10 lessons from 10 years of sustainability

2008 was a significant year for the environmental sustainability agenda in the UK. The Climate Change Act 2008 passed into law, setting a 2050 target and providing a roadmap for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and an agreed system of carbon budgeting. 2008 was also a significant year for Capgemini in the UK, marking the launch of our environmental sustainability programme and the formalisation of our carbon reduction targets. Ten years later and much has changed with the sustainability agenda moving from the margins to the mainstream.

As we reach this milestone, I have been reflecting over the last decade to pull together a series of thoughts on 10 lessons learnt over 10 years. In this blog, I have summarised some of the key lessons learnt.  It would also be great to hear your sustainability lessons from the past decade, please feel free to comment below.

Lesson 1: Be bold with your targets

Businesses need to commit to bold sustainability targets, which go past doing “incrementally less bad” and instead aim for doing “exponentially more good” for the environment. Capgemini was the first in sector in the UK to announce a science-based carbon reduction target. Being an early adopter is always a bold step to take, but this is one that has certainly paid off and we’ve seen another 37% reduction in emissions per head since 2014.

Lesson 2: Unlock your sustainability data

Good data is fundamental to making good decisions. To this end, we have underpinned our sustainability programme with a comprehensive data set comprising of around 10 million data points collected and analysed each year. Making data accessible and engaging through effective data visualisation is critical to supporting the decision making required to drive environmental performance.

Lesson 3: Use the expertise of your people

The sustainability agenda impacts many areas within an organisation from procurement, finance and operations to IT, sales and delivery. We have invested to engage across the business, using the expertise of our people to shift sustainability from being the responsibility of a small central team to being an integral part of Capgemini’s corporate culture.

Lesson 4: Prepare for a marathon not a sprint

When it comes to reducing impacts such as energy consumption across your operations, there is no silver bullet – you need to adopt a marathon mentality. Over the past decade, we have more than halved our annual office energy consumption through a continuous roll-out of new technologies, behaviour change campaigns and infrastructure improvements.

Lesson 5: Tackle the elephant in the room

Every organisation will have an elephant in the room that needs tackling head on. For Capgemini, it’s the emissions linked to our business travel. This is why we developed our award winning TravelWell programme, which takes a holistic approach to reducing travel emissions and has led to an 18% reduction in travel emissions since 2008.

Lesson 6Rewrite the rulebook

When creating sustainable products and services, sometimes you have to start with a blank piece of paper. This is what we did when designing Merlin – our pioneering sustainable data centre. Our team re-examined, reconsidered and redesigned every aspect of the “traditional” data centre model, to create one of the world’s most sustainable data centres.

Lesson 7: Look through a different lens

To solve some sustainability challenges, you need to look at the problem through a different lens. Our #stopbuyingwaste campaign changed the focus from where waste goes to focussing on where it comes from in the first place. This campaign lead to a 7% reduction in the amount of waste generated in our offices each week.

Lesson 8: Focus on where you can have the greatest positive impact

In the light of the recent IPCC report, the question which all companies need to be asking is, what is the most material contribution my organisation can make to address climate change? For Capgemini, our greatest potential positive impact is through the sustainability benefits that technology solutions can deliver to our clients. We announced this year a new global target to help our clients save 10 million tonnes of CO2e by 2030, a carbon saving of 20 times our own annual emissions.

Lesson 9: Ignite the passion of your people

Our aim is to empower our people to use their skills and expertise to make a positive contribution to sustainability. One of the most engaging ways we have achieved this is through the use of hackathons. They have enabled our people to step out of their daily activities and apply their innovation and creativity to develop fresh solutions to sustainability challenges.

Lesson 10: Get out of the bubble

We have learnt the importance of developing our sustainability programme in constant dialogue with our key stakeholders, testing and iterating our approach to ensure it remains relevant and impactful. It is critical that we as sustainability professionals continue to collaborate with teams across the value chains of our organisations to drive progress.

Where next?

Technology is one of the key levers available to address the mounting challenges posed by climate change. The fourth industrial revolution, driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things, has the potential to transform how humanity manages its environmental impacts. These technologies possess the capability, if applied correctly, to play an instrumental part in the rapid decarbonisation of the global economy. According to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, ICT solutions can help cut 9.7 times more greenhouse gas emissions than they emit.

Digital transformation is what we do as a business, and that’s why we’re using our capabilities and expertise to enable clients to address sustainability challenges. We have already identified over 30 services that can help our clients reduce their greenhouse gas emissions – solutions as diverse as optimising transport logistics to rationalising IT infrastructure.

We continue to focus on transforming the way technology solutions are designed and deployed to ensure that the maximum positive impacts can be achieved. Ensuring technology remains a force for good, for us and our clients will be our immediate and long-term focus. 

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