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:

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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.