Px3 Analysis Leaps Past the ½ Million Device Mark

Recent projects for central government, manufacturing and not-for profit clients have seen Px3’s tally of device emissions analysed increase dramatically. With sustainability once again firmly at the top of the news agenda, we take a moment to recognise passing a significant milestone on our sustainability journey.

With the final reports issued on our three most recent projects Px3 has now completed sustainability analysis and reporting on an end user computing estate totalling more than 620,000 devices.

Uptake in sustainability analysis has been particularly strong in the last few months and 2021 looks like being the year that sustainability makes it to the top of the business agenda, at least in those parts of the world where the pandemic is receding.

Not surprising considering that our analysis has identified over 3,500 metric tonnes of GHG emissions just from these EUC devices.  Once you add in commuting and business travel (as people return to workplaces and face to face meetings), on-premises datacentres and the issues around device disposal and e-waste, the environmental impacts are clear and the need for action urgent.

Our approach of bringing science-based measurement to drive sustainable decision making is crucial.  We need action from organisations at board-level to drive change – and board-level decisions demand independent analysis and verifiable data.

The increasing scale and scope of projects has also required significant upgrades to our modelling tools and reporting, with customers responding that the new dashboards and resulting analysis is “eye-opening”.  

This year we’ve also updated our demo capabilities to allow customers to see the sort of reports they can expect.  We’re also working on a cloud-version of our models which will give customers unlimited on-line access to all their granular data including filters, reports and sustainability metrics.

Want to know more? Just contact us for a demonstration and introductory workshop.

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

Ewen is CIO of Px3, a company on a 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

The Great Sustainability Bake-Off: CSR vs ESG vs SDG

Organisations are increasingly seeking to position themselves as ethical, green and sustainable.  But what standards are being used and what do they actually mean in terms of action on climate change and pollution?  In this post we review the history and implications of three ways in which you can tell the world you are a truly sustainable business.

The history of business ethics can be traced back to the earliest notions of “fair exchange” through the philanthropists of the 19th century and public pressure in the 1970s to modern corporate mission statements and annual reports.

Indeed perceived ethics underlies one of the key metrics that determines the success or failure of any organisation, trust.   Whether actively measured by NPS (Net Promotor Score), by employee engagement survey or investor sentiment, trust is now often declared to be as important as cash reserves in organisational “capital”.

While organisations have been proclaiming their ethical standing for the last 50 years, over the last 10 years we’ve increasingly seen sustainability added into the statements, with the emphasis ratcheting up rapidly this decade.

With this ramping up of the “green agenda” we’ve also seen concerns over greenwashing – a term first used in 1985 to describe companies seeking to manipulate our behaviour or sentiment through unsupported ecological statements.

There are clearly overlaps, as illustrated below.

So let’s look at a brief summary of CSR, SDG and ESG, acronyms that help to define our era:

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

CSR emerged during the industrial revolution but became more established as a concept through corporate philanthropy after the second world war.   The adoption was accelerated in the 60s and 70s  as reaction to the anti-apartheid and civil rights movements which demonstrated how “people power” could dramatically affect businesses.  To take advantage of, or defend against, this new market force CSRs sought to define and establish a social contract between business and society.

As the global and digital economy emerged from the 1990s onward, awareness of supply chains and international labour practices became the focus and CSR focussed on a combination of profit, social good and anti-slavery / human rights commitments.

From 2010 sustainability started to appear as a common CSR commitment and from 2012 this was frequently linked to one or more of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

Ultimately the issue with CSR is that there is no simple or standard way to evaluate performance and delivery against commitments.  Clearly there is accountability against promises and figures are routinely presented in annual reports, but without agreed standard of frameworks or metrics these can be interpreted and presented to flatter actual progress.

SDG (Sustainable Development Goals)

The conclusions of the paper “The Future We Want” were adopted at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.  The paper proposed SDGs which would build on the Millennium Development Goals from 2000 which had sought to establish a global effort to tackle poverty and hunger.

The resulting “2030 Agenda” with its 17 SDGs was adopted in 2015, the same year as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  The SDGs are interconnected goals to deal with the threat of climate change, better manage natural resources, achieve gender equality, seek better health outcomes, eradicate poverty, foster peace, create more inclusive societies, reduce inequalities and help economies prosper.

The SDGs are significant in that affirm an international commitment to build a more sustainable, safer, more prosperous planet for all humanity and one in which no one is left behind.

Importantly in 2017 the UN also agreed the “global indicator framework” for performance against the goals.  Regularly “refined” and updated since (most recently in March 2021) the framework includes 247 indicators of which 231 are unique (12 are repeated in two or more categories).

This allows the creation of an annual scorecard, league table and trending graphs rating countries from 0- 100 in terms of their performance against the goals. (https://s3.amazonaws.com/sustainabledevelopment.report/2020/2020_sustainable_development_report.pdf ).

For organisations there are now many initiatives and toolsets to align organisational performance reporting against the SDG performance indicators, typically through consultancy, architectures, “blueprints”, data frameworks and audit engagements.

ESG (Environmental Social and Corporate Governance)

ESG effectively developed from the same roots as CSR, as a reaction to increased interest among investors in particular, but also customers and stakeholders in measuring the impacts of an organisation on the planet and society. 

Closely linked with the increased interest in ethical investments, it provides a framework for evaluating and comparing performance across three key areas: Environment (Sustainability), Social Impacts (Employees, Customers, Politics and Community / Added-Social Value) and Corporate Governance (Board, Audit and Compensation).

In 2005 the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan invited some of the world’s largest institutional investors to develop principles for responsible investment.  As a result in 2006 the UN launched a set of six investment principles encouraging the incorporation of ESG issues and reporting into investment practice, attracting support from many of the major financial institutions.

Unlike other commitments and reports ESG is linked to the fiduciary duties (i.e. the legal and ethical requirement of directors to act in the best interest of clients and shareholders) so it has the real potential of driving board-level decisions and actions.

From 2020 there has been a considerable increase in attention to these metrics from individual and institutional investors.  A series of scandals around organisations that were not as green or ethical as their marketing had made out (https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/news/2021/03/18/esg-s-dirty-secret/ ) caused real concerns that in many cases the ESG commitments were only “skin deep”.

There is a much greater emphasis on generating metrics that are relevant, timely and verifiable.  In some cases these are linked to the SDG goals above, in others they are more related to risk, including the risks caused by environmental issues.  Clearly different sectors have different priorities, and ESG lacks any single definition of what should be included, which makes direct comparisons difficult, but linking ESG to compliance reporting (including progress on reducing carbon emissions and transition no Net Zero) provides some opportunity for science-based metrics.

Conclusion

Reporting and compliance are significant issues for organisations in every region and sector.  In terms of sustainability GHG emissions reporting (which falls within all three remits as a strategic, compliance and environmental metric) is now mandatory for many organisations and policymakers worldwide are increasing the requirement for its reporting and disclosure.

There is also huge incentive to “get this right” with investment into ESG funds in 2020 exceeding $40 trillion.

There are moves to create standards around disclosure and ESG specifically from organisations like the CDP and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) but for now three significant challenges to true accountability remain.

  • Standards – the lack of international standards and methodology means that “comparability” between reports and disclosures is compromised.  Accountability is a key factor in driving behaviour.
  • Priorities – there is still a priority imbalance between financial and environmental considerations.  As long as GDP and profitability remain the prime metrics (and products are evaluated by price and feature comparison without proper life-cycle analysis and environmental “weighting”) then sustainability will always be a secondary consideration.
  • Data – there is a genuine lack of objective, verifiable, science-based data on which to base reporting.  This is the area where Px3 is focussed based on PhD research overseen by Warwick University and Warwick Business School, we aim to make it simple to measure and reduce GHG emissions from IT.

Overall it’s tempting to dismiss CSR as being too subjective to have any real value, SDGs as being too broad and ESG as too focussed on presenting the best “face” to attract investment. 

The fact is we need a combination of all of these to drive effective change, with CSR providing the “sentiment and purpose”, ESG providing the wider company metrics, alignment with and progress against SDGs offering a global perspective and GHG reports tracking actual progress.

All you need now is the right data and a simple dashboard to display it…..

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

Ewen is CIO of Px3, a company on a 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

Dashboards or Details – Which Work Best for Driving Change?

Sustainability Analytics

If you are responsible for reducing GHG emissions, then IT and travel should definitely be priority areas.  But where to start?  You probably need a high-level view of all the GHG emissions produced by technology and travel at work.  Possibly a simulation to calculate what would happen if you changed devices, adopted new work practices or moved certain workloads to the cloud.  But what about the detail on the individual devices, roles or locations?  In this post we review the issue of “accountability” and how rich decision-making data can help improve sustainability at work.

We all know that how we work (as well as how we live) has a measurable impact on the planet.  We also know that while that impact may be small at an individual level, once it is scaled up (for example by a worldwide working population of 3.3 billion1) then the impact is considerable. 

Of course not everyone in the 3.3 billion workforce uses technology or travels to work, but a very significant proportion do. 

As examples, shipments of new computers (PCs, tablets & laptops) have exceeded 400 million per annum2 every year of the last decade, internet users now exceed 5 billion3 and, despite a 65% reduction due to Covid-19, US commuters still drove 140 billion miles just to get to and from work last year4

There are some positive signs that things are changing.  Here in the UK Covid has had an impact on the way we work and travel.  In the early stages of the 2020 lockdown car trips into UK city centres dropped by over 80% in Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester5 as the “working from home” population went from 1.7 million to 20 million in a matter of a few days 6.

2021, however, is now forecast to see the second highest increase in carbon emissions ever recorded7 as the global economy uses investment in fossil fuels as a way to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Accountability, Compliance and ESG

In April 2021 the UK government announced plans to set arguably the world’s most ambitious climate change targets into law8. This legislation introduces a sixth Carbon Budget and commits to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, in line with the recommendations from the independent Climate Change Committee.

Through its presidency of the COP26 UN climate summit, taking place in Glasgow later this year, the UK is urging countries and organisations around the world to deliver “net zero” globally by 2050 and crucially to commit to more ambitious targets for cutting emissions by 2030.

“The next decade is the most critical period for us to change the perilous course we are currently on. Long term targets must be backed up with credible delivery plans”.

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma

Most organisations are rightly concerned not just about their sustainability and legislative compliance, but also how it is perceived by customers, staff, investors and stakeholders.  The increasing use of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) scorecards mean that organisations need to collect actual metrics about their actual performance rather than the broader strategic commitments of a CSR (Corporate and Social Responsibility) policy. 

The problem, quite literally, is one of accountability.  How do we count (measure) environmental impacts at work? How do we ensure that the data we have is based on independent, science-based measurements rather than guesses or estimates?  Who is responsible for gathering and presenting the data? How can we then turn it into information that is both compelling and useful enough to drive real and rapid change?

Taking accountability to the next level, while the organisation might have a dashboard of overall emissions and trends, drilling down into the detail is not simple.  What is the impact of specific departments, locations, roles (or even individuals)?  How efficient are the devices and datacentres when compared with “best of breed”?  What has been the impact of reduced travel over the last year and what would it mean if we went back to “normal” ways of working?

This is precisely what Px3 was set up to achieve. Firstly to provide verifiable, independent measurements of the environmental impacts of the information technology we use for work and the travel we undertake to, from and for work. Secondly to model the impact of changes.  Thirdly to visualise that information in ways that decision makes, staff and stakeholders  find easy to understand.

Too Little Detail, Too Many Blind Spots

So how do we balance the need for both headline figures and granular detail for each organisation?  At the top level it’s fairly easy to get meter readings for premises and calculate the carbon footprint of our office space. 

The challenge comes when we want to know which IT devices are actually using that electricity and how efficiently.   What about all of those staff using our IT equipment from home?  And how will our IT and travel policies affect our commitment to and progress towards Net Zero?

Talking to sustainability managers they often state that I.T. is their big blind spot.  They can measure power to the desk, but have no visibility of who or what is consuming it.  Equally when we talk to heads of IT / CIOs, sustainability was not in the top 3 on their checklist when specifying devices and services three years ago, although it increasingly is now. 

Datacentres pose another challenge. On-prem datacentre emissions are recorded as scope 2 (created by energy used in business operations), so there may be some benefit in moving some of the workloads to the cloud. But which provider has real “green” credentials? What will be the actual impact on emissions and reporting?

These questions are all about how organisations go about balancing the need for best-value, performance, security, user experience and sustainability – a complex mix of factors to be considered.

The Answer: Actionable Sustainability Insights

This is where the Px3 sustainability reports come in – providing answers to complex questions through actionable insights into sustainability.   We’ve recently worked with customers ranging from a few hundred up to hundreds of thousands of devices, presenting them with rich, decision-making data, such as:

  • Which makes, models and types of devices are being used?
  • How much GHG emissions are they creating?
  • Who is using devices (e.g. which departments)
  • Where are the emissions hotspots?
  • How much work travel is taking place
  • Why are people travelling as much as they do?
  • What can we do to make a significant difference?

The result is two-fold.  Firstly a simple set of dashboards, reports and easy to understand illustrations which help communicate the results.  Secondly a “drill-down” capability into the data to reveal the complexities and nuances needed to turn policy into action.  “Eye-opening detail” was the response from one of our customers this month.

Can it make a difference?  Our independent research8 overseen by the University of Warwick shows that the right choices can cut energy consumption and GHG emissions by as much as 90%.

If you’re looking to make significant savings, a 90% reduction is a great place to start.

Conclusion

Predictably, the answer to the question posed in the title is that you need both the dashboards and the details to make the right choices and drive effective change.  The good news is that we can help provide you with both. 

Simply fill in our contact form to book a live demonstration of Px3’s sustainability reports, dashboards and modelling tools.

References:

1 ILO: World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2020 https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_734455.pdf

2 Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/272595/global-shipments-forecast-for-tablets-laptops-and-desktop-pcs/

3 https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

4 KPMG: https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/br/pdf/2020/09/automotives-new-reality.pdf

5 INRIX: https://inrix.com/scorecard/

6 CBI/KPMG: https://www.cbi.org.uk/media/5101/cbi-kpmg-commuting-beyond-the-coronavirus-july-2020-final-1.pdf

7 The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/20/carbon-emissions-to-soar-in-2021-by-second-highest-rate-in-history

8 UK Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-enshrines-new-target-in-law-to-slash-emissions-by-78-by-2035

9 Sutton-Parker, J. (2020). ‘Determining end user computing device Scope 2 GHG emissions with accurate use phase energy consumption measurement.’

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

Ewen is CIO of Px3, a company on a 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