Sustainability Spotlight: Engaging staff and connecting with others to drive ESG

From saving lives to doing more to protect the planet, Detectortesters is driving positive change across its operations. The firm’s formalised ESG efforts have been supported by Inflexion, with a materiality assessment key to planning the journey ahead.

While many firms tackle ESG as the stick of legislation beats down, Detectortesters’ appetite is more genuine. Founded in 1965, Detectortesters designs and manufactures solutions to test smoke, heat and carbon monoxide fire detectors. Safety is firmly at its core, and the 100+ staff know and value that: when the firm set out to update and formalise its values and mission seven years ago, an organisation-wide exercise reaffirmed that saving lives is what inspires and drives the team. This focus now forms the first part of the firm’s ‘SPIRIT’ values: Safety, People, Innovation, Responsibility, Integrity and Teamwork.

With safety a clear priority and operating in a highly regulated environment, the company was already embracing ESG – albeit in pockets of safety, community, charity, D&I. “We hadn’t recognised our efforts could be structured into a formal ESG strategy and Inflexion were incredibly helpful in showing us we could do that,” says Alison Kiernan, VP People at Detectortesters.

The company’s investment from Inflexion in 2021 is providing tailwinds for substantial growth plans and formalising its approach to ESG. Setting out on the journey revealed they were further along than they thought. “When we shared the ambition for an ESG strategy with the team, we found we were already doing a lot, so it then became a matter of putting structure in and formalising our approach,” John Mortimer, VP Operations at Detectortesters, recalls. Doing it right was important. “Our infrastructure as a rapidly expanding business has marched forwards in terms of how we manage codes, conduct, governance, outreach and understanding of our customers’ needs. We needed to be sure that incorporating an ESG strategy would add value to our organisation and that both internal and external stakeholders could see how they contribute meaningfully to it,” John continues.

Portfolio connection

Funding aside, being part of a 50+ portfolio of a variety of businesses has been a big support for the firm. Inflexion has a dedicated ESG team to provide guidance, and they host events to connect the businesses and share best practice experience. The level of ESG maturity ranges across the portfolio from basic compliance to B Corp certified, and Detectortesters’ pre-Inflexion efforts were already at ‘comply’ levels of ESG assessment.

Efforts were mobilised with the appointment of Aliola Balla as ESG manager, an experienced member of the DT team with a passion to progress the agenda. She engaged an external consultancy to formalise the strategy, embarking on a materiality assessment to help set clear aims and strategies. “We engaged with everyone from investors to internal teams to define what’s important to us and the stakeholders and assigned priorities to ensure we were adding value in line with our strategic objectives. The materiality assessment really is the foundation for setting the strategy,” Aliola stresses.

It helped reinforce some existing beliefs and introduced new focuses. The firm knows tech is the future for a more sustainable product, and looking at connected products means data security is also a very important topic going forward. The assessment revealed that stakeholders deem engagement with employees and community, as well as ESG reporting and EDI, to be important. It’s also crucial to consider the supply chain because, as John says, “you’re not on this journey alone”. Indeed, it requires engaging all suppliers, from multi-nationals to very small businesses to determine the firm’s Scope 3.

Efforts rewarded

The efforts are bearing fruit, with Detectortesters’ ranking within the Inflexion portfolio improving considerably from bottom third to top half last year. Most recently, the firm achieved ISO 14001 accreditation in 2023, recognising its commitment to employees and customers as well as the impact the business has on the environment. Added kudos was that the audit revealed zero nonconformities and zero suggestions for improvement. Aliola worked with all departments across the business to achieve this and has integrated the requirements of ISO 14001 into the company’s internal Quality Management System. 

The year ahead is about continuing to pursue the ambitious targets set out across the group and, as the market leader, understanding the carbon footprint of our products and identifying ways in which this can be reduced through processes, materials and design.

It is also about rolling out its new connected smart product, Testifire XTR2, which launched in Q4 2023 to drive efficiency gains in fire system testing and support compliance, using a software-led ‘Internet of Things’ approach.  The new solution follows the recent trend of using smoke cartridges, which is seeing the reliance the industry has on smoke aerosols reduce.

“We have really jumped in,” John enthuses. “Our aspiration is to be the best we can for the people in our organisation and do the best for our people and customers. We want to drive real value with our ESG efforts and it’s extremely rewarding for everyone involved internally and externally.”