Operating sustainably and responsibly is fundamental to delivering on our strategic objectives.

"In last year’s Annual Report I announced a review of our CSR strategy. This was in the context of the unprecedented change taking place in the business through our Transformation Plan. Because the Plan involves a root and branch appraisal of our business and operations it provides a valuable opportunity to review all aspects of our role and behaviour as a corporate citizen."

Richard Portman, Corporate Services Director

Areas of focus

We started the review by looking again at how our operations – what we do as a business day to day – intersect with CSR issues, in particular, employee engagement, our communities and the environment. These three areas of focus have been the bedrock of our CSR thinking over the years from which we have developed three specific CSR pillars:

  • Our People (Expertise and Culture);
  • Relationships (Building strong relationships and community impact); and
  • Resources (Health, Safety and Environmental Performance).

Our People

Employee engagement ('Our People') is essential if we are to successfully deliver the Transformation Plan. As a result, improved employee engagement has been a major priority this year and we have looked carefully at this crucial area and taken significant steps to improve it through initiatives such as our Employee Forum. We have worked hard to ensure we can deliver the necessary changes at branch level and that employees can provide feedback and are properly informed and trained.

One consequence of this activity has been the creation of a much larger Human Resources function with a wider range of additional skill sets to ensure it properly fits the needs of our employees and the business. At the same time, great care is being taken to ensure that our strong, caring culture is preserved in the midst of widespread change. Achieving this balance is of prime importance. As part of our Transformation Plan we will evaluate our CSR pillar, 'Our People (Expertise and Culture)', ensuring it is aligned to the business strategy, to industry Best Practice and the expectations of both our internal and external stakeholders. A full definition of what we mean and what is required by managers and employees will be developed when the Transformation Plan is closer to completion.

Some of the areas we are considering

As the review unfolds, we are extremely mindful of our Transformation Plan and its requirement for effective two-way employee engagement at this time of major change.

We are thinking carefully about the general public and are drawing on the insights we continue to gain from our ongoing programme of research. For example, we are thinking across the generations and reflecting that attitudes in the 40+ generation are different from the older generations.  We are considering the types of services we offer and, most importantly, the broader the context within which our approach to CSR needs to sit.

This is a time of change for the industry and not just Dignity, and one which the review is taking full account of.

Resources (Health, Safety and Environmental Performance)

Regarding the environment, part of our 'Resources (Health, Safety and Environmental Performance)' CSR pillar, we will monitor whether changes to working practices as a result of the Transformation Plan may impact our carbon footprint. The likely impact cannot yet be fully assessed given that we are in the early stages of piloting these changes. We will have a better picture at the end of 2020. However, at present, our carbon footprint remains low – we continue to report to the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) on an annual basis and have retained our B score.

Relationships (Building strong relationships and community impact)

Regarding communities, part of our 'Relationships (Building strong relationships and community impact)' pillar, the work of our Transformation Plan team at branch level has demonstrated the high-quality of many of our branches’ relationships with their communities and the type of outreach that takes place. We want to capture and share good examples across the whole Group and encourage wider adoption in order to further enhance our reputation as a positive contributor within the communities we so proudly serve.

Looking at the changing needs of clients, we recognise the future requirement to provide 'sustainable' funerals. What that might mean in practice will require definition but the demand for non-traditional and 'sustainable' alternatives is likely to grow. Over time we will evaluate what 'good' looks like in the market and assess what standards can be developed in order to offer a genuine alternative that our clients have confidence in and which will withstand rigorous stakeholder scrutiny. 

As well as looking at what we do we have reviewed what Best Practice in CSR looks like amongst a number of similar and also dissimilar businesses. We have also taken account of both current and developing thinking around sustainability and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance). What is clear is that the interest in sustainability and ESG matters is now a dominant theme and many companies are explicitly aligning CSR policies and practices with their corporate strategy.

As a Board we have long placed strong corporate governance at the heart of the way we run the business on behalf of all our stakeholders. We recognise also that the support of our employees in such a caring profession is fundamental. The role of our branches in their communities is becoming more visible through the work of the Transformation Plan team. Members of that team have been greatly impressed by the level of staff commitment. This is borne out by the high customer satisfaction scores that we return, year after year. We can make a strong case that we are a force for good in our communities. 

However, we cannot be complacent. There is a need now, more than ever, to not only update our sustainability policies and set appropriate goals and KPIs but also to ensure that our policies are aligned to the overall corporate strategy. We also recognise that we can explain our CSR strategy, policy and practices better within the business. Those practices, which are changing and evolving as a result of the Transformation Plan, in particular employee engagement, need to be embedded in the management culture. Other, existing good practices, must be articulated better, shared and properly understood and owned by employees.

A revised CSR Strategy

As the Transformation Plan reaches its conclusion, the Group will publish a revised CSR strategy. We will strengthen our existing approach by taking account of emerging trends and priorities in CSR which are relevant to our business. If necessary, we must be prepared to go beyond the 'People', 'Relationships' and 'Resources' framework currently in place.


The recommendations of the review are as follows:

  1. The Group will prepare and publish a refreshed CSR Strategy document which is clearly aligned and designed for employees and other stakeholders. It will make clear what the Group regards as best practice and the requirements on management and employees. It will be used to help drive and sustain the changes being made in the business by the Transformation.
  2. We will consider whether to extend the CSR framework, currently comprising: Our People (Expertise and Culture); Relationships (Building strong relationships and community impact); and Resources (Health, Safety and Environmental Performance).
  3. We will ensure that our revised strategy is in line with any potential upcoming social and environmental legislation e.g. carbon reduction targets and waste management, as well as industry best practice.
  4. We will ensure that our strategy includes both internal and external targets that are transparent and will keep stakeholders up to date with our progress and challenges.

The revised CSR Strategy will ideally be produced and published during 2021 following further work with the Transformation Plan team on areas including employee engagement and environmental impact.

What we believe in

What we are here to do:

  • To help people at one of the most difficult times in their lives.

How we do this:

  • With compassion, respect, openness and care.

What we want to be:

  • The company that everyone knows they can trust in their time of need.
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