Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Building a Greener Business through Technology

How can your technology choices play a role in helping your organisation achieve its net zero ambitions? We consider 5 possible options that might work.

How can your technology choices play a role in helping your organisation achieve its net zero ambitions? The Grant McGregor team considers five possible options that might work for your organisation.

With everything that’s happening in the world right now, the ambition of COP-26 seems a long way away. However, the climate crisis continues to be the world’s most pressing global challenge. This month, a major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and planet. It highlighted that, with a narrowing window for effective action, our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.

IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts(1) said, “Our assessment clearly shows that tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritise risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment.”

So what role can the private sector play in taking action? It begins with reaching net zero in our own operations. It includes choosing suppliers and partners on the basis of their own environmental performance. And it should stretch to encouraging the right choices and behaviours in wider society and in government.

In this blog, we’ll consider how the technology choices you make can help in the achievement of your own organisational net zero goals.

Metering: Information is power

Any performance improvement programme must begin with a current state analysis. In environmental terms, this is probably going to involve some amount of metering and sensor data. Metering doesn’t have to be expensive – and the software to crunch the numbers certainly isn’t.

Once you have information about the energy and utility use throughout your operations, you can begin to identify the areas and operations which are the heaviest consumers. This helps you to prioritise and focus activity. Plus, the enhanced metering will make it easier for you to track and monitor the effects of the changes you make.

Being able to demonstrate, for example, that an investment in building insulation has achieved ROI quickly will help to secure additional funding for further energy-saving initiatives.

Move to the cloud

Last year, we highlighted a report by Accenture that showed how moving your applications and infrastructure to the cloud can help you to reduce your carbon footprint. Essentially, the argument is about efficiency. Cloud computing presents big opportunities to save power and consolidate resources because you use only the cloud services when you need when you need them.

Plus, of course, there is the advantage of scale. The huge data centres run by the big cloud providers are extremely efficient operations, with high-tech cooling solutions and modern equipment that are simply more efficient than the aging server room you are probably managing.

They key to maximising the benefits from a cloud migration is to go beyond the “lift and shift” approach to make use of cloud-native technologies, including microservices and serverless tech. This way, you can further optimise your use of resources. The bonus is that – as well as helping to further reduce your carbon footprint – this will also drive down the cost of your monthly cloud hosting bill.

Micro-generation builds resilience

It sometimes seems like we’ve been talking about energy security for decades, but the war in Ukraine has suddenly opened up the world’s eyes to exactly why it is so important. Renewables and the green energy revolution is one potential solution and, since it neatly aligns with our existing net zero goals – is certainly the most sensible.

With the topic of energy security suddenly rising up the corporate agenda, what can companies do?

The first and most obvious switch is to move to power providers that are committed to funding the switch to green energy, companies such as Ecotricity(2). In the short term, this may mean paying more for the power you use. Longer term, microgeneration can help to redress this cost.

Of course, the scope for microgeneration depends on your office and facilities footprint. If you’re lucky enough to be able to add a wind turbine or solar panels, the case to do so becomes ever-more compelling. The cost of renewables technologies has fallen hugely over recent decades. The price of energy is spiking. And the consumer pressure to demonstrate green credentials is growing – and is set to only grow further.

If you don’t have the property or conditions to make renewable microgeneration feasible, what opportunities are there to think outside the box? Can you invest in new sites that are dedicated to generation? Is there scope to join forces with other local businesses? For example, one rural village in Cambridgeshire(3) is aiming to become the first in the UK to switch entirely to zero carbon heating. £9 million is being spent replacing oil tanks in gardens at Swaffham Prior with a pioneering ground-source heating network.

It might mean thinking outside the box, but the case for doing so is increasingly strong.

Driving the electric vehicle revolution

Another obvious way to make progress towards net zero is to switch from gas-guzzling fleets to an electric fleet – especially if you are generating your own renewable electricity.

In fact, research concludes that in most places electric cars produce fewer emissions overall(4) – even if generation still involves fossil fuels.

The financial drivers to make the switch are more compelling at the moment, given the spike in oil prices following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What’s more, the switch needn’t require a huge capital investment. For example, the fintech start-up Zeti(5) connects fleet managers with fund managers to enable the transition to zero-carbon and ultra-low vehicles using an innovative technology platform and pay-per-mile financing.

Flexible working

While switching to electric vehicles can help to reduce your organisational carbon footprint, eliminating the cost for travel altogether is better.

Over the last two years, the world has learned just how productive home, remote and flexible working can be. As a result, most organisations are rethinking their flexible working policies and either reducing or changing how they use their existing office footprints.

Calculating commute travel prior to the pandemic and during the pandemic could be a good exercise if you want to understand what impact this has. These figures might not be counted within your organisational carbon footprint, but they are, nevertheless, an important change on the way to net zero.

How can our learnings in terms of reducing the carbon cost of the commute be translated into reductions in the mileage that does count towards your organisational carbon footprint? Digital events and virtual meetings can help to reduce your organisational carbon footprint.

Plus, embedding these practices in your organisation is a good way to prevent savings made elsewhere being offset by extra carbon expended via the return to work.

The effects of incremental change

Sustainability requires a whole-organisation approach. The methodology of Dave Brailsford is good here: small, incremental changes can result in a big effect. What’s more, one good change often helps another.

For optimal results, a thorough of understanding of the implications is required. For example, if you have solar panels, it makes sense – as you build infrastructure and upgrade your fleet – to invest in the right networks and choose vehicles with two-way charging batteries so that they can operate as power storage for when panels aren’t generating.

Metering, monitoring and reporting is essential if you are to have visibility of the impact your changes are making. It’s the essential starting point for any environmental change programme, so get this in place first. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s likely you’ll want to add additional metrics and metering as your programme develops – and that’s ok.

The important take away is to get started as soon as you can – and to store any associated data in the cloud!

What next?

If you’d like to discuss any of the ideas discussed in this article, please reach out to the Grant McGregor team. You can reach us on 0808 164 4142 or book a call below:

Book a 15-minute chat  >>>

Read our essential update about the cyber security precautions your organisation should be taking in response to the war in Ukraine. Full details here.

What else should be on your radar this year? Review Grant McGregor’s tech predictions for 2022 here.

 

Sources:

1. https://www.ipcc.ch/2022/02/28/pr-wgii-ar6/

2. https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/

3. https://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2021-09-21/going-green-the-cambridgeshire-village-leading-the-way-with-eco-heating

4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51977625

5. https://zeti.co.uk/