Technology industry

Consultants promote sustainability in the tech industry

Consulting companies aiming to reduce their carbon emissions have taken a closer look at how they run their offices and delivery services.

Although it is not a chimney industry, consultants nevertheless contribute to greenhouse gas (GES). The reliance on air travel for face-to-face meetings with clients, a traditional component of consulting gigs, is a prime example. However, consultants also generate electronic waste in the form of laptops, servers and other devices. Activities such as cloud computing and software development further increase their carbon footprint. The consultants’ offices, on the other hand, consume energy for heating and cooling.

Elise Zelechowski

The task of consulting firms: To examine operations from top to bottom and look for ways to improve. It’s about doing their part to advance sustainability in tech industry circles. While the cost of sustainability has kept some organizations on the sidelines, IT and business advisors are adopting green practices to align with employee and customer values.

“When we think about the different opportunities, we think holistically, all the approaches to work, all the sorts of ways that we can unpack our business model and our operations,” said Elise Zelechowski, Global Chief Diversity Officer, equity and inclusion, sustainability and social. change at Thoughtworks, a Chicago-based technology consulting firm.

Sustainability in companies in the technology industry

Consulting firms use various standards, frameworks, and cloud assessment tools to assess their carbon emissions. the GHG Protocol Corporate Standardhowever, directly influences many industry sustainability efforts.

The GHG Protocol Corporate Standard divides emissions into three categories, or scopes. Scope 1 emissions arise from sources directly under the direct control or ownership of an organization – heating systems in buildings or vehicle fleets, for example. Indirect Scope 2 emissions come from electricity, heating and cooling purchased from a utility. And Scope 3 emissions are those generated along the trade stream – supply chain partners, for example.

David South, Senior Director of Energy and Utilities at West Monroe PartnersDavid South

West Monroe Partners has worked on areas such as office heating, cooling and lighting, which fall under both Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, said David South, senior director of energy and utilities at Chicago-based business and technology consulting firm. The company meets LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, he added. LEED standards, developed by the US Green Building Council, cover the design, construction and ongoing operation of green buildings.

Scope 3 includes air travel. West Monroe uses platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to communicate with customers virtually and minimize travel, said South, who acknowledged that air travel is difficult to eliminate all together. But airlines operating specific flights using sustainable aviation fuel offer another opportunity to reduce emissions.

“It will minimize the footprint of the flights you have to take,” South said.

Accenture, for its part, has set itself a 2025 target of reducing its scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 65%. In FY2020, the company exceeded its goal of reducing Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions per unit of revenue by 40%, reaching a rate of 45%. reduction, according to Sanjay Podder, managing director and head of sustainability technology innovation at Accenture.

Sanjay Podder, Managing Director and Head of Sustainability Technology Innovation at AccentureSanjay Podder

Accenture is also looking at its supply chain. By 2025, the company wants 90% of its major suppliers to disclose their emissions reduction targets and actions. The company estimates that 75% of its scope 3 emissions come from these suppliers. Accenture is also looking to get 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2023, after hitting the 50% mark in fiscal 2021.

To address any remaining emissions, Accenture will invest in “nature-based carbon removal” technologies, Podder said. Accenture has a consulting relationship with Climeworks, a Swiss company that is developing technology to remove carbon from the air but has not yet invested in the company.

Accenture’s sustainability initiatives target net-zero emissions by 2025, Podder added.

Another axis of sustainable development for consulting firms: the decarbonization of software development. Accenture and Thoughtworks were among the companies that launched the Green Software Foundation in May 2021. The foundation’s projects include developing a methodology to calculate the carbon emissions rate of a software system. The group’s overarching goal is to make sustainability a priority for software development teams, alongside other metrics such as performance, cost and security.

“What are some considerations you might take into account when designing and developing software?” This is how Zelechowski framed the issue of green software.

We use our own experience to show that missing goals is not only okay, but to be expected and planned for.

Joe CamilleriCEO, Ethos Sustainability Solutions

Practice what you teach

Consulting firms, which have begun offering their clients sustainability consulting services, would fail the credibility test without their own carbon reduction programs. But from a business development perspective, companies’ efforts do more than establish good faith with potential customers. The ability to demonstrate sustainable development approaches and tools becomes a business and marketing asset. Partners have applied the selling what you use approach to other areas, such as cloud computing.

Joe Camilleri, CEO of Ethos Sustainability SolutionsJoe Camilleri

Joe Camilleri, co-founder and CEO of Ethos Sustainability Solutions, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm, said demonstrating its sustainability tool in its own operations “has a very compelling effect when it comes to market our software”. The company offers a product that assesses clients’ sustainability performance in 17 areas.

Showing the actual results also helps. “Clients are interested in seeing how our sustainability performance has changed over time based on the projects we’ve implemented,” Camilleri said.

Customers also want to know what happens when an organization falls short of target. Fear of missing goals plays a role in preventing companies from pursuing strong, public sustainability plans, Camilleri said.

“We use our own experience to show that it’s not just okay to miss goals, but it has to be expected and planned,” he noted.