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Ross Houghton – Group CSR Manager

A change of direction

On completing his A-Level’s in the summer of 2014, Ross was preparing to go and study International Business Law in Edinburgh. To occupy himself before going to university, Ross took on a temporary role in the IT team at Servest. Although the role wasn’t one he wished to pursue, Ross was impressed with the culture at Servest and made an impact on the management team in just a few short months. Ahead of leaving for university, Ross was approached with an interesting proposition, to help scope out what would become Servest’s Future Leader programme.

Seizing the opportunity

Intrigued by what Servest was proposing, Ross decided to put his university plans on hold and took up the opportunity. The first few months were challenging as Ross worked to help iron out the kinks in the programme but found it rewarding when, in March 2015, the Future Leader programme was launched with ten candidates, including himself.

Ross embarked on the two-year programme, where he would learn about all areas of the company, with the end goal to find a role that he would flourish within. His first nine months were spent working his way around the many head office functions where he got a flavour of what is required from different teams such as finance, marketing, procurement and HR. After a whirlwind tour of these departments, Ross entered the world of Servest operations, which is where he felt he really got an understanding of the company and is also where he faced his biggest challenges. Spending time in the cleaning, pest and building services teams, Ross’s greatest test was the management of 30 stores and 80 cleaning operatives during his time in cleaning, with the retail team.

Throughout the Future Leader programme, Ross was always thinking about what his role would be once it was over and was keen to work in an area that would have a positive impact on the company. Growing up on a farm, Ross developed a passion for the environment and environmental issues and had noticed there was not a dedicated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team within the company. So, he made a business case for the creation of a CSR manager role, which was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Servest management team.

In 2016 Ross started his new role, using the knowledge and contacts he had built up on the Future Leader programme to implement some initiatives. Since being in the role, he has successfully launched Servest’s first CSR report and helped to gain a two-star rating with the Sustainable Restaurant Association for a key customer. He has also developed and implemented an ethical procurement and supply policy, which required a collaborative approach with the supply chain to combat issues such as modern day slavery.

Servest has supported Ross in this new role by investing in vital learning and development programmes. This support has led to Ross successfully gaining his CIPS Ethical Procurement and Supply accreditation and a certificate in Business Sustainability Management with Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership. Recognising the effectiveness of his work, in 2018 Ross was given the opportunity to embark on IEMA’s level 7 diploma in Sustainable Business Practice.

An ethical future

Ross is looking forward to completing his diploma and is keen to use his learning to better Servest’s CSR strategy. There are a number of initiatives in the pipeline that Ross is excited to implement and drive forward, including the use of plastic free alternatives, energy consumption reduction across Servest’s offices and charity partnerships.

“I feel lucky to be in a role where I can really make a difference and am fortunate that the Servest culture is adaptable, meaning that initiatives can be implemented and really make a difference.” – Ross

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