The four dimensions of sustainability
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Reducing impact on climate change is a challenge many companies are trying to tackle. Businesses across the globe need to take a leadership role in reducing their carbon footprint. A Framework for ...

Reducing impact on climate change is a challenge many companies are trying to tackle. Businesses across the globe need to take a leadership role in reducing their carbon footprint. A Framework for Material and Consistent Corporate Action by Kevin Moss, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility BT Americas.

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The four dimensions of sustainability Document Transcript

  • 1. The Four Dimensionsof SustainabilityA Framework for Material andConsistent Corporate ActionKevin MossHead of Corporate Social ResponsibilityBT Americas
  • 2. Introduction A Framework for Material and ConsistentReducing impact on climate change is a challenge many compa- Corporate Actionnies are trying to tackle. Businesses across the globe need to take a The Sustainability Framework may be applied to the economic,leadership role in reducing their carbon footprint. Those that social and environmental sustainability of the communities indevelop a comprehensive strategy will save money, increase pro- which companies operate. However, for consistency, this paper’sductivity and gain a competitive edge over those that fail to make illustrative examples reflect just environmental sustainability.any changes. The good news is many organizations are up for the Particularly, the examples are drawn from carbon emissionschallenge, though many are unsure of where to begin among the reduction programs.myriad of activities on the table. The Framework has four broad dimensions of potential actions toThis white paper proposes a Sustainability Framework to facilitate achieving sustainability. These dimensions are represented by thedevelopment of a sustainability strategy. The Framework can be four concentric circles shown in Figure 1.used to evaluate the overall scope of current sustainability initia-tives, and identify and recommend new actions. It can also be used • Direct Impact - emissions due to the energy consumed by theto provide a structure for critical analysis of an organization’s exist- company (directly or indirectly) to carry out its activities.ing sustainability strategy. The approach was developed based onprograms at BT and from partners and suppliers that are commit- • Products In Use - emissions due to the energy consumption of ated to making a difference. company’s products and/or services once in the hands of the user. • Enabled Impact - impact that a company’s products and/or services have on the energy consumption and emissions of the entity that utilizes the product other than the consumption of the product itself. • Inform and Influence - the opportunity to inform or influence stakeholders on environmental issues and impact of these issues on the stakeholder and on the company. “Greenwash” is a term that is widely used to describe putting a green façade on otherwise environmentally unfriendly activities. But what really constitutes greenwash? This Framework can go a long way toward differentiating greenwash from a simple failure to be perfect! The indication of greenwash is when an organiza- tion focuses its positive actions and associated publicity in aFigure 1: Four Dimensions of the Sustainability Framework dimension of the Framework that is of limited materiality, but takes no action—or even worse, conflicting negative action—in more material dimensions. In contrast, an organization that is taking action in material dimensions but does not yet have a comprehensive program across all dimensions is not guilty of greenwash. It is simply guilty of not being perfect. 1
  • 3. Direct Impact Thinking Out of the BoxDirect Impact is probably the best known of the four dimensions It may seem counterintuitive, but raising the operating tem-in this Framework. It is the bulls-eye of the illustration in Figure perature of the equipment in a data center reduces the energy1 and represents the direct impact that a company has on envi- consumed. Data center servers, like any other computer hard-ronmental sustainability. It comprises the emissions resulting ware, have specified operating temperature ranges to ensurefrom the energy consumed by the company (directly or indirect- effective operation, minimize downtime and optimize lifely) to carry out its activities. These emissions are defined by the span. Operating outside of these ranges invalidates war-greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions guidelines, which include car- ranties. But these temperature ranges have changed littlebon emissions resulting from on-site power generation, electrici- since the early days of large mainframe computers when dataty consumption, fuel usage, travel fleet operations and other center standards were established and became the norm. Asactivities that are directly carried out by the corporation or on its BT worked with vendors to specify its 21CN network design, itbehalf. Quantitative objectives can be set, and there are a grow- challenged vendors on these operating temperature ranges.ing number of consultancies and software packages that special- Many of the selected vendors responded positively, allowingize in collecting and presenting this data. Measurable objectives the flexibility to raise the operating tolerances of their equip-can be set using intensity or absolute targets with many organi- ment by a few degrees without affecting performance and thezations now aiming to be carbon neutral by a certain date. warranty. One of the most significant components of data center energy consumption is air conditioning, which ensuresPartly because of these available structural approaches, Direct ambient temperatures within the ranges specified by theImpact emissions are where companies often focus their initial equipment manufacturers. By increasing the upper end ofattention. For example, at BT, using UK reporting guidelines, those temperature ranges by only a few degrees, air condi-direct carbon footprint was reduced from 1.6 million metric tons tioning use, along with energy costs and carbon emissions,to 0.6 million metric tons between 1996 and 2008. This was can be reduced significantly. The new 21CN network also con-achieved through a combination of business process change, solidated many of BT’s smaller switch sites in a fewer numberenergy efficiency measures and renewable energy resources. of larger sites, also greatly reducing energy needs. BT is now working with IT industry sustainability organizations likeA significant proportion of that carbon footprint reduction has Green Grid to achieve broader changes in accepted standards.been enabled by suppliers. This contribution is reflected in thesupplier wedge shown in Figure 1. For example, as part of BT’s21st Century Network design, work with vendors enabled anincrease in the operating temperature of network data centersand so a reduction in the energy consumed. (See sidebar‘Thinking Out of the Box.’) In another example, PepsiCo has acomprehensive engagement program with its vendors whichincludes an annual sustainability summit, support from PepsiCoconsultants to develop environmental plans, a vendor question-naire and a commitment to recognize and reward vendor actionon sustainability priorities.ICT1 companies tend to have smaller Direct Impact carbon foot-prints than those in the transport, manufacturing and energyindustries, so why focus so much attention on this dimension ofaction? Direct emissions reductions provide the experience andmandate for a company to actively work with its customers andother stakeholders on ways to reduce their emissions.1 ICT – Information Communications Technology. This terminology is employed toreflect the increasing interdependence of the IT and telecommunications industries.Historically separate, both in terms of industry sectors and in terms of functionaldepartments in a business, the increasing interdependence between IT andtelecommunications is evident in the increasing overlap between the industry sec-tors and the merging of traditional IT and communications departments in manycorporations. This interdependence is reflected in the use of the terminology ‘ICT’. 2
  • 4. Products in Use Enabled ImpactProducts in Use comprises the emissions a company’s products Enabled Impact is the third concentric circle of the Framework. Inand/or services produce once in the hands of end-users. While contrast to Products in Use impact, which addresses the energythe products of some industry sectors, such as the food sector, consumption of the product or service itself, Enabled Impacthave little or no energy consumption in use and so produce very focuses on the effect a product or service has on other aspects ofminor in-life carbon emissions, others produce significant in-life energy consumption and resulting emissions.emissions. The fuel or electricity used to power these products ispaid for by the end-user and so is the end-user’s direct carbon For instance, BT completed a study with Forum for the Future infootprint. The user has some control over consumption, for 2004, which showed that the rollout of broadband servicesinstance switching off a computer rather than leaving it on increased the propensity of customers to buy and to use a rangestandby, or driving at a slower speed. However, although the of other energy-dependent electronic equipment. While thatconsumption may be significantly influenced by the end-user, equipment included computers and peripherals not purchasedthe manufacturer is very much complicit in the emissions (or from BT—thus not Product In Use impact—their usage wasother environmental impact) through product portfolio, design enabled or even encouraged by the rollout of broadband, henceand usage guidance. the term Enabled Impact.For many businesses, Products in Use emissions can be far greater Fortunately, in the ICT sector this increased energy usage is morethan Direct Impact emissions. The 2006-07 corporate social than offset by a beneficial impact of the ICT industry as a whole.responsibility report from Ford Motor Company shows that its Many papers have been written on the positive Enabled Impactdirect emissions in 2005 were about 8 million metric tons of CO2. of ICT services2. The best known example is using teleconferenc-In contrast, Products in Use emissions—through the fuel con- ing instead of traveling for meetings. While teleconferencingsumption of their on-road fleet across the world—were about 407 requires electricity to power it and thus has an associated emis-million metric tons. For a telecommunications company selling sions burden, compared to the emissions associated with travel,routers and phones, Direct Impact and Product in Use emissions that burden is small. (See “ICT Sector as an Enabler” for manyare of a similar order of comparative magnitude to each other. other examples of enabled benefit in the ICT industry.) Estimates by the Climate Group, GeSi and others of the enabled beneficialWhere Products in Use emissions are significant, product produc- impact of the industry range from five to 15 times the burden ofers can take actions to reduce them. For instance, Ford’s sustain- the industry. Actions with the enabled dimension are thereforeability report identifies the actions it is taking, such as increasing among the most material ways in which the ICT industry canengine efficiency. Today, enlightened ICT companies are working impact global emissions.to reduce the energy consumption of their products by givingthe end user more control in reducing consumption though fea- There are many examples of products and services with Enabledtures such as standby mode. Impact benefits outside of the ICT sector, ranging from a lubri- cant that improves the energy efficiency of a production line to aAs with Direct Impact, suppliers can also play a significant role in sophisticated process reengineering consultancy service.reducing the in-use impact of the products they sell. While many Opportunities for action in the Enabled Impact dimension tendcompanies outsource their product manufacturing, this does not to fall into one of three categories:diminish their responsibility, through specifying energy relateddesign characteristics. For example, early in 2008, BT started a 1. Efficiency improvement of an existing servicesix-month program to replace its entire line of DECT (Digital 2. Substitution of a more energy-intensive serviceEnhanced Cordless Telecommunications) phones with a new lineof phones that have about half the energy consumption of their 3. Environmental servicespredecessors. This was made possible by working with vendorsthe prior year on product redesign. Hence, in the Framework, thesupplier wedge intrudes into both the Direct Impact andProducts in Use categories.For industry sectors with little or no impact in this category,focus should remain on Direct Impact emissions. 2 The most recent and probably most comprehensive is SMART 2020 produced by GeSI and the Climate Group in June 2008. 3
  • 5. ICT Sector as an Enabler Inform and InfluenceThere are many ways in which ICT services help reduce emis- The outer ring of the Framework is the opportunity to inform andsions, and they have the potential to do so much more in the influence the actions of others for the purpose of reducing nega-future. Travel substitution is one of the best known, i.e., tive impact on the environment. Unlike actions taken in the otherreplacing in-person meetings with teleconferences and three categories, informing and influencing people cannot beenabling teleworking to avoid commuting. Other sophisti- quantified. However, it is equally as important. A company’scated travel reduction opportunitities include: efforts to inform and influence its stakeholders can help remove the hurdles companies sometimes face due to real or perceived• Installing wireless devices in vending machines to limitations placed on them by shareholders and customers. The reduce required visits from stocking fleets wrong actions in this area can also be the test of greenwash.• Using GPS to improve vehicle routing Inform and Influence can be considered with respect to all of a• Congestion control in cities to improve traffic flow company’s stakeholder groups, including customers, employees, government and shareholders.• Using the Internet to provide real-time traffic advice to commuters Informing the public is probably the most material opportunity media and communications companies have to impact climateEffective IT infrastructures have enabled companies to change. NewsCorp is one of the best examples of a mediareduce real estate usage up to 30 percent by creating more company taking a public stance on this. In addition to commit-flexible workspaces, which can serve more employees. Such ments to reduce their own carbon footprint, NewsCorp has made‘smart buildings’ can also save energy using a range of ICT a public commitment to:services. For instance, electronic monitoring and control of abuilding’s environment can enhance the use of natural day- “Engage our employees, our business partners and ourlight and external climate. Some systems can also automati- audiences on the issues of energy use and climate change.”cally switch off the lights or close the windows. Companies with a well recognized consumer brand name alsoThe Internet and private networks have greatly reduced the have a significant opportunity to inform customers and swayquantity of paper used for commercial transactions such as public opinion by publicizing their own commitments and activi-billing and information provision. Smart Grid describes a ties, providing tools, such as carbon calculators, and even pro-concept through which user demand, power station supply viding marketing incentives for the public to take action.and pricing are all connected on a more granular, real-timebasis to allow great improvements in grid efficiency. • BT uses its brand in the UK to engage the general public through a range of tools, including calculators, games and competitions.The potential benefits of these and many other examplescan be quantified and compared to the carbon burden of the • Xerox provides a calculator that documents the impact of the servic-ICT industry (considered to be 2-3% of global emissions). In es it provides, which allows customers to make a quick, Web-basedfact, the recent report from Climate Group and GeSi SMART assessment of how-to advice on smart ways to make offices greener.2020 concluded that a five-fold benefit could be realized bythe industry as a whole by 2020. • Nortel’s energy calculator is a more explicit demonstration of energy savings for competitive differentiation. For the employee stakeholder, representative engagement efforts include grassroots programs, websites and competitions, among others. Walmart has a PRP (Personal Responsibilities Program) which includes encouraging employees to put forward ideas for improving sustainability in stores. BT runs a program called Carbon Clubs that engages groups of employees to tackle envi- ronmental issues in ways that are meaningful to them. The most engaged companies are educating their people not only on the actions they can take in the workplace, but about those they can also take at home and in other aspects of their personal lives. At BT, staff are encouraged to take action outside of the workplace through a Living Lightly program. HP provides a subsidy and a program to encourage employees to install solar panels at home. 4
  • 6. Traditionally, most companies have focused their government Conclusioninteractions on activities that are deemed core to their immedi-ate business. As climate change and other areas of sustainability The Sustainability Framework identifies four discrete dimensions ofbecome more top-of-mind, we are seeing that focus broaden. In a holistic approach to sustainability. As the examples illustrate, dif-the UK, for example, a group of prominent companies, including ferent industry sectors have different material impacts in each ofBP, BT, Ford and Barclays, formed a Climate Change Task Force the Framework dimensions. The biggest impact of a food andunder the auspices of the Confederation of British Industry to nutrition company is Direct emissions—and much of that might bepresent the corporate perspective on climate change to govern- due to supply chain. The auto industry, in contrast, has its biggestment leaders. According to their report: impact through Products in Use emissions. A telecommunications company like BT has the greatest impact through its positive“The best question for the business community is whether we can impact on Enabled emissions and a media company like NewsCorp,be certain that climate change presents a substantial risk; a risk in turn, through its ability to Inform and Influence the public.that will have a profound impact on society and the economy? Tothis the answer is clearly yes. And so, as with all substantial risks, Companies should be able to quantify their impact in each of theit is vital to mitigate the danger…. Any response to the threat of first three dimensions and map their activities against the materiali-climate change requires three components for success. Politicians ty of that category. Such an analysis will help identify what organi-must give much greater priority to the subject, and not just on an zations should be doing and contrast this with what they are doingad hoc basis. Consumers have to be empowered to make the right in each space. The top priorities and gaps will become evident.decisions and need to be given the facts to make informed judg-ments. And business must become green to grow.” The Framework also serves as a tool for testing whether a company is truly consistent in its approach to sustainability. While action isThis initiative represents a compelling example of the role of not required in every category on a specific issue, inconsistentbusiness in informing and influencing government in this area. action across the categories of the Framework deserves careful attention. In most cases, a company should consider starting itsInforming shareholders is vital to ensure their understanding and activities in the Direct Impact dimension to gain knowledge andsupport for key actions. For many companies that are active in this experience, and work outwards from there. Skipping action withinarea, this is accomplished through the annual sustainability report. a category may be appropriate because there is no impact in thatThe following statement from the 2008 sustainability report of space, but it may also indicate lack of commitment.Omron, a Japanese manufacturer of sensing devices and controlsystems, makes unequivocal the company’s position on a key sus- Also important is inconsistency between action in the outer ringtainability issue and helps inform the views of the shareholder: of Inform and Influence and action in the three inner rings. Action in Inform and Influence that is intended to improve sales“As reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or brand, without equivalent level of action in the three inner(IPCC), the fight against global warming is considered to be one categories effectively defines greenwash in the environmentalof society’s most urgent issues. Reflecting this belief…we are sustainability arena. Companies guilty of this form of misrepre-determined to promote anti-global warming measures as our sentation present a green façade to their stakeholders, whilemost important management objective…” operating in a manner that pays little or no heed to the actual impact of their actions. Likewise, taking positive action in theCompanies often state that they can take only as much action as central ring(s) while continuing material negative actions in outertheir shareholders and customers will tolerate over and above what rings is counterproductive for the environment and should begovernment legislation requires. But those same companies are called out by stakeholders.able to inform and influence those stakeholders. In fact they areoften expert at doing that through core competencies in market- This Framework is intended to provide a consistent model thating, employee communications, government relations and investor allows for introspection within a company, comparison with com-relations. Including action in the Inform and Influence category is a panies within a sector and across sectors and critical analysis fromcritical component of a comprehensive sustainability program. external observers. In so doing it strives to add to the tools available to continually improve sustainability within the business world. 5
  • 7. About the AuthorKevin Moss has responsibility for implementation of BritishTelecommunications Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strat-egy in North America. Kevin previously oversaw voice and dataproduct management for BT Americas, including product strate-gy, new product development and geographic expansion acrosssystems, networks, operations and channels. He maintains a blogwith his views on CSR and an ongoing commentary on the FourDimensions of Sustainability at www.csrperspective.comAbout BTBT is one of the world’s leading providers of communicationssolutions and services operating in 170 countries. Its principalactivities include networked IT services, local national and inter-national telecommunications services and higher-value broad-band and Internet products and services. BT consists principallyof four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retailand BT Wholesale.British Telecommunications (BT) is a wholly owned subsidiary ofBT Group and encompasses virtually all business and assets ofthe BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges inLondon and New York.For More InformationVisit http://www.bt.com/globalservicesOffices worldwideThe services described in this publication are subject to availabilityand may be modified from time to time. Services and equipmentare provided subject to British Telecommunications plc’s respectivestandard conditions of contract. Nothing in this publication formsany part of any contract.© British Telecommunications plc 200905/04/2009