After months of planning, meetings, insight groups, pitches, and a lot of stress-testing, our small but mighty team has unveiled Virgin Media‘s new five year sustainability strategy. For me it’s a personal achievement, too. I came back from maternity leave last June and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. From creating the strategy and getting the early backing from our executive committee, to working with colleagues across our business to shape and launch the plan – all while moving home, raising my son, Jack, oh and navigating a world of lockdowns and restrictions!

I’m proud to see the strategy, called the Meaningful Connections Plan, come to life, and it’s heartening to see the positive reaction from colleagues and peers. The Plan sets out how Virgin Media will use its purpose, people and products to make a positive and lasting impact on society over the next five years. This is the second five year sustainability strategy that I’ve launched at Virgin Media  but this time our business feels different and the world certainly feels different.

As you’d expect from Virgin Media, the Meaningful Connections Plan is bold with ambitious goals across three key areas; people, planet and communities. Our new plan will ensure that delivering on our purpose is about more than what we sell or how we operate – it will give us a mandate to play a positive role in society.

Better for communities
We’ve been all ears listening to insights from our people, customers and experts in the know, before and during the pandemic. The consistent key theme (or material issue) that emerged is that our sense of belonging to communities is declining and loneliness is on the rise. Our brand purpose is all about building connections that matter and we know that our connectivity combined with the power of our employees can help bring people and communities together. As this year has shown – this has never been so vital.

We’ve set a huge goal to help 1.5 million people feel more meaningfully connected to their communities and each other.To help us achieve this, we’re launching a new five year strategic charity partnership with Carers UK. There are 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK and they are seven times more likely to be lonely than non-carers.

Our research also found that more than one in five of our 5.6 million cable customers in the UK is an unpaid carer – the equivalent of around 1.2 million customers – with 58% saying they have felt lonely or isolated. I’ve never been so convinced that this is the right big hero cause for us to focus on. And I’ve never been more convinced that charities and businesses should join forces to tackle some of our biggest societal challenges. Right now charities are at breaking point, with research showing one in ten UK charities (big and small) are facing bankruptcy. Businesses like ours should play a part in helping charities to bounce back better.

Together, we’re going to help a million carers access digital technology so they can build support networks and create friendships. We’re also helping our unstoppable Virgin Media people to play a greater role in the communities they live in with our new volunteering programme, Take Five, where we’ve increased the number of annual paid volunteering days from one to five.

It means anyone at Virgin Media can now split the equivalent of a whole working week into smaller acts of kindness across the year – whether that’s spending 30 minutes on the phone to someone who might be lonely each week, or dedicating five hours of their time to an event in their local community.

Better for people
We’ve brought together all of the key elements of our Belonging strategy – which is helping Virgin Media to become a more inclusive company – for our new People goal. We’re going to create new opportunities for hundreds of people from underrepresented groups to access skills, and employment at Virgin Media. We know that diversity, supported by an organisation with true belonging, will enable our business to grow, thrive and succeed.

Better for the planet
Finally but as importantly, we’re shrinking our impact on the planet, by accelerating a zero waste and zero carbon future for our business, faster than ever. We’re putting climate and circularity central to our plans, and we’re acting with urgency as we know the climate crisis requires immediate action.
We’ve set a goal to reduce emissions by 25% and will use renewables and offsets to achieve net zero carbon (Scopes 1 & 2).

But it’s of course not just about our operational footprint – we’ll continue to tackle scope 3 emissions and we’ll focus on the lifecycle impact of our products, which is where our zero waste ambition also comes in. Building on our work with the product scorecard (which shows how sustainable our products are – such as our set-top boxes and routers), we’re now setting minimum standards for things like recycled content. And by 2025 we want every product going to our customers to either be a refurbished product or be new and contain over 75% recycled plastic content.

Moving forwards
Our Meaningful Connections Plan is driven by momentum, team play and action. With three key areas and simple yet ambitious goals, we’re focusing our efforts so it’s crystal clear to our people and customers what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.We’re rolling up our sleeves to make a positive impact for the country and communities so they can recover, rebuild and bounce back stronger with more meaningful connections.