How We Support Sustainability Year Round

Apr 26, 2024 3:30 PM ET

Each year, during the month of April, our attention turns to Earth Day and sustainability.

Here at Northern Trust, we are committed to exceeding environmental stewardship standards around the globe. We understand that our long-term financial prospects, and those of our clients and our global employee base, are tied to the health of the planet.

We have a number of initiatives in place to support our sustainability efforts and help us achieve our goal of reaching our net zero carbon for our business operations target by 2050.

It starts internally

We understand that what we do in the sustainability space must start internally. We must lead the way inside Northern Trust before we can look at external factors and influences.

With this in mind, we have introduced a new Sustainability Learning Hub at Northern Trust where employees can learn more about the role Northern Trust plays towards building a more sustainable future and importantly, how they can also help, through curated courses and materials.

Going green with candidates

We know that the societal and/or environmental mission and impact of a company is becoming increasingly important to candidates as they consider building their career with a new organization. To support this expectation, we now showcase our focus on sustainability in our job descriptions. We showcase and highlight for all to see our net zero carbon for business operations target by 2050.

We’re also significantly reducing the amount of paper we use throughout our recruiting process. We have now successfully switched from paper copies for contracts and the various onboarding documents to electronic documents, reducing our paper usage significantly along with the travel and delivery aspect related to postage.

We no longer print handouts and booklets for information sessions or careers events en-masse anymore. Instead, we have successfully implemented the use of QR codes. Our aim here is to point candidates to our social media channels and our website for the more in-depth information they want.

Our candidates have told us that they want to do their own research on companies in their own time and on their own devices. Using QR codes allows us to meet those expectations and also deliver on our goal to reduce paper usage.

Reducing carbon emissions from our candidates and people

Hybrid Working - Our global business is now operating on a hybrid model with only 3 days required in the office per week. This has made a massive impact to the work life balance of our people and as a result has reduced the requirement for transport to work which is significantly reducing our overall carbon emissions.

With Northern Trust, our people do not have to choose between a dynamic career and work-life balance. They can join a team like ours that supports their goals, professionally and personally, and enables them to enjoy both. We’ll help them get to where they want to go.

Virtual Interviewing – We now allow for virtual interviewing, which means it is no longer always necessary for our candidates to have to travel to the office during the recruitment process. This has impacted our candidate pool greatly, allowing for a more flexible approach to interviewing and again completely reducing our carbon emissions during the pre-hire process.

Volunteering efforts and community impact

We make sure that Northern Trust employees can take time to make a difference in their communities. We make it easy by offering all staff two paid volunteer days each year.

This means they can give of their time and help causes close to their hearts, many of which are in the sustainability space. Over the last decade, our employees have given over 1 million hours of their time to volunteer projects.

Check out our 2023 Philanthropic Impact Report for more details.

Office-focused sustainability 

We are actively making efforts to become single use plastic free across all of our office locations. Each office is progressing at a different pace based on alternative supply in each location. Currently, our offices are an average of 50% single use plastic free at each site.

We are currently trialling alterative plastic free bin bags and also compostable straws in some of our global locations, as well as supporting the use of non-plastic items where possible. For example, in Ireland, plastic cups, plates and cutlery have all been replaced with ceramic/stainless steel apart from mugs where each staff member has their own travel mug. And we’re working on the same for our Chicago offices.

We’re supporting the environment in other ways as well. In our Limerick, Ireland, office beehives have been installed, and in our Luxembourg office a vegetable garden has also been created for employees. A similar employee garden is planned for Limerick later on this year. Both beehives and garden improve local biodiversity through pollination. The honey is even shared with visitors to our office.

We’re also looking at energy use in our offices. At Northern Trust, we don’t create a material product, but we use electricity to run our offices. Through working with suppliers and upgrading utility contracts we aim to increase use of renewable energy over the course of 2024.

Northern Trust follows the environmentally friendly building strategies and practices outlines by the US Green Building councils Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Approximately 12% of our buildings are either LEED or Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREAM) certified. We have invested over $1 million USD in capital projects across our portfolio range to reduce carbon emissions. We’re upgrading to LED lighting and adding insulation and occupancy light sensors to reduce energy use.

Our procurement teams are also looking at our end to end supply chain and seeing where and how things are sourced, including our computers.

Supporting our employees’ sustainability efforts 

Our internal Sustainability Network was set up as a group dedicated to enable employees at all of our levels to think sustainably. The network’s goal is to seek innovative solutions from employees to further reduce our carbon footprint and build a global network of like-minded internal individuals. There are now more than 500 people globally in this network. The network runs Earth Day events via webinars (including from a hedgehog wildlife center) and in-person events in various locations, and also through our intranet and internal Yammer channels. They also created a series of science club experiments that could be completed at home with kids, podcast/movie recommendations and upgraded our spotlight on sustainability newsletter - all covering sustainability themes but covering all areas under this wide umbrella term including endangered wildlife, agriculture and travel.

To encourage understanding of sustainability and overall carbon emissions and what Northern Trust is doing as a company, we ran a live training webinar which was available to all staff globally. This was followed up with more webinars for location offices.

We’re very proud of our sustainability efforts to date and our plans for the future.

Join us to find your greater and help us support the environment.

By: Jamie Jones Ezefili, Aimee Reed and Sarah Whiteside