Climate change is one of the most compelling global challenges of our time and scientific evidence to date implicates greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), as the cause of climate change. All industries are, either directly or indirectly, to some extent culpable for the rise in the emission of such gases. As a responsible corporate entity, each organisation has to be committed to environmental protection and continual improvement in compliance with regulations and other requirements to ensure energy and resource conservation, hence minimising the damage inflicted on the environment.
The question that now arises is whether organisations are taking all possible steps to reduce environmental risks, such as global warming due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In everything we do some form of fossil fuel is consumed in the process and some CO2 emitted, thereby increasing the carbon footprint, usually expressed in equivalent tons of CO2.
According to Bank Technology News, as recently as 2006 the largest global financial services organisations still had carbon footprints in the region of 500,000 metric tons of CO2 per year and an institution’s IT electricity consumption can account for up to 65% of the total contribution. Industrial corporations have far more GHG emissions. For non-industrial corporations normal business operations and IT computer and printing infrastructures account for the largest share of CO2 emissions, alongside business travel. It’s high time that corporations of all types were more sensitive of their actions and worked to address the reduction of GHG emissions.
Planning for Reduction
The deployment of a single dedicated team to spearhead the corporate effort is the first step to becoming carbon neutral. The team should, ideally, consist of the chief executive officer (CEO), chief information officer (CIO) and/or chief technology officer (CTO), human resources director, operations director, marketing director, facilities manager and corporate communications manager.
This team of department heads can prove very valuable in examining the major areas of business sustainability and developing an emissions reduction plan for both the short and the long term. CIOs and CTOs can play a lead role in educating the board and other senior executives about the use of more efficient technology in reducing CO2 outputs.
For energy conservation it should be ensured that all computers are energy rated, lamps are retrofitted and thermostats are set at a reasonable level. There should be provisions to shut down computers automatically at the close of business. Consolidating servers into fewer and more efficient virtualised ones, and switching to networked rather than individual printers, can help further reduce energy consumption.
Business travel and employee commuting
To minimise business travel, organisations can implement IT solutions, including the construction of virtual boardrooms and telepresence facilities. Web and video conferencing again are the most popular tools for reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint and reducing the air and car miles incurred by its staff. For employee commuting, joining a car pool, taking public transport or using the company’s shuttle are more environmentally-friendly methods of transport to work.
Reducing paper usage
The first, most important step in achieving less use of paper is to provide employees with the company’s usage policy. All documents such as newsletters and corporate announcements can be electronically distributed, using collaborative technology such as internal social media, intranet, etc. Printers should be upgraded to have a duplex-printing capability.
To replace paper files, electronic filing should be encouraged and tested across departments. By converting a large proportion of paper-based communications for secure electronic communications, companies can achieve significant carbon credits. For example:
- Implementation of a secure online bill payment and online bill acceptance procedure.
- Digitising processes such as the Know Your Customer (KYC) documentation process.
Purchase of key materials, goods and services
Equally noteworthy are the smaller initiatives that have a major impact. For example, purchasing IT goods and services from environmentally-responsible vendors and checking that subcomponents are sourced accordingly. Engaging employees in a carbon reduction strategy via an intranet site and staff meetings can encourage innovative ideas for overall carbon reduction.
Climate change mitigation
Corporations are important actors in, and responders to, the shift towards a low carbon economy. Whether acting as market or material makers, capital providers and advisers, manufacturers or other institutions, all organisations can directly affect the growth or decline of both environment friendly and non-environment friendly industries. They can make technology-specific investments, or allocate less capital to non-environment friendly companies in the supply chain. For this reason, corporations have the power to change things and may derive reputational and direct financial benefits from pursuing positive environmental objectives and actively managing climate change risks.
The bottom line is that the corporations have to start using collaboration technology to reduce both their costs and carbon emissions. This can be achieved with the correct strategy and a commitment to starting right away, rather than over the coming years.