How behaviour change helped Capgemini meet its carbon goals three years early

EXCLUSIVE: Facilitating behaviour change has been "critical" to Capgemini's ability to surpass its 2020 carbon reduction and energy saving targets three years early, the firm's global head of corporate sustainability James Robey has revealed.

The global IT consultancy’s latest CSR report revealed that it had exceeded its goal of reducing a science-based target to reduce the carbon footprint per employee by 20% by 2020, recording a 22% cut for 2017 and a performance reduction of 30% per employee since 2014. It additionally surpassed its target of reducing office energy use by 20% by 2020 against a 2014 baseline, achieving a 30% drop last year.

Speaking to edie ahead of next week’s edie Live event, (scroll down for details) Robey explained that achieving Capgemini’s targets three years early was made possible by behaviour change incentives in regard to business travel, compounded by the installation of more efficient technology in the firm’s offices and data centres.

“With office energy, there has always been a tension between behaviour change and determining whether you can control the environment using technology,” Robey said. “While you can go some way with asking people to switch lights off for example, introducing systems so the lights switch off automatically will always be more efficient. Therefore, our behaviour change aspect has been more in the business travel space than in office energy.”

While the company cut how many kWh/ft2 of energy it used in offices by 19% by merging offices, generating solar PV onsite at some locations and installing energy efficiency technologies like LED lights, smart metres and more efficient heating and cooling systems, its ability to cut carbon emissions from business travel by 8% in 2017 against a 2014 baseline was led by behaviour change.

To facilitate a desired change in behaviour, Capgemini first asked 1,600 of its employees about their current travel behaviours and motivators to find out what was causing them to travel and what the barriers to travelling less were.

“Overall, we found that people were very receptive to using tech to minimise travel, providing the remote communication platforms were intuitive and easy to use,” Robey said. “Therefore, we began challenging regular travel perceptions by, for example, asking employees to replace a third of face-to-face meetings with remote ones.

“Eliminating all travel completely overnight is not possible – we are very much a client-facing business and there are times when we need to be face-to-face with our clients. There is an issue of misconception – minimising travel does not mean reducing the valuable time we spend working with our clients, it means thinking about the opportunities for a more effective and sustainable alternative to travel.”

By introducing emissions caps on its company car scheme, Capgemini has seen a 5% year-on-year drop in CO2 per km in its company car flee to 107g in 2017, while a business-wide rollout of Skype has seen a 44% year-on-year increase in hours of Skype calls in the same timeframe.

Behaviour change challenges

Although Capgemini’s behaviour change initiatives have set the company “well on its way” to meeting its goal of cutting travel emissions 25% by 2020 against a 2014 baseline, Robey admits that there were some challenges in getting staff enthusiastic about using technology to replace travel and the company has had to stabilise technology platforms so time isn’t spent “fixing technical glitches.”

In order to incentivise staff to use the platforms, Robey notes that emphasising the personal benefits of a system will likely deliver the desired impact.

“Facilitating behaviour change is often about showcasing the possibilities, so equipping our people with remote tools and collaboration technology has been critical,” Robey added. “But we are also sure to emphasise the intangible benefits other than sustainability to the individual, like greater work-life-balance or being away from their homes and families less.”

Capgemini is additionally encouraging its teams to compete to see who can travel the least or slash their carbon emissions the most, with Robey citing “rousing a group’s competitive spirit” as a way to “deliver behaviour change on time and to quality”.

Looking to the future

After meeting its headline 2020 goals early, Capgemini is now looking towards its 2030 goals of reducing its carbon footprint per employee by 40% and cutting office energy use by 40%, both against a 2014 baseline. As a founding member of the Net Positive Project to go beyond reducing negative sustainability impacts, it is additionally committed to an ongoing target of reducing three times as much carbon emissions in its ecosystem as it generates each year in its operations.

But the firm is also aiming to take its internal sustainability goals and give them a wider reach externally by encouraging its clients to set similar targets. In its latest CSR report, it outlines a new goal to help its clients save 10 million tonnes CO2 by 2030 – an aim which Robey described as “the next logical step” for Capgemini and for the sustainable businesses of the future.

He said: “While we are committed to reducing our own carbon footprint, we are very conscious that the most material impact we do is the work we do with our clients and with clients whose sectors have carbon footprints which are many times our own.

“By working with them, we have the opportunity to make a real material difference from a carbon or sustainability perfective.”

Robey added that he believes the future of sustainable business will rely on “enhanced” collaboration between businesses and their competitors, customers and suppliers in a bid to meet the Paris Agreement’s flagship  target to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C.

James Robey at edie Live 2018

James Robey will be speaking at the Sustainability Keynote Theatre at edie Live as part of the “choosing your targets: taking your strategy to the next level” panel discussion. The session will see industry experts discuss how businesses can set ambitious goals and align them with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Running between 22–23 May 2018, edie Live plans to show delegates how they can achieve their Mission Possible. Through the lens of energy, resources, the built environment, mobility and business leadership an array of expert speakers will be on hand to inspire delegates to achieve a sustainable future.

For more information and to register for edie Live 2018, click here.

Sarah George

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