Dee Davison, Global Director of Sustainability, Deluxe Media & Entertainment
Discover how Dee made the case for a global sustainability strategy, created Deluxe’s first global sustainability role, and then developed and delivered their first sustainability strategy.
Deluxe is a leading media services company with over 4,500 people across the world.
In this post, I highlight some of Dee’s story. I encourage you to listen to the interview, in the podcast episode above, to get much more from her experience.
Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Preparing films and TV series for global release
- Building support for sustainability and reducing the company’s environmental impact
- Local actions by committed people make sustainability more tangible and meaningful
- Moving from localised CSR to a global sustainability strategy
- Making the business case to leadership groups again and again
- Finding the right approach for different people
- Building a network to make change happen
- Getting into the detail of climate risk
- Climate risk is happening now, how do we prevent this taking down our business?
- Pulling together a team for climate risk assessment
- Bringing together doing good in the world and strategic thinking
- A powerful network of people who share the same motivations
- Links & resources
Preparing films and TV series for global release
Q: What is Deluxe?
Deluxe is a global company that handles content creation, servicing, and distribution. We work with creators of films and TV shows, providing post-production services to prepare content for various platforms like streaming, broadcasting, and cinemas. Our services include localisation, compliance editing, accessibility features, and timely distribution to meet release dates.
Building support for sustainability and reducing the company’s environmental impact
Q: What does your role involve?
As Global Director of Sustainability Dee is responsible for understanding and monitoring Deluxe’s environmental impact, engaging internal and external stakeholders globally to build support for sustainability and reduce the company’s environmental impact.
My responsibility is mainly the environmental side, but we have a big programme of work to support the social side of our sustainability strategy.
We have a big DEIB [Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging], programme, and do a lot to support women in our industry. which traditionally have been a fairly underrepresented group.
We have quite a strong, social drive to our business and we were recently awarded one of the top 100 best loved workplace, through Newsweek.
Local actions by committed people make sustainability more tangible and meaningful
Q: What’s got you fired up (positively or negatively) about sustainability recently?
Climate Cycle – triathlete and world record holder, Kate Strong, is cycling the perimeter of United Kingdom over three months.
She’s visiting forty-odd sustainability projects along the way and learning about lots of great work that’s happening in our own country to support the planet. And what’s great is that you can get involved in this as well.
Q: What is it about Climate Cycle that appeals to you?
There are a lot of big charities and great work going on internationally to fight climate change. This is a single person doing something and trying to make a big impact and I want to support that.
It’s been very interesting learning about the things I just didn’t even know that was going on in our country. The local level part of it makes it more tangible and meaningful to me in my day-to-day world.
Moving from localised CSR to a global sustainability strategy
Q: What are you most proud of in your sustainability career?
I am most proud of the fact that I instigated the global strategy for Deluxe in sustainability.
For a number of years, Deluxe has been doing a lot of good stuff locally and regionally on CSR, charitable, volunteering type initiatives.
I’d always put my hand up to support those and to help lead those, but it was always additional to my day job. I was business operations director, so I was more involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
Recognising the way that legislation was going and seeing the increasing expectations of our customers and our investors, I felt that having a localised CSR type approach just wasn’t going to cut it for much longer.
And so I made a business case to do this on a kind of global level and I pitched that to the executive team who I’m very grateful to say they supported it and they supported me to then lead that strategy and make it happen and implement it.
Making the business case to leadership groups again and again
Q: How did you go about it? What helped you?
I started off making the business case, presenting the legislative environment, presenting the sort of customer market environment, the cost drivers, the investor landscape, to say this is why we should do something.
I did this brilliant course with Oxford Saïd Business School on leading corporate sustainability, which gave me a framework to think about, about how to approach it and how to implement it.
Off the back of that I drafted our first global strategy and then presented that about 15 to 20 times to different leadership groups across our business.
I was socialising it to get the feedback from people in the business to say: “look, here’s the theory and here’s how I feel like sustainability is relevant to our business and how we can start making a change”.
And then I took on board all that feedback and that became our plan basically.
Collaboration for sustainability: What works?
Join other sustainability leaders to discuss the factors behind effective collaboration, and how to apply them in your work.
12:30 – 13:30, Wed 6th Mar, 2024. Read more and register on our events page…
Finding the right approach for different people
Q: What got senior management to buy in to your sustainability plan?
It’s really variable, often it’s relying on a personal interest and a personal passion for the topic. So some people are on board immediately, others take a little bit more time.
I’ve learned is that, you know, there are different drivers for different people.
This is kind of obvious really, but if you’re presenting to finance, then you’re focusing on the cost. And if you’re presenting to legal, you’re focusing on the legislative environments. And if you are presenting to, the business, then you’re looking at kind of opportunities operationally of how you might be able to be more efficient, and increase your productivity.
Beyond that people’s personal motivations and their experiences of climate change or environmental impact differ. I saw that as an opportunity to learn about the audiences that I’m serving, to learn what makes them tick and understand how best to then engage them.
You have to be a bit of a chameleon really in a role like this and adjust your presentation or your approach according to who you’re talking to.
Building a network to make change happen
Q: What are the challenges of turning commitment to the strategy into action?
On that road show, at the beginning when I was sharing our strategy, I was feeling like people were getting on board and getting motivated, understanding it and supporting it.
But the reality is then they go back to their day job and they’re fighting fires and they’re dealing with client demands and it’s not going be top of people’s lists.
So how do you actually affect change and get things done? I built my network of the facility leaders around the business who are working in the facilities every day, who can control the air conditioning, the lighting and have budgets to affect change. They really became my team of advocates and people who were actually making changes towards our goals.
We have this thing called Purpose by Deluxe, which encompasses all of our sort of cultural sustainability, social wellbeing type initiatives. We had a Purpose by Deluxe Town Hall, where we had over a thousand people that we were presenting to across our business about what we’re doing.
So that’s the broader engagement inspiring piece. And then the next day, I’m on a call with my 14 facility leads around the world saying, “Okay, so where are we on reducing single-use plastics?”
I learned that the balance of my time had to be on working with the people who could actually make a difference.
But it’s hard and it can be frustrating because you know that people have always got competing demands on their time and there’s not much I can do about that really. So I keep on with the message, keep on with why we’re doing this.
Getting into the detail of climate risk
Q: What’s your big challenge now?
My immediate priority is finishing CDP – that’s the Carbon Disclosure Platform, which is probably the most well-known structure and standard for assessing your carbon footprint and reporting what you’re doing to reduce it. As everyone who’s been through the process will know a bit of a beast.
CDP helps you to see areas where you ought to be doing more or where you ought to focus in the future. So in terms of my next priorities, when I look at CDP I see we’ve got a gap around climate risk, opportunity and assessment.
This feels like a big area with Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and other programmes and legislation coming. Climate risk is a big thing and whilst we as a company have identified at a high level some climate risks, we haven’t really looked in detail at the opportunities.
For example, we’ve already experienced severe flooding in our Bangalore office in India and had to fairly quickly put mitigating actions in place for that.
I would like to move towards looking at not just the potential impact of extreme weather, but also, how changing legislation might affect us, how new policies out there might affect us, shifts in market, shifts in technology that might impact us as a business. And also look at how we might benefit from what we’re doing to reduce our environmental impact.
The goal is really to make your business more resilient for the future. I want to be ahead of that. I don’t want to be doing it while while we’re surrounded by forest fires or heat waves where people can’t get into the office or whatever the issue might be.
Climate risk is happening now, how do we prevent this taking down our business?
Take the Bangelore situation that we’ve actually lived through as an example. They experienced severe flooding when people couldn’t get in and out of the office. We had to bus people in and out, and now we’ve got hygiene packs in the office if people end up having to stay overnight because they physically can’t get out of the office.
We’re headquartered in California, which has experienced the forest fires over the last few years, which has prevented some people getting to and from work similarly here with heat waves melting the road. There’s plenty of examples of how this is already impacting our business.
When you get to talking about those examples, it almost becomes, just part of your general business risk assessment rather than climate. The fact that climate is causing it is important, but it’s more about: how do we prevent this from taking down our business?
Pulling together a team for climate risk assessment
Q: Who and/or what will help you make real progress on this?
I wouldn’t be able to do the risk assessment single handedly. I’d be pulling in all of those people to sort of map out the operational processes, where are people based, who’s hybrid, who’s reliant on the office, who can work externally and the infrastructure demands because we are running our whole business on tech.
That’s what I would be focusing on bringing together the IT and the tech support teams and the people who are doing the work, to see what would that look like in a different scenario, and how would we deal with that if people can’t get into the office?
Bringing together doing good in the world and strategic thinking
Q: How did you get involved with sustainability?
My journey in sustainability in the broadest sense started twenty odd years ago when I left university. I’ve been motivated by social good for many years and I did lots of volunteering, particularly with older age groups, through my twenties and thirties.
I did some extracurricular qualifications when I had my first maternity leave on intergenerational community engagement – bringing different generations together. In my second maternity leave, I launched some initiatives locally which brought together older people and mums with young babies, which was a beautiful, almost therapy really. And then that all got cut short when Covid happened unfortunately.
So for many years I was doing all this outside of my career, which was really filling my bucket in terms of feeling warm and rewarded. But I also really like my career, I like the industry I work in. I’m motivated by commercial business and thinking strategically. I’d come from a strategy background. And so I wanted to keep on that pathway.
I had quite a lot of soul searching around how do I bring these two things together. With the emergence of ESG and the focus on corporate sustainability, that felt like the perfect opportunity for me to bring my motivation and passion for doing good for the world.
That’s not to say that I’m like Greta Thunberg or anything, but I could sort of feel more rewarded in my career and keep my commercial strategic lens, but bring in the planetary and social good to that.
So yeah, I guess that’s what’s motivated me and what, why it matters to me and it has done for many years.
A powerful network of people who share the same motivations
Q: Who has helped you on your journey? And helps you keep going?
My boss has been an advocate from day one; I’ve been really grateful for that. She’s been my representative if you like, on our executive group and with our investors to explain why this is important and why it’s important for us to keep promoting it.
The facility managers that I’ve worked with in Deluxe have been excellent and really helped me to affect change.
But there’ve been been other people that have cheerleaded me along the way. At the beginning when I was thinking of making the change and focusing fully on corporate sustainability. And along the way, when you hit humps and bumps in the road, they’re the ones that remind you why you’re doing it. I’ve had brilliant mentors and friends, family and other colleagues that have helped me along. So, so that’s been really good.
I was on a Rise Women in Broadcast, mentoring program. I’ve been on it for a number of years. I’ve been a mentor on it three times now. And last year I was a mentee. My mentor really gave me wings because it was a big year for me. That helped me enormously.
And then also my external network.
I was in LA last month and meeting the sustainability leads from some of the major Hollywood studios, who were very collaborative in this environment. The commercial lens gets put to one side and everyone’s working towards the greater good.
On the whole everybody I have met is in this space because they care about it. When you meet people, you immediately have this understanding that we’ve all probably struggled with lots of the same things and we’re all probably motivated by a lot of the same things.
One part that I absolutely love about the job is meeting people driven by the same thing, with the same motivations, often with the same challenges. And so you meet people it’s almost half a therapy session and half a business meeting. You might be on different stages of your journey, but the challenges and everything that we’re all doing is often very similar.
Action needs knowledge and hope
Q: What book, article or video would you recommend to other sustainability leaders?
You’d expect me to offer some audio visual content as a recommendation. There’s a brilliant streaming platform called Water Bear. It’s a free platform with no ads.
All of the content is about, people, communities, organisations who are doing work to save the planet. There’s short form content, feature length content, and series there as well.
Most of the content, at the end of the programme they connect to an NGO tackling some of those issues so it doesn’t leave you kind of feeling really desperate about the situation we’re in. It gives you some positive ways move forward and help make a change.
There’s one particular film that I saw on Water Bear, which was not lighthearted Friday night viewing, but is worth watching. It’s called Slay. It’s a horrific behind the scenes documentary about the leather, fur and wool trade. I learned a lot from watching that, things that I just didn’t know before. It’s made me think not twice, but three times, four times about ever buying any new leather.
Normalising climate issues on screen
One thing that’s interesting about our industry is that from the content production side, there’s a lot of effort on reducing the footprint of making the productions. But there’s also something called the Climate Content Pledge, an initiative led by Bafta Albert. Albert is a sustainable production initiative. If you look at the credits of lots of programmes that you see on tv, you’d see an Albert sustainable production stamp. Their climate content pledge is to normalise climate related issues on screen.
It’s important to have all of the sort of David Attenborough stories about what’s going on out there. but it’s also important just to kind of make climate action, more normalised in your day-to-day programming.
Research by the University of Southampton showed that people feel far more engaged in a topic and able and willing to act if it’s a story of hope rather than a story of what a terrible situation we’re in. Obviously it’s not to say that we shouldn’t try and understand the reality of the state of the planet.
I think Water Bear does this really well.