Time to Plan the Quickest Route to “Zero”…

As the pressure for climate action grows, organisations are starting to look at the changes needed to become carbon neutral.  Whether your chosen standard is PAS2060 or ISO14065 this means carrying out a detailed review not just of the energy your organisation uses in its premises, but also of its supply chain and ways of working.  In this regard IT services and work-based travel are significant contributors to both Scope 2 (energy used for work purposes) and Scope 3 (value chain and travel to/for work) emissions.  IT is also essential to establishing new and more sustainable ways of working.  In our latest article we look at how to plan for and deliver a more sustainable operation, and accelerate towards the goal of becoming carbon neutral.

So why a “route to zero” and why is our speed important?

In this case the route we’re talking about is the one for an organisation to become carbon neutral.  Why does this, and specifically the speed of it, matter?  At a global level our consumption of finite resources continues to increase far beyond the earth’s ability to replenish them.  The emissions and waste that this consumption creates are also accelerating significant and very negative changes to our environment. Every year we delay in meeting our carbon emissions reduction targets is another year of damage.

Earth Overshoot Day (https://www.overshootday.org/) is a good way to illustrate the issue.  It marks the date when our demand for the Earth’s resources and services exceeds what the planet can regenerate in that year.  In 2020, despite the reduced travel and economic activity caused by the pandemic, Earth Overshoot Day was still August the 22nd.  That’s just 234 days to consume a years’ worth of resources.  And the effect of that demand and consumption on the Earth is potentially catastrophic in terms of temperatures, extreme weather, loss of biodiversity and rising sea levels. Put simply we need to consume less and conserve more if we are to leave this planet in a fit state for the future.

Melting ice in the Arctic: In the last twenty years alone, Iceland’s glaciers have shrunk by over 800 km2

Having identified a pressing need to take action, why focus on IT? There are three very good reasons why IT needs to get some serious attention:

  1. Footprint: Surprisingly our research indicates IT and work-based travel are jointly responsible for more than 5% of all the GHG emissions worldwide (If we were to use mature forests to offset these emissions they would have to be the size of Greenland and Canada combined [1])
  2. Enablement: If we want to reduce GHG emissions from travel and premises, that requires flexible and mobile working – which in turn require IT that allows communication and collaboration but doesn’t compromise security or user experience
  3. Addressability: Using the action points we cover later in this post emissions can be reduced by between 40% to 70% (and costs can potentially be cut too) so Good IT really can be Green IT

So we believe there is a compelling reason for change and IT offers an opportunity for significant improvement – this is our journey, but how do we go about planning and completing it? 

Below are the five steps Px3 recommend to ensure success.

Step 1: Alignment, Initiation & Target Setting – It’s very important that any initiative to become “greener” is put in the broader environmental and organisational context, so ensure it is aligned with the appropriate standard(s), target dates, UN (https://sdgs.un.org/goals) and UK (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-becomes-first-major-economy-to-pass-net-zero-emissions-law) strategic goals and references the organisational mission statements, including any Corporate and Social Responsibility, compliance or other relevant commitments the organisation has made. 

At this stage it’s also important to get stakeholder buy in to the need for change and the targets.  Get resources assigned and an overall, high-level strategic plan communicated.  Ideally have a board-level “champion” assigned to lend weight to the initiative.  External advocacy can help at this stage in terms of raising awareness and profile through workshops and webinars.

Step 2: Analyse: In order to plan the journey in any detail we need to know where we are today and therefore which areas to target as a priority for change. There are a number of ways of achieving this, but our preferred route is through analytics software which combines detailed inventory, power consumption and location-based information. 

This is typically supported by some level of survey or interview data to provide additional detail (for example on changes in travel due to the pandemic response) and context.  The main requirement is that any information gathering and analysis uses a fully disclosed and defensible “scientific method”. 

Step 3: Map & Benchmark:  Based on the information gathered Px3 typically creates a “carbon map” of the organisation.  This shows where emissions are being generated, for example which devices are being used and for how long.  We can view this from various perspectives including by department, by role or by location.

Where analytics are used we can also gather information about device configurations (such as power-saving settings) and usage (such as user experience) to identify any issues or productivity impacts which may affect users.  This is particularly relevant for today’s more dispersed workforces.

Using this information we can create a set of benchmark data for the organisation, including specific indices and visualisations such the PX3 “EVE” rating of Employee Vehicle Equivalent which help to communicate the findings.

Step 4: Modelling:  Having identified the current state we can then use externally verified benchmark data to model various options to see what the potential environmental benefits would be.

There are four areas that we typically look at in such an assessment:

  1. Using reduced energy personal computing devices where possible
  2. Using collaboration / remote working software to reduce work travel
  3. Moving from on-premises / private cloud to hyper-cloud services
  4. Using software and cloud services to extended device lifespan

Across all of these we use the analysis and benchmark data to identify the gap between where the organisation is today and a potential “greener” future state.  Clearly there are wider considerations (not least cost) that need to be taken into consideration, but sustainability should be one of the guiding principles in any strategic procurement decisions.  Fortunately many of the measures that reduce emissions also reduce costs, so the business case for change can be compelling.

The output of the modelling is the reduced set of GHG emissions that will be created by a “future state” of devices, services and ways of working.  This is a critical asset for the organisation in terms of emissions reporting and for showing progress on the wider move to carbon neutrality.

Step 5: Offset:  Although the organisation will have committed to reducing emissions, and may have made some immediate savings, there will be a residual amount left which could not be addressed by the changes.  The world of work requires energy, and while this can be purchased from providers committed to using sustainable energy, the truth is that it is drawn from the “grid” and supplied from any number of actual suppliers.

To account for this some organisations also choose to purchase credits in order to offset the emissions from the power they use.  This is not without controversy, with some commentators (https://www.monbiot.com/2006/10/19/selling-indulgences/) likening the practice to the historical practice of “indulgences” which forgave sins in return for financial donations to the church.

Px3 do not resell offsetting (or indeed any third party products or services) but we do recommend that our clients select offsetting programmes very carefully – only those that are independently certified in line with UN protocols (https://unfccc.int/climate-action/climate-neutral-now) and ideally those that specialise in increasing the supply of truly renewable energy or invest in reducing the most polluting practices. 

While it could be argued that this is more the responsibility of governments, as with most things related to climate change the lines are blurred and the time is short, so funding positive action is to be welcomed.

Ultimately any medium to large-sized organisation wanting to achieve carbon neutrality will need to purchase some form of carbon offsets or credits to achieve this.  

Conclusion

In this post we have set out the main steps needed for organisations that want to improve the sustainability of their IT as part of their journey to carbon neutrality. 

While it’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm for sustainability, we understand that the decisions and changes need to be framed in a business context and trust that the structured approach we have presented reflects this.

Regardless of whether you choose Px3 as your partner for this we hope that you find the steps useful and help you to progress rapidly on your journey to carbon neutrality. We have a lot to protect, and only a litmited amount to time to make a difference.

More information about how PX3 can help is available here: www.px3.org.uk

[1] Sutton-Parker, J. (2020). ‘Determining end user computing device Scope 2 GHG emissions with accurate use phase energy consumption measurement.’ Amsterdam: Elsevier Procedia Computer Science.

About the Author: Ewen Anderson BSc, MMS (Dip), CIO @ Px3

Ewen is CIO of Px3, a company on a self-assigned mission to help organisations balance people, planet and productivity by promoting sustainable IT strategies.  Px3 has set itself the goal of removing the CO2 emissions equivalent of 100,000 cars from our atmosphere by 2050. With a background in psychology, management services, consultancy and enterprise IT, Ewen is a passionate believer that the right technology used in the right way can significantly reduce environmental impacts, engage users and improve productivity.

Ewen (LinkedIn Profile) can be contacted at ewen@px3.org.uk

Lessons Linking Leadership & Sustainability

Studies on leadership indicate that individuals are most effective when there is a balance between authority and responsibility.  Given the urgent need to improve global sustainability, are there lessons here we can apply to our work and personal lives? 

Many years ago while participating in a CEO mentoring programme I was introduced to the concept of balancing authority (taking control of my actions and decisions) and responsibility (taking ownership of the consequences of my actions and decisions).  From a leadership perspective this was a “lightbulb” moment.  I drew up the quadrant below to remind myself of this, not just for my own management development, but as a possible explanation of the actions and attitudes of others.

While the balance of the top right quadrant is the ideal state, I have frequently come across those who feel huge responsibility, but believe they have limited authority to act.  Equally it is easy to see high-profile examples of those who claim and execute significant authority, but seem to have no recognition or ownership of their responsibility or the consequences.

Equally concerning from a sustainability perspective is the lowest left quadrant; those who feel they have neither authority to change anything nor responsibility for their (in)actions.

It’s easy to understand why this happens.  When we look at sustainability as a problem which could be solved, we quickly run up the scale of action needed, going from personal to local, then regional, national, international and finally worldwide.  When you consider the scale of the issue it’s hard to see why individual actions count, particularly if you are not a CEO or world leader. 

In fact, we need to reverse this process, recognising that the individual is in fact the essential component of all of these levels, whether as a consumer, society member, employee or employer.  Again this reflects back on leadership theory – we need to empower and encourage the individual to participate and contribute fully.

We need to encourage people to move from awareness to action, but going further requires two additional steps.  Once an entry level positive activity is established we also need to encourage everyone to think “who else” (can I encourage others to do the same) and “what else” (can I find another area for improvement).

Again, this can be seen as the basics of quality improvement and employee engagement from a business management perspective, but equally it can be applied to our sustainability activities at home and at work.  I’ve tried to illustrate this with the graphic below.

As powerful advocates for change like Sir David Attenborough (www.davidattenboroughfilm.com) voice their concerns, it is vital that the awareness this creates is turned into positive outcomes rather than pessimism and inactivity.

Conclusion

Whatever our circumstances and role each individual will be presented with a series of options and choices.  For some this will be large-scale and strategic, for others a matter of individual actions.  What is needed is for sustainability to become a key factor in all those decisions, alongside more conventional ones like best value and affordability.

Ultimately change is driven by an overwhelming number of individuals making the right decisions, both at home and at work.  Recent UN reports highlight the potential for governments to create a more positive outlook for our planet in a post Covid-19 world (https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/recovering-better/six-climate-positive-actions) – but we all as individuals need to accept, embrace and celebrate the personal authority and responsibility required for a more sustainable future.

About the Author: Ewen Anderson BSc, MMS (Dip), CIO @ Px3

Ewen is CIO of Px3, a company on a self-assigned mission to help organisations balance people, planet and productivity by promoting sustainable IT strategies.  Px3 has set itself the goal of removing the CO2 emissions equivalent of 100,000 cars from our atmosphere by 2050. With a background in psychology, management services, consultancy and enterprise IT, Ewen is a passionate believer that the right technology used in the right way can significantly reduce environmental impacts, engage users and improve productivity.

Ewen (LinkedIn Profile) can be contacted at ewen@px3.org.uk

At the Business End of Going “Green”

Sustainability at work is about more than the “green gloss” of articles and business social media posts.  Considering consistency may be one way to help organisations assess their commitment to a more sustainable business model.

This article considers three linked areas that cut across organisational and environmental boundaries, seeking to put forward a more joined-up and sustainable ap

This article considers various ways in which “consistency” helps organisations genuinely engage in promoting and improving sustainability across their entire scope of operations.   This is examined across the following areas; Strategy (Mission & ESG), Finance (Controlling Costs), Sourcing (Procurement & Supply Chain) People (Ways of Working & Communication) and Metrics (Measurement & Analysis).

Strategy: Our first area requiring consistency is matching strategy against the UN Sustainability Goals for 2030, adopted by the General Assembly in September 2015.  These 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are based on the principle of “leaving no one behind”. 

Not all of these will apply to every organisation, but when we look at overall strategy for the organisation, is it broadly consistent with these principles of reducing environmental harm, inequality and injustice, while improving quality of life, opportunity, health and wellbeing?  Is there an overriding commitment to Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) in place which is determining direction and policy? 

To be clear, these do not have to be the prime and certainly not the only goals of the organisation (unless it is an environmental one) but commitment should feature clearly and boldly in mission and strategy statements.

Finance: One of the main concerns for organisations in the current climate is controlling costs.  The financial strategy needs to be consistent in considering the potential for cost savings balanced by commitments to staff, stakeholders and the environment.

So does improving sustainability necessarily mean an increase in costs?  The good news here is that in many cases what is good for the environment is also good for the balance sheet.

In many cases what is good for the environment is also good for the balance sheet.

As we reduce energy consumption (from premises, devices and datacentres) our costs come down.  As we move systems to the cloud, the length of time we can use a device before it needs replacement also increases.

Equally importantly if we get our ways of working right (see below) then our response to major disruptions and changes need not involve significant extra spending.  Solutions that are designed to be flexible from the outset can respond to major changes smoothly and efficiently, scaling up rather than needing to be changed or increased.

There is a lot of debate around the future of the centralised HQ, driven by a combination of significant overheads and a reluctance to return to mass commute and highly-concentrated workplaces.  While the overall economy clearly benefits from such a “return to normal” it is highly unlikely that most organisations will enforce it – leading to the potential of significant changes to spending (and working) patterns.

Sourcing: Most organisations have at least a sustainability statement in their core strategy, but increasingly procurement professionals (like many of us as individual consumers) are also starting to look at supply chain and how consistent the commitments of our suppliers is with our own key values. 

This can be as simple as making energy-efficiency a metric in a tender / supplier assessment criteria, or requiring that all suppliers have a formally adopted sustainability policy themselves.

The difficulty is measuring what these mean in reality.  A well-thought through strategy and policy document may be enough to qualify for a preferred supplier listing, but does it really mean anything?  Under UK legislation, Scope 3 (Value Chain) Emissions reporting has become mandatory for all but the smallest SMEs.

As verifiable tracking and auditing technologies built around big data, analytics, blockchain and smart sensors become available, new insights will be generated which will help to direct purchasing activities and drive true carbon-accountability from suppliers and supply chains.   

Until then we have to evaluate suppliers using a more basic “benchmark, improve, report” strategy (see Metrics below) to judge their performance.

People: If failing to have a clearly defined strategy that includes sustainability is the most common issue we encounter, failing to support it with consistent operational practices and policies (and communicate those effectively to staff and stakeholders) comes a close second.

Encouraging sustainable ways of working for all staff is unquestionably important.  From minimising energy use and waste to encouraging and enabling recycling, the organisation can promote sustainability as part of its core communications with staff.  Minimising work-based travel has long been a contentious area, with inconsistent flexible working policies for different parts of the organisation and “essential” car users mandated to meet minimum annual mileage targets to retain tax-free travel allowances.

Of course the recent changes to working practices regarding travel to work in the Covid-19 crisis have cast this whole area in a new light, but the fundamental question remains – is working flexibly / away from the organisation’s buildings consistent across the workforce and is it an interim solution, tolerated or actively supported?

This “ways of working question” is vitally important from a sustainability perspective.  According to our research 1 work-based travel (including commute) is responsible for around 2.7% of world-wide greenhouse gas emissions and has significant impacts on air pollution, quality of life and communities.

Work-based travel (including commute) is responsible for around 2.7% of world-wide greenhouse gas emissions

This is not to suggest that all work should be carried out remotely, just that a better balance is needed to create a more sustainable working environment. 

So providing the right equipment, the right “workspaces” and supporting a secure, supported and flexible working environment are all highly important.  Consistency has a further role to play here as we look at user experience from various locations.  True, security (such as access to some data and systems) may need to be adjusted based on device and location, but information technology should be designed to preserve team collaboration and the overall way of working.  In summary people should not feel disadvantaged by working from their location of choice.

It’s also worth noting that the right choice of IT equipment can have a significant impact on sustainability.  Our research also confirms that low-energy devices and cloud solutions offer significant reductions (over 40%) in energy use when compared with traditional PCs, laptops and on-premises data centres.

Metrics: Given the above requirements to consider strategy, sourcing and people, how can we ensure that organisations are taking an approach that is both consistent and effective?

There are four key areas where analytics and metrics can help.

  • Initial Benchmarking – Identifying where we are today, what is the resulting carbon footprint and how does this compare with targets
  • Identifying Priorities – Highlighting areas where we can make the most difference, how quickly and what success looks like for us
  • Progress Reporting – Quantifying the progress we have made, which areas are doing best / worst and encouraging user engagement
  • Analogous Visualisation – Translating the raw figures into something easily understood by staff and stakeholders, like acres of trees, car miles per person and similar ratios

Metrics are the key to driving changes in behaviour.  Many organisations struggle to get started in this area as they lack experience in generating this data without intrusive monitoring or expensive and disruptive systems changes. 

There are a number of organisations, including Px3, who can assist in getting this established with low-cost analysis services and annual audits.

Conclusion

Organisations need to take a consistent, balanced, pragmatic and above all informed approach to sustainability. Compliance with legislation and international goals is clearly a priority, but what is also true, in our experience, is that a focus on sustainability can also have positive impacts on both finance and user engagement / experience.

a focus on sustainability can also have positive impacts on both finance and user engagement / experience

As we translate these commitments into wider areas of the business, across the full value chain, we will start to see the benefits and impacts accelerate.

Much like the investment in flexible working, a focus on sustainability today will have immediate benefits, but will also put the organisation on the right track as we all respond to an increasingly uncertain future.

1 Research source: MBA thesis & PhD Research by Justin Sutton-Parker at the University of Warwick

About the Author: Ewen Anderson BSc, MMS (Dip), CIO @ Px3

Ewen is CIO of Px3, a company on a self-assigned mission to help organisations balance people, planet and productivity by promoting sustainable IT strategies.  Px3 has set itself the goal of removing the CO2 emissions equivalent of 100,000 cars from our atmosphere by 2050. With a background in psychology, management services, consultancy and enterprise IT, Ewen is a passionate believer that the right technology used in the right way can significantly reduce environmental impacts, engage users and improve productivity.

Ewen can be contacted at ewen@px3.org.uk

Three Key Changes Needed as We Head Towards a “New Normal”

There is an understandable desire to get back to something like “normal” as soon as possible, but this needs to be balanced by recognising that the old normal was part of the problem. So what’s key for organisations seeking to make the new normal significantly better than the one we so recently left behind?

This article considers three linked areas that cut across organisational and environmental boundaries, seeking to put forward a more joined-up and sustainable approach for organisations approaching the “post-covid” era.

Better Strategy: Perhaps an obvious number one, but worth explaining and expanding. By better strategy I mean developing and communicating an overall plan that sets out a destination or outcome plus a means to achieve it.  It should include a “live” action plan which is prioritised (doing the most important things first) and proportionate (shifting effort and resources between priorities to achieve maximum effectiveness).

We have a tendency to react to situations with a series of tactical initiatives, each logical in isolation but lacking in an overall, joined-up, coordinated approach.

A well-thought out (and communicated) strategy builds confidence, boosts contribution and productivity and both encourages and focuses ideas and innovation. It is very important that everyone understands the question “how does this help?” – what is my contribution to the delivering the strategy and why does it (and therefore why do I) matter?

Particularly as organisations have become, and are likely to remain, more geographically dispersed this notion of “contribution and value” (linked to goals, training and personal development) will become critical to motivating retaining talent and boosting productivity.

More Sharing: Again, this one is multi-levelled, ranging from internal team structures, processes and communication through to improving collaboration on global issues including sustainability.

Building from the strategy piece above, when we have a clear vision of our goals, destination and route we need to establish a team capable of delivering our aims. While this will undoubtedly contain some key individuals, we need to establish the broadest concept of shared endeavour and enterprise across the entire organisation.

As a core to this I have always tried to encourage an initial response to any issue (large or small) of “how can I help?” – a simple question which not only supports whoever has the issue, but encourages them to retain ownership of it with assistance and the real sense that their problems are shared with a wider team.

We are also increasingly aware of the global nature of existential threats that mean we are all vulnerable to something taking place on the other side of the world. The butterfly effect is truly with us and our only counter to it is sharing knowledge, skills and ideas. It may be that some of our international organisations are less than perfect, or that the alliance and sharing of data between academia, science, international governments and commerce is difficult to manage and maintain, but it is precisely this sharing that offers us the best chance to thrive and survive.

Improved Sustainability: This broader notion of collaboration to aid our survival as a species is precisely where my third concern for the new normal sits. If we fail to recognise the impact our “normal” activities are having on the planet then the crisis we will inevitably create makes the current one minor by comparison.

Not to diminish the clear tragedy of the deaths, disruption and economic impact there are some cautious positives from the current situation. We are seeing an improved respect for science and scientists as individuals and institutions turn around projects in months that would normally take many years. 

We have seen that collective responsibility can be encouraged and lead to massive changes in behaviour. We have also seen that those changes can directly lead to environmental improvements. What we have not yet seen is that those changes are literally “sustainable” – i.e. that they endure beyond the crisis. 

What’s needed is not just a minor slowing or reducing of current damage, we need a significant reversal of trend towards truly sustainable energy and behaviour. This means shifting from a selfish, myopic and short-term view based on cost and convenience to one of “how can we reduce harm and improve outcomes?” in order to take a broader perspective.

To achieve this we need to embed the key question of sustainability into every organisational plan and decision. If we do this globally across every organisation it becomes the new normal. That sounds overly ambitious, but if we insist on it as individuals, employees, stakeholders, investors and most importantly as consumers then it will become an essential part of every organisation’s operational and strategic plan. We have seen that governments can significantly change people’s behaviour – now we need to show that people can significantly change the behaviour of governments and organisations.

Conclusion

What will the new normal look like? Will we have a plan, a shared set of common goals that include a new attitude towards our shared home planet? Maybe not right away, but I believe this is a unique opportunity when we should take responsibility for making a new start on sustainability as we start to seriously think about “what’s next”.

About the Author: Ewen Anderson BSc, MMS (Dip), CIO @ Px3

With a background in psychology, management services, consultancy and enterprise IT, Ewen is a passionate believer that the right technology used in the right way can significantly reduce environmental impacts, engage users and improve productivity. He is CIO of Px3, a company on a self-assigned mission to help organisations balance people, planet and productivity by promoting sustainable IT strategies.  Px3 has set itself the goal of removing the CO2 emissions equivalent of 100,000 cars from our atmosphere by 2050.

Ewen can be contacted at ewen@px3.org.uk

Facing Existential Threats

Having recognised that we are pretty much all in uncharted territory, how do we respond?  First let’s be clear that we are talking about factors, internal and external, that can threaten the continued existence of an organisation.  Specifically we are not covering “conventional” threats from poor operational / financial strategy or execution e.g. poor sales performance or cost control.  Rather we are considering those factors that might otherwise seem outside of our immediate control such as environmental changes, a government mandated lock-down of citizens and a growing issue of employee disengagement with their employment and employers.

Why plan for things you can’t control?  Well, while we may not have a solution which fully mitigates the issues, our response may well ultimately determine our survival as an organisation, both directly through the response itself and, equally importantly, indirectly through the message that it sends to stakeholders (staff, customers, suppliers, shareholders and investors).

These factors will be considered in more detail in a joint webinar with 6 Degrees (https://www.6dg.co.uk/event/tackling-existential-business-threats/) and a set of action points will be covered in a subsequent post, but for now let’s consider the headline issues and responses.

Threat Origins

Probably the simplest way for any organisation to profile its potential threats is to use the PEST (Political, Economic/Environmental, Social, Technological) analysis process.  With a little creative thinking we can quickly identify not only a high-level matrix of specific threats, but also two key factors; priority and interconnections.  

What quickly emerges from such an exercise is a complex mix of internal and external issues, many of which directly affect each other; staff engagement affects productivity which affects economic performance and investment.  Sustainability is covered by compliance legislation, has a direct effect on staff attraction and retention, as well as investment.

Prioritising & Planning Responses

Our first response should be to rate the threat priority.  This is a trickier exercise than simply identifying the threats as it involves not just the importance to the organisation (in its widest sense), but also the degree to which the organisation is able to take action in a specific area. 

As an example a government instruction for all non-critical workers to “stay at home” may be the biggest impact and threat, but it can’t (and shouldn’t) be challenged.  In fact the priority response areas for this are Social (creating / maintaining a supportive culture) and Technological (creating maintaining a flexible working environment).

The creation of a weighted scorecard for priority response along the lines of criticality(the degree of threat), scope for action (the ability to mitigate the threat) and immediacy (the timeline for action / impact) allows us to list these in order and also to create a visibly comprehensive action plan.

Of course this does presuppose that the organisation has a clear view on its operational priorities and critical roles.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing but having this analysis and planning in place BEFORE existential threats materialise is always much more effective than trying to create the data sets and analysis DURING the crisis. 

Let’s be clear, we’ve all been there, making the best of difficult situations with limited resources.  The trick is to learn from our experience and that of others – to build our knowledge and capability based on reality and what actually was effective.

What Next?

In part II we’ll look at the specific issues and threats from Planet (Ecological), People (Workforce) and Productivity (Economic) perspectives.

While you’re here….

Please take a minute to participate in our research into the impact on emissions of the current travel restrictions.  The survey (https://www.research.net/r/cvd_response) is anonymous, takes roughly 1 minute and contributes to our PhD sustainability research with the University of Warwick.

About the Author: Ewen Anderson BSc, MMS (Dip), CIO @ Px3

With a background in psychology, management services, consultancy and enterprise IT, Ewen is a passionate believer that the right technology used in the right way can significantly reduce environmental impacts, engage users and improve productivity. He is CIO of Px3, a company on a self-assigned mission to help organisations balance people, planet and productivity by promoting sustainable IT strategies.  Px3 has set itself the goal of removing the CO2 emissions equivalent of 100,000 cars from our atmosphere by 2050.

Ewen can be contacted at ewen@px3.org.uk

Doing the Impossible Every day

Not too long ago when we discussed flexible and remote working as part of an overall strategy to improve sustainability and tackle climate change the response was typically guarded.  How many people, how often?  How will we know what they are doing?

We did encounter some organisations that had fully embraced flexibility and mobility, but they were the exceptions.  Mostly it was accepted as a management and cultural issue, that attitudes and processes would need to change over time.

Today’s reality is suddenly rather different.  The impossible has pretty much been achieved and the exceptional has suddenly become normal (albeit not without significant effort, cost and disruption).  There’s an interesting lesson in the fact that nature didn’t give us the luxury of that long time to change, we have been hit by something that needed dramatic, rapid action that looks like it will affect almost everyone one on the planet.

Taking a very rose-tinted view it does show is that we have the capacity to act together on a common purpose.  What we need to do now is look out for each other and the planet in difficult times and look as far as we can outside the narrow confines of our usual perspective to consider the broader common good.

#px3 #sustainability #climate change #climateemergency #strategy #greenIT

Take a breath…

We’re in a place very few of us have any direct experience of.  For many the health of our loved ones and survival of our businesses is in doubt.  A rising sense of panic affects behaviours in unexpected ways, despite an underlying feeling that this may actually be an over-reaction to the actual level of threat.

I can speak from past personal experience when saying that the fear of fear is crippling.  Being anxious about having anxiety attacks is deeply damaging to wellbeing in general and particularly for mental health.  We lose perspective on the wider picture of what is good and worthwhile and narrow our focus into an intense, internal beam examining every detail of how bad we feel.  Our physiology reacts and we self-fulfil and confirm our fears with affected breathing, heart rate and cold sweats.

It is essential that we break the cycle.  We have to do this by shifting our focus outwards, away from the self and a detailed examination of our personal issues towards others and the wider world.  This is the power of the balcony singers in Italy or the recognition in the news that with the shut-down, deaths caused by pollution in China have fallen by more than the actual death-toll from the virus.

I finally cast off my panic attacks for good more than 30 years ago when I discovered that my inner voice could be trained to quietly encourage me to pause, take a breath, look at the world and feel strong – to focus outwards rather than those immediate feelings.  I discovered that no matter how intense the anxiety was initially, it faded quickly when not amplified by my focus.  Once the cycle of anxiety is broken, its power rapidly diminishes.

Too personal for a business post?  Not just now, I don’t think.  The more we can pause, reflect and take a wider perspective than just what’s in front of us (and shouting the loudest) the better.  All of us have dependants, colleagues, customers, stakeholders or supply chains to consider.  We need to set the example of what ethical and sustainable business should look like.

So take a breath, stay positive, and focus on the widest view you can take of society, economy and ecology (not necessarily in that order!).  And don’t forget the coaching and encouragement that your inner voice can deliver.  Tough times demand good people to step up.  You are strong and you CAN do the right thing.

#px3 #sustainability #climate change #climateemergency #strategy #greenIT

The essential common ground between ecology & economics

Whether you are the CEO, sustainability manager or CFO, cutting consumption is key to success

Ecology and economics share a common root – Eco, taken from the Greek work οἶκος meaning “home”. One means the science of our shared home, the other the management of it (although home has morphed from household management into organisational or country finances over the centuries). There’s a second clear link though; maintaining a viable ecology requires us to significantly reduce our consumption of non-renewable resources and this in turn will have a significant economic impact.

Why is Cutting Consumption Necessary

From an economic perspective an upwards spiral of consumption can be seen to be a good thing, particularly if you have control over a significant amount of a relatively scarce and diminishing resource. This has pretty much been the picture for the last 300 years as waves of technological advancement, automation and consumer demands have seen our demand for power grow rapidly, and are still growing now, year on year.

Fortunes continue to be made in fossil fuels, despite all of the media attention and growing public concern over climate change and global warming. There are strong economic reasons for some companies and individuals not to want reductions in consumption to happen

Unfortunately we simply cannot continue on our current trajectory. Even from an economic perspective, our reliance on exploiting fuel sources which destabilise our climate makes no sense. As we’ve seen with recent extreme weather around the world, the economic consequences from disruption and mitigation are huge. While the current Corona virus outbreak is undoubtedly serious, the likely long-term impact of continued global heating is much more extreme and longer lasting.

Our only option is to reduce our consumption of these resources and thereby at least halt the ongoing climactic change. The switch to truly renewable energy will help, but this is just one element in the overall mix of things that need to be improved. To have a beneficial effect in time we need real and significant reductions in fossil fuel consumption as quickly as possible.

Where to Focus?

Clearly we have a personal responsibility to each do as much as we can and potentially more than we are 100% comfortable with. That includes going meat free for a significant part of the week, eating local, organic food where possible, travelling less and switching to “green” energy suppliers. It means making sustainability a serious consideration for every purchase and every decision.

All of this has implications for the economy. As our attitudes and purchasing shift, so the supply chain and industry shift with them. We cannot underestimate the power we have through our spending.

At Px3, however, our focus is on the choices we have at work. Does our employer have sustainability as part of their mission and does that cascade down to us in terms of real, achievable objectives? Is there significant engagement with staff and stakeholders to identify and reduce areas of waste or unnecessary travel, printing and overall energy use.

The interesting thing from my perspective, seeking to drive change at a strategic level, is that the majority of the initiatives to reduce consumption will actually save rather than cost money.

Reducing premises footprint and encouraging flexible working, using virtual meetings to reduce work travel, switching to lower energy devices like tablets and “thin clients” all offer substantial savings in time, energy and carbon footprint, while also cutting costs and some potentially improve work-life balance.

If we can put together a plan that shows the CEO a way to meet sustainability targets, the HR Director a way to engage with staff and the Sustainability Manager a way to show actual reduction in Scope 2 and 3 emissions, that’s a pretty compelling proposition.

Coming up with an “Eco” Plan

Our starting point needs to be a recognition that change is required. That can be driven by compliance, by stakeholder pressure, economic factors or by an individual’s passion for sustainability.

From there we need to have a strategic plan with executive support. That plan must identify areas in which reductions can be achieved in a specific time period and because we’re linking up the “ecos” it needs to have a budget, or at least a way of monitoring the associated costs and savings.

Any plan must propose significant and measurable changes in order to be credible and avoid the perception of “green-wash”

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s particularly important that we avoid any suggestions of “green-wash” as this undermines the credibility of real initiatives. Any plan must therefore propose real, significant and measurable savings over a defined period.

From an economic perspective we also need to recognise that investment in new technology may be required. If we are expecting staff to work from home, from satellite offices of co-working facilities rather than travelling into work we must provide the user experience, collaboration tools and security to keep them at least as productive as they would have been before.

Fortunately there are now more choices than ever before in terms of effective workplace and workspace technologies, most with the option for a revenue rather than capital model to reduce up-front costs and provide flexibility.

Making a business case for such investments is easier when backed by cost reductions in energy use, by extensions to the working life of existing technology and by productivity improvements from “smarter working”.

Conclusion

There are many words jostling for attention as “key words of the 2020s” at the moment – but for me there is no more important one than “reduce”. From power consumption to waste, from car use to international travel and from single use plastics to junk food.

All are addressable in a combination of our work and personal lives and the good news is that we can reduce environmental impacts and save costs at the same time.

We urgently need to commit to look at every aspect of what we do in order to minimise the harm we leave behind for future generations and to taking action as soon as possible.

#px3 #sustainability #climate change #climateemergency #strategy #greenIT

About the author:

No alt text provided for this image

Ewen Anderson is CIO and co-founder of Px3, a company which provides consultancy and analytical services to help organisations measure and reduce the ecological impact of their workplaces. Ewen has a background in management services, enterprise IT and executive leadership. Over the last 25 years he has worked as a strategy consultant for many FTSE 100, SMBs, public sector and Not for Profit organisations. 

Putting Workplace Emissions Reduction in the Fast Lane

Px3’s mission is simple: work with customers and partners to reduce workplace emissions by the equivalent of 100,000 cars p.a. – and here’s how we’ll do it…

There’s a fine line to draw between raising legitimate concern which promotes responsible action and flag waving which achieves very little. Let’s be clear from the outset that we are firmly in the business of the former, believing comprehensive action on carbon emissions reduction is both necessary and urgent.

The Global Energy Issue

Let’s start by putting the issue in context. The UN put forward 17 sustainable development goals, which were accepted by all member states in 2015. Included within these are commitments on climate change, sustainable business and responsible use of resources. These have been followed up by local legislation and commitments, including the UK’s legislation in 2019 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Why? Because the potentially devastating impacts of climate change on our planet, population and economy have raised the threat level to critical. Energy and transport are two of the largest contributors.

Research indicates that energy and transport are jointly responsible for about 49% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Undoubtedly there will be technological advances which will help, as we have seen with the increasing use of truly sustainable power, but if we look at trends over the last 10 years we see continued year on year increases of around 3% in the use of power and of non-renewable resources such as oil and gas. We therefore need to follow a course which encourages but does not depend on technological innovation – in other words we need to switch to sustainable power wherever possible and simultaneously reduce power consumption by working more efficiently.

Why IT and Travel?

Our findings, as part of PhD research overseen by the University of Warwick and Warwick Business School, indicates that Information and Communications Technology (Desktops, laptops, tablets and datacenters) and work-based car use (for commuting and business use) make a significant contribution to worldwide emissions. Indeed we calculate that 5% of global CO2e emissions come from these sources.

Perhaps as significant is the fact that these areas are “addressable”, by which I mean we can make significant improvements without radically affecting our lives, budgets or productivity.

Savings of 40% energy reduction in ICT and travel are realistic and achievable in many organisations

There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved, as long as they are brought together into an overall sustainability improvement strategy and plan within the organisation, shared and communicated to create common purpose. Moving to lower energy devices, using cloud and encouraging flexible and remote working can all be employed to considerable effect.

A Mission Built on Partnership

Our mission since our foundation in 2017 has been quite simple – to work with customers and partners to drive changes in the workplace that reduce emissions equivalent to 100,000 cars on the road each year.

In 2017 we committed to working with customers and partners to remove the emissions equivalent of 100,000 cars p.a. from the environment by 2050

We have been working with many top-tier technology partners (notably Citrix, Microsoft, Google, Lakeside and Igel) to identify the potential emissions savings from using lower energy devices, prolonging the life of existing devices and shifting workloads from on-prem datacentres into more efficient hyper-scale cloud, driven by (mostly) green energy.

We’re also currently working with customers from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to measure their current emissions from ICT and travel, identify the problem areas and then put a plan together to reduce them.

Px3 seeks to create a virtuous circle from environmental commitment, stakeholder engagement and productivity-enhancing technology

Our name, Px3, is a recognition that organisations need to address the Planet (environmental) issues, but that this has to be done by engaging People and encouraging them to behave differently, but that we must support them with the right technical solutions to ensure we do not lose Productivity. This can form a virtuous circle, where commitment to environmental issues, staff engagement and user experience actually improves both productivity and work-life balance.

#px3 #sustainability #climate change #climateemergency #strategy #greenIT

Conclusion

Every organisation needs to look at its workplace technology and flexible working policy to determine whether there is scope for significant, positive change. Taken together these factors have a carbon emissions footprint equivalent to one of the major world economies. The sooner we take action, the more impact it will have – and if we do it right we can actually improve the productivity of our workplaces at the same time.

About the author:

No alt text provided for this image

Ewen Anderson is CIO and co-founder of Px3, a company which provides consultancy and analytical services to help organisations measure and reduce the ecological impact of their workplaces. Ewen has a background in management services, enterprise IT and executive leadership. Over the last 25 years he has worked as a strategy consultant for many FTSE 100, SMBs, public sector and Not for Profit organisations. 

Spotting the Greenwash…the SMART test for sustainability

greenwash

My first encounter with the term “greenwash” was in the US, but at the time it was being used to ridicule companies trying to align themselves with Ireland to sell more products on St Patrick’s Day.  Today the term has much wider and more serious implications, identifying those who make a public virtue of sustainability while actually doing very little about it.

So is there a quick test to determine whether an organisation is really serious about its sustainability?

Most of us are familiar with the SMART acronym when it comes to objective setting and even if the exact interpretation of what each letter means varies, the broad concept is the same; set an objective which is meaningful, easy to understand, measurable and delivered to some sort of timetable.  So let’s use something similar to provide a critical lens for claims of sustainability.

In our case I suggest SMART is best interpreted as Strategic, Measurable, Aligned, Radical and Targeted (although I’m sure other suggestions will follow and be most welcome!).

Let’s start with Strategic.  What I mean by this is that be credible sustainability must be in the core mission statement and board-level objectives, that these are communicated to all stakeholders (employees, customers and business partners / suppliers), that there is a budget for it and that someone at a very senior executive level has personal responsibility for it.  Not difficult, but if it’s done clearly and openly then everything else becomes much easier.  I know that major investment houses and financial analysts are now rating and judging companies on the basis of their sustainability strategies and credentials and where the money goes, the rest of us inevitably follow.

Measurable is a little more tricky but is no less important.  True sustainability requires that we consider the environmental impact of every aspect of all significant operations.  This will range from raw materials and energy consumption to supply chain and staff travel. Clearly these vary hugely between say a steel producer and a local authority, or between a bank and a school, but the principal is the same; identify the scope of your operation and profile its impact, both direct and indirect (e.g. from suppliers).  Benchmark it and ideally identify some historical trend.  Then identify ways to reduce it and how that will be measured.  Finally set targets and timescales linked to the strategic objectives and report progress (to all stakeholders) regularly.

Next we have Aligned.  Mike Berners-Lee in his book “There is no Planet B” rightly warns us about unintended consequences or re-bounds.  A sustainability strategy must therefore cross organisational and geographical borders.  It must not celebrate success in one area while ignoring negative impacts in another.  Sustainability is to do with the entire planet and alignment in this case means that the organisation has considered, co-ordinated and communicated (internally and externally) to the extent that common purpose has been generated throughout.  So aligned also refers to the inclusion of the sustainability goals in everyone’s objectives, cascaded from the strategy but made appropriate to the departmental, team and individual responsibilities and areas of influence.

Radical is simultaneously the simplest and most challenging.  If we are serious about sustainability then proposed changes cannot be small steps or minor changes.  Having worked in strategy and consulting for over 20 years I am not naïve about the difficulties of radical change, however, whether declared as such or not, we face a climate emergency which requires us to do more than place a green gloss over existing operations.  My suggestion therefore is that we need to use a benchmark of 40% as our definition of “radical”.  By which I mean every organisation (and we as individuals) should be committing to reduce negative impacts by 40% with immediate effect.  I’m certain that this is simultaneously not radical enough for many and too radical for most, which hopefully means it’s in the “plausible” zone.  Just consider that working from home two days a week, using a low-energy tablet device and at a personal level removing meat from your diet three days a week will all fall within this proposed “radical” success measure.

And finally we have Targeted.  Which in my case simply means the organisation must visibly be doing the most important and impactful things first.  In sales speak it’s known as going after the “low hanging fruit”, but there’s three very good reasons for doing so.  Firstly the sooner we make a difference the more impact we have.  The trajectory of our carbon emissions, energy consumption and pollution are all currently in the wrong direction.  We need to take urgent action right now to avoid irreparable damage to the planet and the sooner we do this the more impact the change will have.  Secondly it builds momentum and overcomes inertia – quick wins drive effective change faster.  Finally a targeted approach demonstrates to others what’s possible.  To be clear, while genuine sustainability may soon become a competitive advantage for organisations there is no benefit in pointing at “others” and berating them for their lack of progress, if we are serious about sustainability we need to have, and celebrate, exemplars and champions.

So that’s my SMART measurement of credible sustainability.  I’m always happy to hear comments and suggestions, but equally please do try applying this to your organisation to see how it stacks up.

(NB If you are interested in how to put all of this to action in your organisation please do not hesitate to get in touch using the details below).

#sustainability #climate change #climateemergency #strategy #greenIT #greewash

About the Author:

Speaker (2)

Ewen Anderson is co-founder and CIO of Px3, a company which provides analytics and consultancy to help organisations improve their workplace sustainability.  Ewen has a background in management services, enterprise IT and executive leadership.  Over the last 20 years he has worked as a strategy consultant for many FTSE 100, SMBS, public sector and Not for Profit organisations.  He can be contacted at ewen@px3.org.uk