February 2011 Archives

Are companies talking about sustainability?

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I came across an interesting post on the Glasshouse Partnership blog today which discussed the issue of sustainability.

The piece argued that in an increasingly transparent business world it is not surprising that integrity ranked highest in a 2009 list of 68 brand values, with 36 mentions. What was surprising then was the fact that only 3 companies mentioned sustainability as part of their brand value. It occupied the 15th position, side by side with accountability, followed by transparency.

That was then. It would be difficult in 2011 to imagine sustainability being so far down the list. My guess would be Top 5 for most organisations, and higher, for some. There may, of course, be a strong element of greenwash here, but which organisations, given half a chance, wouldn't attempt to justify their sustainability credentials today? 

After City bonuses, the next perk: secure bike parking

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Pip Errington, who runs the ecoXchange site, which features a new procurement tool that puts eco-products, including ICT products, in front of serious business buyers, pointed me to this story in the Evening Standard blogs, which discusses why secure bike parking has become a must-have perk for City financiers before agreeing to switch employers in the Square Mile.

The piece quotes Iain Simmons, assistant transportation director at the City of London Corporation, who says: "One thing I found staggering was when a director of a City business told me about a job interview with an investment banker.

"When it comes to questions, people are saying to them: 'Part of my lifestyle is that I want to cycle to work. Can you guarantee me a cycle parking space, quality shower and locker?' If the answer is no, they are going to work for somebody else who can."

The blog suggests that the City of London Corporation, the local authority for the Square Mile, believes that an extra 27,000 bike parking places are needed after research showed the lack of secure storage stopped thousands of people cycling to work.



Making Green Work: dare you commit corporate heresy?

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Earlier this week I took part in on a webinar 'Making Green Work', run by the Harvard Business Review and supported by Hitachi, which featured noted Green Business consultant Andrew Winston and which discussed the concept of sustainability within organisations.

Winston suggested that within firms, employees should be prepared to be heretics, thinking the unthinkable. For example, in the US, UPS has decided that because of the idling involved in deliveries, its routes schedule no left turns - we'd call it taking 'no right turns' here. That's going to save UPS an estimated 28.5 million miles from its delivery routes, saving 3 million gallons of fuel, and cutting carbon dioxide emissions by around 69 million pounds.  But how do you create the organisational culture that allows 'green heresy' to flourish? Is this down to the CEO to drive the culture that allows this to happen? What role should other corporate officers play in this?

Equally, it's clear that if such green heresy is to take place within organisations, senior corporate officers need to be incentivised to both think and do sustainability to such an extent that their remuneration depends on it. How far has this gone within the C-Suite? How many Chief Information Officers, for example, are truly thinking how technology can drive green innovation within the organisation, not just in terms of products, but processes, services and new business models? How many CIOs are actually incentivised in this way? And what do these models for remuneration look like? What do they mean for the CFO or even HR?

Winston recently discussed in the Harvard Business Review blogs how organisations like Xerox are working with customers to help them use less of their traditional product or service. It is sustainability that is driving the transformation of Xerox to a services-led business.

As Winston explains,  "Xerox advises companies on how to save money on document handling, and holds a sizeable 48 per cent market share in the $7.78 billion "managed print services" (MPS) industry (according to research firm IDC). Part of this new strategy is an outsourcing play - they'll take over all your print needs for you - to grab share. This is clearly not a niche business-this is a firm that existed on selling devices, paper, and machine servicing, so the more it's used the better. But at the core, what Xerox is offering is less total printing. That's a big shift in business as usual."

You can read the piece here.


Is mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by business getting closer?

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Interesting post on the Guardian's Sustainable Business blog yesterday which discusses the need for mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reporting.

The piece suggests that over 80% of business professionals surveyed by the Insitute of Environmental Management and Assessment believe that mandatory reporting of  emissions should be introduced for companies as it can deliver significant benefits, with those reporting emission reductions achieving an average of 9% CO2 savings over the last two years.

Going beyond 'Green': the Business Case for Protecting 'Nature'

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There's been an interesting piece written on the Harvard Business Review blogs which discusses what the business case is for protecting nature.

The piece makes the point that finding the business logic for protecting nature has always been a harder sell than making the case for other so-called 'green initiatives'.

The article suggests that while companies are increasingly seeing the obvious financial benefits of slashing energy use (in other words, 'talk green, mean lean') and beginning to include in their calculations the risk reduction from managing water well or limiting the use of toxic chemicals. But there are other aspects of going green that are much less directly quantifiable than kilowatts or tons of carbon -  or the avoidance of regulations or a lawsuit.

One question to be asked for example, does a reduction in the planet's biodiversity have any implications for - and therefore interest in - for companies? One of the organisations asking the question is the chemicals group Dow, which is now working on the answer with the Nature Conservancy organisation.

The collaboration will use scientific models, maps and analysis for biodiversity and examine the benefits that nature provides for people like clean air, water and food and apply them to Dow's business decisions. It will inform Dow on setting new policies and approaches in the areas of land and water management, siting considerations and explicit management of biodiversity.

Dow, of course, is predominantly a chemicals company. Could such an approach on biodiversity be remotely relevant for familiar IT companies such as IBM, HP, Microsoft or Fujitsu? Or for commercial organisations using IT? If so, how?


The end for the Carbon Reduction Commitment?

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It looks as if someone within the government is flying a kite to see what reaction there might be to the ending of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC).

This article appeared at the weekend, suggesting that CRC could be merged with other taxes following the publication of a number of so-called "discussion papers" for the 5,000 companies due to be affected.

As the piece points out, the news that more changes could be on the way will cast more confusion over the tax, which has been criticised for baffling businesses. It's said, however, that doing away with the CRC would not necessarily mean that companies would have to pay less because its intended effects could be included in another green tax covering a wider number of businesses.

This year's Budget is being held on March 23rd, and I'm told the future of CRC could be up for discussion in government circles around a week before, leading to the possibility that an announcement about the future of CRC - and a new green tax? - could be made in the Budget.

CRC was originally meant to reward companies for reducing their emissions and penalise those who failed to do so. But the Treasury seemed to pull rank on the Department of Energy and Climate Change when it decided to, as the article points out, 'pocket the proceeds meant to go to good performers in order to help reduce the deficit.'

There is a degree of frustration about the government's dithering over CRC, not least from companies who in good faith are trying to develop services around it, but find themselves twisting in the wind as the government goes back and forth over its future. Leaks like the one at the weekend don't help them. And they certainly don't help organisations - and particularly their CIOs and Finance Directors - looking for some policy certainty going forwards. 

Enter the Sustainable Business Awards

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The Guardian is running some sustainable business awards for companies that have recognised the importance of integrating sustainability into the core of their operations to ensure their future success.

The aspiration is that this creative potential will lead to the development of innovative practices, ranging from technological solutions to energy efficiency to intelligent supply chain management that can be shared as best practices.

The Guardian Sustainable Business Awards have been created to recognise the sustainability leadership these companies are providing. You can find out more about the awards here

But time is running out: entries close on February 7th.

The cost of wind power

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It would be a stretch to discuss a recent story that I read in the Daily Mail Online in the context of Green IT, though it fits into a green technology debate and is, I believe, worth pointing to.

The article discusses the process used to extract neodymium, the element needed to make the magnets in wind turbines.

The piece goes on to discuss how much energy wind turbines will actually produce. It's not a lot, and there are some who believe that money would be better spent developing tidal power.

The tides that surge around the UK's coasts could provide up to a quarter of the nation's electricity, without any carbon emissions. But as this article suggests, the sea environment is harsh and existing equipment - long-bladed underwater wind turbines - is prone to failure.

I wonder, two years on, what happened to this tidal turbine experiment?


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This page is an archive of entries from February 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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