"Reducing Customer Emissions: Delivering on the Promise of ICT"<br />By Dr. Turlough Guerin<br />Board Adviser Climate Alliance, Chair Access Melbourne & Former Group Manager Environment, Telstra Corporation<br />Introduction <br />The goal of my presentation is to get the operators in the room thinking hard about how they are helping their customer reduce their carbon emissions. <br />May I ask a few questions of you before I start? Who here likes shopping? Perhaps if you are like me you may consider it a “necessary evil”. Imagine what would happen if you went to a shop, ordered a new Apple iPhone and for some reason it didn’t have the best apps available to it for downloading (including free ones)? <br />I wonder if there would be a customer revolt? Or perhaps you purchased a new phone and then when you went to set it up in the shop, you found out that it could only receive calls and you couldn’t make any outgoing calls? So that has happened to some of you? No of course not (I hope]. But if these things did happen, Apple and your telco operator would be laughed at. No one would let these companies get away with this kind of response to a customer. It is because we expect these companies to provide these functions when we buy the product and service. And that is fair enough because that is what they have promised. Let me bring my point a little closer to home. <br />What would you do if you went to buy some fresh milk and eggs from your local shop and the shop assistant said “Sorry we don’t have any today or we have some but we don’t know how long it has been in the store”? As a customer, or potential customer, you’d probably not take this shop owner very seriously. You’d straight away walk out and start looking for another shop. In your eyes, as a customer, they now have no credibility, even though the sign above the door advertises fresh milk and eggs.<br />The Vision Is Cast<br />The ICT industry has claimed, and boldly so, that its technologies and solutions will reduce carbon emissions across the economy. There have been numerous reports such as the GESi and The Climate Group Smart 2020 report which have cast the vision in detail, and operators have already released some data on actual benefits delivered. Operators and consultants have come up with similar conclusive and compelling findings over the past 2-3 years: ICT solutions can reduce emissions across the economy, offsetting and driving down the relative impact of the ICT industry’s own carbon emissions.<br />I’d even go as far as saying that this is an imperative of the ICT industry, and therefore the industry is expected to deliver on this. <br />The claim of reduced emissions has been made, the vision has been cast, but where are the results? What are the actual carbon savings delivered to customers? This is an important question because the industry and operators in particular have their reputations at risk if they cannot answer this question. <br />The Need for Proof Points<br />There are numerous reasons why low-carbon, ICT technologies and solutions are not being adopted. I don’t claim to have all the answers on this topic but I have a viewpoint that I will share. Let me describe the barriers that I am aware of from my own experience. I am sure you have your own views. I’d like to hear these when I finish up my talk in just a few minutes.<br />Costs of solutions are still perceived as being high. This is always going to be a challenge but, as with all businesses, the most efficient operators will be the ones that provide the best products at the most competitive prices. Nothing new here. Because of the absence of quantification of carbon benefits, I don’t know of any operators who have monetised the cost savings from offering low-carbon technologies, services, and products and that have passed these on as cost savings (when selling the solution) to customers.<br />Absence of a price on carbon means business cases for low carbon solutions are often not compelling. The rising price of energy alone has not caused a massive shift of customers to embrace low carbon ICT solutions. Similarly, the promise of improved productivity is still not being translated to absolute financial savings for a customer’s business – probably because that the concept of productivity is, to a degree, intangible or at best difficult to measure.<br />There is also a perception by customers that operators could be doing more to reduce their own carbon emissions and to adopt new low-carbon ICT technologies themselves. So credibility, and being seen to be ‘walking the walk”, and not simply talking about potential benefits, is vital in the eyes of the customer.<br />It is difficult to measure carbon savings across the diversity of solutions now available. There is no single mechanism for capturing the carbon savings from the range of ICT solutions that are reducing emissions in customer’s businesses. The key here is to start small using a trial and then broadening this to include the entire organisation, and then taking this approach to the customer organisations. Without trial data, buy-in for further investment in this area will be particularly challenging.<br />Certain ICT solutions require a rethink of how a customer organisation does the work that it does. These are cultural barriers. For example, we know that teleworking can deliver significantly reduced carbon emissions impacts compared to conventional housing of staff in commercial office buildings in capital cities. But there is an overwhelming concern among managers, at least in Australia, that while tele- (or flexible) working is a good idea (and for many reasons), there is a core issue of lack of trust between the staff and manager that is limiting uptake of this solution. Another example is that some organisations are sceptical about the effectiveness of immersive video conferencing to reduce business travel. <br />Finally, there is a limited evidence that ICT solutions are actually delivering on the promise. That is, the proof (hard data, publicly available and audited) that the low carbon vision from ICT is being realised across customer businesses. And the longer this goes on for, i.e. with limited, credible evidence, the more sceptical will customers become.<br />Conclusions<br />So how do we overcome the barriers? In short, more work is needed. Both by operators, to get the needed data to prove that low carbon, ICT solutions are in fact just that – low carbon. But also by the operator industry to assess what impact ICT solutions have had at an industry-wide scale. While this area may provide a competitive edge for operators that can undertake carbon savings measurements, and that make this information available to customers, ultimately it is important for the industry that there is a consistent message to customers that this is an industry – wide concern. <br />Some of the issues to be addressed are out of hands of operators, for others, something can be done. I’ll go through these now:<br /><ul><li>Solution costs are still perceived as being too high
Carbon pricing is variable and even absent in some jurisdictions
Operators need to “walk the talk” and that they have “tidied up their own backyards” before selling the promise of carbon savings of their solutions to customers.
Measure, measure, and measure. There is a need for verifiable and consist methodology used across the operator industry. Start small using pilots and trials.
Lack of evidence. This is vital and without proof points in the market soon, the promise of customer carbon savings could vanish in some markets.</li></ul>The problem with making promises is that they need to be kept. Otherwise, the credibility of the promise maker is lost. In my view, the time is running out for the operator industry to deliver on its promise of customer emissions reduction. The industry needs to act and to work closely to do this.<br />