Shaping an IT Sustainability Programme

Shaping an IT Sustainability Programme in the FMCG Industry to achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2030. 

 

Our customer is a leader in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector.  They have deep expertise in the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the products they create and sell. They are a leader in reporting their enterprise emissions including their complex supply chain. However, in the IT domain it was less mature in assessing their specific carbon footprint. They recently set a new IT Strategy and now wanted to define a programme of work to confidently deliver a Net Zero emissions target for Technology by 2030. 

Challenge

In planning any journey successfully, it is vital to know where you start!  As an organisation, an overall model had been created which provided an assessment of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for the various business units, geographies, and functions.  The IT function represented a relatively small part of these emissions and hence estimating its footprint using global assumptions was initially adequate. However, this generic model did not represent the current state of the IT function accurately and did not provide a solid baseline to understand where they should prioritise their decarbonisation activities. So, the first challenge was to agree an approach to developing an accurate Carbon Model for IT to clearly show where the largest liabilities were and which levers to pull to impact these. 

 

Secondly, the work was initiated mid-year and whilst all the functional teams were supportive and indeed enthusiastic, we needed to ensure that the current year objectives were not jeopardised by a new initiative.  

 

In many organisations, sustainability is currently still a values-led initiative.  Whilst, in the future it will undoubtedly become mandatory through global legislation, today it is being driven by those who believe it is the right thing for their organisation and are willing to drive it forward. This means sustainability must compete with other strategic imperatives for funding, resource, and bandwidth.  Our customer had set an ambitious Net Zero target and it was important to tell the story of sustainability robustly and persuasively to demonstrate that it could deliver appropriate benefits to the group whilst also protecting the planet. 

Approach

Firstly, an IT Sustainability Vision was created covering the Why, What and How.  This greatly aided communication and engagement and was essential to ensure that we had a clear ‘North Star’ for the team. 

 

Then a standard framework was used to assess all material areas of Technology using spend as an initial proxy. This was refined through a sustainability lens and resulted in a number of focused workstreams including Carbon Modelling, Vendor Management and IT Procurement, Cloud Optimisation and GreenOps, Application Rationalisation and Hardware optimisation amongst others.   

 

An example IT Sustainability Framework is shown below, courtesy of the excellent Sustainable IT Playbook for Technology Leaders by Niklas Sundberg, 2023, which is highly recommended. 

 

 

In terms of delivery the programme is shaped around a phased approach.   

 

  • Phase 1 – Measure and Control accurately defined the Carbon Baseline and added controls into all new change initiatives to ensure that sustainability is considered in everything ‘we do’ going forward.  Engagement with key strategic vendors has also taken place during this phase to create a coalition of the willing and passionate. 

 

  • Phase 2 – Optimise will improve the current IT estate to leverage the best practise across the enterprise and make all areas efficient. Where possible inflight initiatives will be used to deliver quick wins where their objectives align to sustainability goals. For example, existing Application Rationalisation which had a cost reduction / agility objective can provide excellent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction opportunities providing a win-win. 

 

  • Phase 3 – Transform will address the longer term and more intransigent areas that will be more difficult to decarbonise fully for example network hardware and End-User-Computing (EUC) devices. 

 

 

Overall, an iterative and evolutionary approach is being taken – this is a marathon, not a sprint but it does need relentless focus to ensure that the customer can halve emissions by their interim target and then halve them again repeatedly in time to achieve their Net Zero goal.

Outcome

Through a robust shaping phase, we have clearly articulated a North Star for the Programme and delivered an accurate view of where we are today. With these two it is (relatively) easy to define what needs to be done to achieve a successful outcome. This is half the battle. Next is to ensure that everyone agrees that an accelerated Sustainability journey is worthwhile and one that should be made now. 

 

By aligning sustainability goals to the Enterprise and IT Strategy we make it much easier to get this collective agreement and ensure that we achieve a win-win. Use of Green Energy in Data Centres and Cloud instances is an excellent lever for Sustainability, but the greenest energy is the energy you don’t use.  Therefore, Application Simplification and Green Development practises are excellent bed fellows for sustainability and have helped build a robust business case. 

 

If there is one piece of advice we would share, it is to understand where you are today – you need to be able to answer “What proportion of our Carbon Footprint comes from our Network or EUC Devices or ERP platform?”.  Then you can build a plan to deal with it. 

 

 

Do you need change expertise? 

Sustainability is something we are passionate about as a company. We believe that those companies that get this right will be the leaders of tomorrow. Those that lag behind may well fail to ever catch up in this race. If you would like help with your sustainability challenges, please reach out to Estelle.eades@projectone.com

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