Building a sustainability strategy

29 Jul , 2022  

When CG Business Consulting’s CEO, Caroline Geoghegan, stepped into the breach to help her dad navigate the path to ISO compliance, little did she realise that fourteen years later she’d be heading up the largest and most successful ISO and Sustainability consulting house in Ireland.

A native of Collinstown, Co. Westmeath, Caroline took the first tentative steps to set up CG Business Consulting in 2009, having spotted a canyon-sized gap in the market. Was it easy? “It was terrifying,” she admits, “but I had this feeling in my gut that I had hit on something unique and worthwhile. Unique in that it was a subject that very few were expert in, and worthwhile because even then, ISO was ahead of the curve on the three things that matter most in both business and life – people, performance and planet.”

We try to be as Flexible as we Can

A one-woman operation borne out of necessity, CG Business Consulting currently employs fourteen full-time staff, with regular collaborations with agencies, industry peers and authorities also the norm. Although continuing to operate out of its hub in Park West, the ISO consultancy, like many other Irish businesses, now offers its team the option of hybrid working.

“We try to be as flexible as we can,” says Caroline. “If it makes sense for our team to interchange working environments, then we’re supportive in that.”

Her “number one asset”, some of the team have been on board since the early days of the business. Caroline says they see each other more as extended family than work colleagues and employees. “We’ve known each other a long time. We’ve grown together, learned from each other. I trust them implicitly and they know me well enough to tell it like it is. There’s no room for ego, I can tell you,” she laughs.

In fact family has played a large part in both the inception and growth of CG Business Consulting. Not only did it start at home, in many ways it continues to be a corporate home from home, with Caroline’s husband Govinda, brother Noel and sister Aisling making up three of the company’s core team.

“Govinda is our Information Security and Operations guru,” says Caroline. “His background is in finance and IT so he has taken on the dual roles of CFO and CIO. He makes it look so easy, he never gets fazed,” she says admiringly.

“What’s been great is being able to bounce ideas off them, knowing they’ll give you honest feedback. Also, having their support when things haven’t always gone to plan has been invaluable,” says the Westmeath woman.

What’s it all About, Caroline?

Now recognised as being the leading provider of ISO Standards and Sustainability Consulting in Ireland, CGBC offers a wide range of quality services to over 1,000 Irish businesses, boasting industry leaders such as McKeown Group, Ecocem, Twitter, Indeed, Toyota Ireland, Irish Distillers, Kore Insulation and DPS Engineering on its surging client roster.

“We offer a full menu of Sustainability and ISO services across those standards most relevant to the Irish economy; ISO 9001 Quality Management, ISO 14001 Environmental Management, ISO 27001 Information Security Management, ISO 45001 Health and Safety, ISO 50001 Energy Management, carbon footprinting and ISO 14064 quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We made a conscious decision to focus on the needs of Irish businesses and having worked with hundreds of them over the past decade, we know their pain-points and needs, from the smallest independent to the largest global corporation,” says the effervescent entrepreneur.

“ISO 9001 Quality Management is the flagship standard,” she says firmly. “It is the one-size-fits-all standard that can be applied to any business no matter how big or small. Whatever your line of business, ISO 9001 will take it to the next level,” – of that she is emphatic.

The Rise of ESG – A Defining Shift in Sustainable Strategy

One key shift that Caroline has noticed is the rapid rise of ESG to the top of the Irish corporate agenda.  “While the requirement for our consultancy services, especially around sustainability has grown exponentially, the demand for advice on and help with planning around ESG has gone through the roof. It has exploded.”    “It’s not just in Ireland,” she says enthusiastically, “it’s worldwide. Pick up any business supplement and it’ll be right up there. ESG, or Environmental, Social and Governance to give it its full name, is dominating the business headlines right now. ESG metrics are shaping the development and operations of businesses not just here in Ireland, but across the globe.”

While the Irish business community as a whole has becoming increasingly challenged by customer, regulatory and societal demands for ethical sourcing, operational transparency and robust environmental governance, the construction industry, with its high carbon yield and waste-heavy activities, has become one of the key players in the drive to build a more sustainable commercial future.

It has long been recognised that the property and construction sectors are amongst the largest carbon emitters across all industries. Existing buildings are responsible for 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide while the construction industry alone accounts for 40% of all carbon consumption.

Recognition and Awareness are Key to Driving Change

While not solely dedicated to working with clients from the building sector, CG Business Consulting is uniquely placed to advise construction companies given its origin in and long-standing relationship with the industry.

Although recognising that the Construction industry had begun taking steps towards becoming more sustainable, experience told Caroline it wasn’t enough. “When it comes to safeguarding the planet and securing the future, we all need to go the extra mile,” Caroline observes.

“We need to constantly generate informed awareness to drive change, positive change with real, tangible results for today and tomorrow. The Construction industry needs to transform the way in which it operates, and it’s our role as subject matter experts in standards and sustainability to help effect that change.”

The Construction industry uses vast quantities of material, the production, transportation and disposal of adversely impacts on the environment. As well as advising companies to source locally and ethically produced materials, where viable, the team at CG Business Consulting works with them to implement the standards and sustainability frameworks they need to reduce their carbon footprint and construction waste intensity whilst simultaneously increasing their usage of recycled materials.

Walking the Path to Sustainability

“Each step down the road of ISO adoption and on the path to sustainability is a step towards zero avoidable waste,” Caroline remarks. “Working to the principles of the ‘circular economy’ and translating that strategy into tangible KPIs offers the Construction industry innumerable benefits in terms of cost efficiency and the overall sustainability of their business operations including a greatly improved value chain.”

In applying the principles of ‘circular economy’ to the full building project lifecycle, companies cannot just improve environmental and waste management, they can help protect the environment, prevent pollution and enhance biodiversity. “It’s a hugely positive legacy for any company,” says Caroline.

First in Ireland

But what is a ‘circular economy’? “Well, to put it simply,” says Caroline, “it’s the modern-day version of “reuse, reduce, recycle”. The aim is to get companies to become less reliant on certain raw materials and fossil-fuel-based resources. To consume less whilst maximising what they have, by optimising processes like waste management to repurpose waste to generate clean energy for example.

CG Business Consulting is the first ISO consultancy in Ireland to provide independent, industry-focussed services aimed at driving the net-zero carbon circular economy in Ireland, an achievement of which Caroline is very proud.

A cornerstone of the EPA’s green programme 2021-2027, the aim of Circular Economy is to ensure that organisations use less resources, reusing as much as they can to prevent waste in order to achieve sustainable economic growth.

According to CGBC, diverting demolition waste from landfill, reducing construction waste intensity, identifying and acting on opportunities for continuous improvement; just some of the ways in which construction-related businesses can improve their environmental performance.

“We work with companies to achieve optimal environmental performance and full 360 sustainability, agreeing realistic milestones, devising a workable plan to realise those goals and generating awareness across their team to ensure maximal engagement and understanding of those objectives and the desired outcome.”

From Energy Efficiency to Green Procurement – All Bases are Covered

CG Business consultants offer advisory services across a broad range of environment-related topics, providing clear fact-based guidance on how they should approach, develop and implement effective sustainability processes and strategies, as Caroline explains:

“Our Construction-oriented service offerings cover a super wide range of specialist subjects with dedicated green goals such as energy efficiency including design, environmental impact reduction, green procurement and health and wellbeing. In addition, our team can carry out climate vulnerability assessments, provide bespoke advisory on ‘circular economy’ and facilitate deep-dive planning workshops on net zero. All bases are covered.”

According to Caroline, CG Business Consulting has created innovative ISO-based circular solutions which, when implemented against a robust framework, help solve real industry challenges. “We work with our clients, especially those in the Construction industry, to explore all risks and opportunities across the nexus of ESG.

“We help them rethink how they view their treatment of raw materials, water and energy, understand the ecological implications of their operations, develop green procurement processes, expand their business strategy to include cross-sector collaboration to accelerate the scale-up of circularity.”

CG Business Consulting wants to make its mark, with ambitions to become a leader in the ISO x ESG zeitgeist. “We want to make a positive contribution to safeguarding the future of our people and the planet,” smiles the wily Westmeath woman. “Our ambition is to become a leader in ISO-driven circularity and we believe that the Construction industry can act as role model for this essential transition across the entire Irish corporate landscape.”

CG Business Consulting Ltd.,

A1 Hume Centre,

Hume Avenue,

Park West,

Dublin 12.

Tel: 01 6204121

Email: [email protected]

Web: cgbusinessconsulting.com

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, July 2022, Vol 8 No 7