Recently in Climate Change Category

Durban conference showcases key role of ICT in climate change policies

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There will be lots written this week about the United Nations conference on Climate Change taking place this week in Durban.

Already the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), together with a coalition of industry partners, has said it will be using the Durban COP 17 conference to promote ICT technologies as the 21st century's most valuable problem-solving tools. ITU believes it is imperative that they be included as an integral part of global climate change policy.


The coalition's message is simple: ICTs such as smart grids, intelligent transport systems and the so-called 'Internet of Things' have extraordinary potential to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of other high energy-consuming industry sectors, and must be included in any meaningful climate change policies at the global, regional and national level. To prove its point, the coalition will be showcasing how the ICT industry is using technology to reduce its own carbon footprint.

During the 10-day conference, the coalition says it will undertake a number of initiatives to get the message across, including two new ITU reports showing how ICTs have helped Ghana mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

With climate change and Durban in mind this week, though I suspect not as high profile as it has been previously, I liked this blog written by Colin Curtis, director of sustainability at Dimemsion Data, who discusses how the company's own IT department has performed in reducing the organisation's carbon footprint, notably through virtualisation.

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What Sustainability should learn from Steve Jobs

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I liked this blog post from Andrew Winston entitled 'What Sustainability should learn from Steve Jobs.'

Winston, who writes regularly for the Harvard Business Review argues that before the iPad was introduced,  many were asking why you'd need a tablet computer. Steve Jobs, he says, made us want one.

Winston suggests that most large companies today are "fast followers" -  but second place is nowhere in the tablet computer space.

"Fiscal and strategic conservatism breeds a culture where execs prefer to wait and talk to customers before doing anything drastic. Of course customer (and other stakeholder) perspectives are critical. But as with tablet computers, when it comes to sustainability, often the customers don't really know what they need.

"Companies often gather data on what their business customers think a sustainable product should be, and the survey might show that including recycled material is important, even if that's a tiny part of the real footprint story. Nobody knows the value chain of your product and service as well as you do (or if someone else does, get them in the room pronto). So figure out where the impacts really lie and what you can do to reduce your customer's footprint in ways they hadn't considered. This might require asking heretical questions about whether the product should even exist in its current form or should be converted into more of a service." 

Winston believes the next generation's Steve Jobs is likely to focus on sustainability since that's where the largest challenges and business opportunities lie. Worth a read.

Carbon Disclosure Report says carbon reduction plans deliver better stock market performance

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A report by the Carbon Disclosure Project has suggested that companies that implement policies to reduce carbon emissions perform better on the stock market compared with those that do not.

The 2011 edition of the annual Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Global 500 report, which examines carbon reduction activities at the world's largest public corporations, has found for the first time in the ten year history of the survey, that the majority have climate change actions embedded as part of their business strategy. The report, written by professional services firm PwC, attributes this to growing board-level awareness of the link between energy efficiency and increased profitability.

The report, entitled Accelerating low carbon growth, analysed disclosures from 396 of the world's largest companies, which revealed 68% have climate change at the heart of business strategies, compared with 48% in 2010. There was also a marked rise in the number of companies reporting reduced greenhouse gas emissions as a result of emissions reduction activities (45%, up from 19% in 2010).

A correlation was also established between higher stock market performance over time, and representation on CDP's Carbon Performance Leadership Index (CPLI) and the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI). Companies with a strategic focus on climate change provided investors with approximately double the average total return of the Global 500 from January 2005 to May 2011.

Paul Simpson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project, said: "The improved financial performance of companies with high carbon performance is a clear indicator that it makes good business sense to manage and reduce carbon emissions. This is a win win for business - the short ROIs many emissions reducing activities have, can help increase profitability. Companies yet to take action on climate change will have to work hard to remain competitive as we head towards an increasingly resourced constrained, low carbon economy."

Alan McGill, partner, sustainability and climate change, PwC said: "Historical financial performance is being exposed by climate change as an outdated model to assess long term business profitability and growth, when you consider the much wider range of financial and non - financial risks associated with business today. Today's investors have different information needs, which are leading to tougher verification regimes, more emphasis on executive and staffing responsibilities and incentives, and much more unforgiving examinations of the contribution of business to society. We are accelerating towards newer reporting models that better balance financial and non - financial performance."

Rising oil prices, energy supply risks and growing recognition of the commercial returns on investments in emissions reduction activities contributed to the growth in importance of climate change as a boardroom issue. Over half (59%) of reported emissions reduction activities delivered payback in three years or less according to company submissions. These include energy efficiency projects (building fabric, building services and processes), low carbon energy installations and staff behavioural change. Employee incentives to reduce emissions are now offered by 65% of companies, compared with 49% in 2010.

 The top 10 best performing companies this year are:

USA: Bank of America, Cisco Systems
Japan: Honda Motor Company, Sony Corporation
Germany: Bayer, BMW, SAP
United Kingdom: Tesco
Netherlands: Philips Electronics
Australia: Westpac Banking Corporation

CDP says there are 14 new entrants to the 2011 Carbon Performance Leadership Index, which counts only 29 companies due to more demanding criteria applied by CDP. These are:

USA: Air Products & Chemicals, Lockheed Martin, Morgan Stanley
Japan: Honda Motor Company, Sony Corporation
Germany: SAP
France: AXA Group, Schneider Electric
United Kingdom: British American Tobacco, BG Group, Glaxo SmithKline
Switzerland: Novartis  

And the green terminology winner is....sustainability

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A recent survey by has examined what term companies use to best describe their energy efficiency or Green IT projects and initiatives.

For around half of the respondents, according to this report, the magic word used to describe their environmental initiatives is 'sustainability'. The second most used word or phrase is Corporate Social Responsibility, or Corporate Responsibility. Another term that is coming up on the rails is 'resilient', though for me that implies business continuity, not sustainability.

With sustainability in mind, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index annual review has been published. Here are details of the announcement which is good news for Samsung in the technology 'supersector'.    

Those not included in the World Index include Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, and California utility PG&E, while Microsoft lost its place in the North America regional listing. CA Technologies was added to both the World and North American listings.

Green Google: 'our Cloud does more with less'

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Google has just launched a Web page detailing its annual energy use and carbon footprint impact. 

It argues that to provide a user with Google products for a month--not just search, but Google+, Gmail, YouTube and everything else it offers - its servers use less energy per user than a light left on for three hours. And, because it says that it's been a carbon-neutral company since 2007, "even that small amount of energy is offset completely, so the carbon footprint of your life on Google is zero."

There are more details here  

It has also produced a study about powering email using the Cloud

Green policy wranglings begin to emerge within government

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It seems as if with the party conference season not far off, a row is brewing over the government's energy policy, which may have some implications down the line as far as business energy costs and climate change legislation are concerned.

It follows a leak to the Daily Telegraph of a note to David Cameron  discussing the impact of energy and climate change policies on energy prices, Although the focus of the letter is on consumer energy prices, it is possible that a wider review may also need to examine the effect of government policies in the form of climate change legislation on businesses.

The letter suggests that four policies stand out as having the most significant impact on household energy bills: carbon pricing (both our own carbon price floor and the EU emissions trading scheme), the new Energy Company Obligation, the Electricity Market Reform package and the Renewables Obligation. It goes on to ask whether policies can be opened up, particularly support for relatively high-cost technologies such as offshore wind, in a way that minimises cost and disruption to investment.

There is some more background to the story here:




Carbon Disclosure Project report details low carbon benefits of cloud computing

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One of the most informed and engaging writers around sustainability and business is Andrew Winston, who writes a blog called Finding the Gold in Green and writes for the Harvard Business Review as well. (The Harvard Business Review blogs, by the way, are well worth a read)


One of Winston's recent blogs discusses a new report from the Carbon Disclosure Project about the sustainability benefits of Cloud Computing

Here's the intro to the report:


Across business, executives are looking for ways in which they can operate more sustainably and thereby increase their competitive edge. Information Communications Technology (ICT) is seen as a key area of focus for achieving sustainability goals. This report shows that business use of cloud computing can play an important role in an organisation's sustainability and IT strategies: improving business process efficiency and flexibility whilst decreasing the emissions of IT operations.


This study used detailed case study evidence from 11 global firms and assessed the financial benefits and potential carbon reductions for a firm opting for a particular cloud computing service. It also demonstrates how projected cloud computing adoption could drive economy-wide business benefits from a financial and carbon reduction perspective in the US.


The results show that by 2020, large U.S. companies that use cloud computing can achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and annual carbon reductions equivalent to 200 million barrels of oil - enough to power 5.7 million cars for one year.


The report also delves into the advantages and potential barriers to cloud computing adoption and gives insights from the multi-national firms that were interviewed.


In addition to a predicted aggregate, annual carbon reduction of 85.7 million metric tons by large U.S. companies, cloud computing can:

  • Help users avoid costly up-front capital investments in infrastructure
  • Improve time-to-market as a new server can be created or brought online in minutes
  • Provide greater flexibility as clouds allow firms to pay for excess capacity only when they need it
  • Avoid the continual maintenance of excess capacity needed to handle spikes
  • Improve automation that helps drive process efficiencies

"The study results make a powerful case for businesses to continue to explore and adopt secure and flexible cloud computing solutions," said John Potter, Vice President, As-a-Service Solutions, AT&T.


Winston added: "Finding providers and partners that can take some of your energy-using operations to scale, and manage them in a shared capacity, is good for both business' carbon footprint and its bottom line."


I suspect the report's conclusions on cloud computing may be a case of preaching to the converted here, but the insight of some of those interviewed for the study may be useful.


Getting to grips with CRC's deadlines and the scheme's next steps

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I recently received an email flyer for the Carbon Show later this year warning me that if my organisation is registered within the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme I will know the deadline for returning my'Footprint Report' and 'Annual Report' is today, Friday 29 July.

The flyer asked: Will you meet the deadline? How easy have you found it to produce your organisation's carbon footprint? How confident are you that your figures are accurate? Do you know the penalties for late submission?

I think for CRC, organisations will get used to be able to answer these questions, meet the requisite deadlines and build them into their working practices as time goes by. Although there has been much discussion about the future of CRC, there is little doubt that it is here to stay. We are at the end of the beginning, if you know what I mean.

If you're still wondering where CRC will end up, some good sources of information are this Next Steps document, which outlines the current CRC state of play and gives extensive details of the recent consultation and future proposals, and the Cambium website which discusses the impact for both CRC's participants and for suppliers of energy efficiency services.

By the way, with energy efficiency in mind, there is an article here on modular data centres


Cambium sets out CRC state of play for Participants and Suppliers

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For those wondering what the latest position is with the Government's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme, I can recommend a couple of white papers written by the Cambium consultancy.


The two papers, one for participants in the scheme and the other for suppliers of energy efficiency innovations and services, review the key elements of Department of Energy and Climate Change's (DECC) proposals and identify those parts of the CRC legislation that DECC is seeking to change as well as those key elements of the Scheme that DECC intends to retain following the consultation process.


Finally they consider the likely implications of these changes for both participants and those supplying goods that can improve energy efficiency within the affected organisations.


You can accesss the papers here


SAP study suggests sustainability is now part of 'core business' for retailers

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A recent study conducted by SAP says sustainability is no longer a back-of-mind topic for retail companies.

The study, "Sustainability in Retail: Challenges - Strategies - Implementation," was carried out with the Chair of Logistics Management at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and reveals that sustainability has become an indispensable part of retailers' core business and competitive positioning.

According to the authors, Klaus Kriener and Christian Berg from SAP and Joerg Grimm from the University of St. Gallen, companies from various trading segments have four different strategic approaches they can apply to cope with the complexities of statutory regulations and society's high expectations. Software solutions that address sustainability reporting and carbon management can provide true sustainable value.

Depending on the business model and the trading segment, retailers can apply one of the following four strategies:

  1. Process and resource optimisation - Companies pursuing this strategy constantly trim their business processes to achieve efficient resource allocation. This approach aims at reducing to a minimum the negative social and ecological implications, and particularly the costs, of business operations.
  2. Process assurance - For companies pursuing this strategy, the focus is not on costs. These companies try to differentiate themselves from their competitors by meeting the highest sustainability standards. They do so by continuously improving their business processes while at the same time actively communicating their efforts.
  3. Sustainable product positioning - Here, companies do not innovate on the process but on product level. New sustainable products serve as a calling card for the market image of the company.
  4. Innovative cost optimisation - Product innovations such as an eco-design or environmentally friendly materials are implemented to minimise the economic and ecologic product costs in order to achieve cost leadership in highly competitive markets.

Business software can substantially support the implementation of all four strategic approaches, especially in the areas of carbon management and sustainability reporting,

SAP is one of those IT companies able to help  companies systematically manage sustainability key performance indicators (KPIs) across all business areas and report against standard criteria of the Global Reporting Initiative or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

SAP has also been involved in a sustainability debate in the US on policy v pragmatism



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