RSA looks to IT suppliers to slash carbon costs

Insurance giant RSA is working with IT suppliers to cut its carbon footprint as part of an ongoing sustainability drive.

RSA, formerly Royal & Sun...

Insurance giant RSA is working with IT suppliers to cut its carbon footprint as part of an ongoing sustainability drive.

RSA, formerly Royal & Sun Alliance, measured its carbon footprint and reduced emissions by 20% in 2009, but expects to squeeze greater reductions in IT contributions.

RSA outsources much of its IT services and IBM handles the infrastructure. Accenture provides application development capability and print services are supplied by Kyocera.

According to RSA's head of corporate responsibility Paul Pritchard, the firm relies on its suppliers' expertise in green technology, but it also has its own specifications.

"Many technology companies are already engaged in their green and sustainability agendas, but that is certainly a very important factor when it comes to choosing our IT partners," Paul Pritchard told Computer Weekly at the Green Card Conference yesterday.

"When we released the tender for print services, for example, I was actively involved in the process to help set the criteria by which we judged the organisations against," said Pritchard.

"It was not just a matter of having a policy or producing reports but there is much more active questioning involved, over the green attributes of the service suppliers are providing and whether they can come up with ideas to help us do things differently."

Kyocera is replacing its printer estate with multi-function devices. This will reduce printing spend over the next five years, from £7.5m to £2.5m. The move requires cultural challenges, but Pritchard notes the supplier's pitch stood out with suggestions of how to present changing ways of working to employees as a way to improve efficiency and sustainability and not just to generate savings.

Evolution challenges

RSA is also working closely with IBM and independent organisations such as the Carbon Trust, to understand the carbon emissions of services such as insurance policies. This may sound intangible at first, but technology is key to the process.

"A significant amount of [RSA's offering] is around IT services, as the primary delivery mechanism is the internet. And if the website fails, we are not doing business," said Pritchard.

"It is a challenge to look beyond physical products, but it is the logical progression from looking at coffee mugs and orange juice, for example. The carbon agenda has progressed a lot. It was unusual to think of carbon reporting a few years ago and measuring the carbon footprint of services - particularly IT - is still unusual," he said.

"However, all the suppliers see this as a way to differentiate themselves and an opportunity to understand these issues and improve service. There isn't reluctance from their end - they want to talk about the things they are doing and what they could do to help."

According to the chair of the National Outsourcing Association's green steering committee, Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, suppliers have been moving towards pricing for outcomes rather than headcount for some time, so it is a natural evolution of pricing maturity to consider what the carbon footprint of each action or outcome might be.

"The environment dropped off the action list for most firms in the economic downturn, but with the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) now becoming a reality, large organisations are going to have to prove they can reduce carbon use year on year - and that will filter down to the supply chain to every service supplier," Mark Kobayashi-Hillary said.

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