Sustainability in context

It’s time to think differently

Today we launch our environmental awareness week at Capgemini in support of World Environment day. During this week, in which we highlight our business and individual impacts and actions, it is worth reflecting on the context – and implications –  for our sustainability program.

At the end of last year world leaders signed the Paris Climate Accord at COP21 – a pivotal agreement to limit the increase in the earth’s temperature to under 2C.  

This commitment to action from global leaders, which requires a collaborative effort to decrease greenhouse gas emissions within five years, has shown the world – what the freakish weather hitting the world with increasing regularity, has failed to show – that climate change is here and we must all act NOW.  

UN projections of population growth predict an increase to 9.7 billion in 2050 (from about 3 billion in 1950). That’s over 6 billion in 100 years.  Clearly this rapidly growing number of people is putting an enormous strain on the planet. Since the mid-1980s the human race has been essentially consuming at a rate greater than the earth’s ability to provide.  Our impact is felt in many ways from over fishing, deforestation, water shortages. But most particularly it’s felt in terms of the rising emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from our energy consumption.

In terms of direct business impacts, oil is perhaps the most obvious example of the reducing availability of raw materials and the one which, given sky rocketing prices, has attracted media attention.  But it is not just oil which will run out. An article in 2007 in Scientific American (Cohen 2007) argued that ‘without more recycling, antimony, which is used to make flame retardant materials, will run out in 15 years, silver in 10 and indium in under five.’ The article continues to report the findings of one scientist who ‘estimates that zinc could be used up by 2037.

Another constraint will be water. The Economist ran a piece several years ago arguing that water is the oil of the 21st century. It reports that “Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, estimates that global water consumption is doubling every twenty years, which it calls an ‘unsustainable’ rate of growth. [Furthermore] water, unlike oil, has no substitute. Climate change is altering the patterns of freshwater availability in complex ways that can lead to more frequent and severe droughts.”

That’s why our Group Chairman and CEO – Paul Hermelin joined a growing list of business leaders in signing Business Proposals for COP21.  Essentially, in this context sustainability is no longer about compliance or a brand differentiator in the market; it has become a true precondition to do business.

At Capgemini we’ve bought down our overall emissions by 4% this year, despite a rising head count. We focus our efforts in three core areas:

·       Business travel, which accounts for over 50% of our emissions. This year we have decreased emissions by 2% globally.

·       Energy emissions have dropped by 6% through a variety of initiatives around the world from solar panels installation to the introduction of smart metering.

·       And we continue to reduce our waste.

For more information on our operations please do download our latest UK CR&S report.

In the coming months we have plans to launch an ambitious new programme to continue to drive our impacts down and work to support renewable energy strategies.

But we recognise our impacts extend beyond our own operations, and that our technology and expertise in business processes could have a transformative role to play in the reduction of CO2 through our wider values networks: using our services to help our clients to work more efficiently, and influencing our suppliers and people.

Two weeks ago, we announced that Capgemini will work with the Siemens Building Technologies Division, to implement a cloud based services platform, featuring asset management and analytics technology. This will increase building operating efficiency for clients.  Siemens Building Technologies’ customers currently already save 10.5 million tons of CO2 per year.

The implications for us and our industry are enormous.  If ever there was a time to ‘think outside the box’, it is now.  At Capgemini we are committed to innovating constantly and working collaboratively to help solve our clients’ needs. And in doing so, we can make a difference in this world.

By Matt Bradley, Global Environment Lead