazing group of volunteers who aim to inspire change. They are very, very passionate about this space, and share ideas that we can take forwards as individuals as well as a company to try and reduce our carbon footprint.

Sustainable products

From a product perspective, we have developed a number of ranges with a sustainable focus – for example, the Grand Designs range which is made from sustainably sourced, mostly recyclable materials.

We also do a lot of work with our suppliers focussing on sourcing sustainable goods. Raw materials are really important, and we look at our timber and our leather supply to make sure that we are sourcing materials that meet all of our sustainability criteria. One of our targets is to ask suppliers to embark on gaining Forest Stewardship Commission certification, so that all of the timber that we use comes from well managed forests and is sustainable. Similarly, with leather, we ask suppliers to achieve Leather Working Group Certification, so that we can track where the leather comes from.

Sustainable stores

The DFS strategy for the physical store is all around adapting our current footprint. We are not looking to open too many new sites, so it is imperative that we make sure that our current estate is as efficient and effective as possible. Where we are undergoing re-fits, we make sure that we remove gas boilers, to support our efforts to decarbonise our estate. We are doing that through the use of smart building technology. We have installed smart BMS systems and IOT sensors that monitor and control the heating, cooling and the lighting in store to ensure that we are being as efficient as possible when we are open and when we are closed as well. We also monitor the site temperature, making sure that it is optimal for both colleagues and customers.

When we are looking for efficiencies in our distribution centres, the focus is again on the physical infrastructure, including smart building tech which includes heating, cooling and lighting, but also includes installing rapid action shutter doors and air curtains to retain as much heat as possible. We are also looking into solar power generation. We are using technology to drive change; transforming property services from quite a manual process reliant on engineer visits to technology-based data insights to be as efficient as we can with the resources that we have available. 

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