A call for change
Companies are always looking for ways to cut costs—and never more so than now, with the economy wobbling and inflation jumping worldwide. One of the main areas they are exploring is improving energy efficiency in operations.
This is not a new approach for Accenture.
Since 2007 Accenture has been on an economic and environmental mission to better manage cost and carbon at its office locations in more than 200 cities in 50 countries. The results after those 15 years speak for themselves. 2.43 million megawatt hours of electricity and 1.22 tons of metric tons of CO2 saved. More than $326 million in energy cost savings.
How did Accenture get there? Through a combination of practical measures to automate and optimize systems from lighting to HVAC, influence human behavior and migrate operations almost exclusively to the cloud.
When tech meets human ingenuity
Accenture’s energy efficiency strategy rests on the four pillars of office selection, office improvements, smart metering and green IT. All the initiatives together focus on combining good design with more efficient operations, with machines and humans working together to make a difference.
The company leases almost all of its space around the world, which often means it has limited influence on the parts of buildings controlled by landlords. That is where intentional office selection comes in: Accenture looks for offices that can run efficiently, whether because the landlord offers tenants more freedom to act on energy efficiency or the building is environmentally certified to LEED or BREEAM standards. In large, metropolitan areas, the company prioritizes these LEED- or BREEAM-certified spaces.
When it comes time to fit out a newly-leased space—or retrofit an existing one—Accenture aims to complete the project guided by LEED and BREEAM principles. The company is also constantly looking for ways to improve its offices. That can range from implementing the latest in lighting design, including LED and Power over Ethernet (PoE) systems, to installing HVAC systems designed to minimize energy consumption while maximizing comfort, using presence detectors and set-back controls to operate at a minimum level when a space is unoccupied. In Data/Hub rooms, hot and cold aisles are introduced between IT racks to conserve energy and lower cooling costs.
By August 2014—In the early days of effective LED lighting—Accenture introduced the technology across its office portfolio in the Philippines; In 2017, the company retrofitted very large AC fans in buildings in India to electronic-commutated (EC) fans, reducing consumption enormously; in Germany and New York City, Accenture is installing Power over Ethernet (PoE) LED lights that are powered by low voltage data cables instead of conventional wiring; and mostly recently, in Spain and the US, we are installing air quality and occupancy sensors to optimize health while conserving energy. Accenture applies lessons and insights from the most promising use cases to benefit other offices around the world.
One of the most critical initiatives in process so far started more than ten years ago, when Accenture installed smart meters at a few trial locations. These tools help our people make better energy use decisions—based on constantly updated, real-time data. Since introducing the first smart meters, the company has added more than 2,000 to offices in 15 countries and will continue installing more. The smart meters funnel all the data on energy usage (which previously was siloed among several different sources depending on the building) to a single cloud-based energy management platform for users everywhere.
This real-time workplace monitoring helps each office’s environmental lead and team take actions to reduce consumption. Leveraging technology to positively influence and enable human behavior like this is a key element of Accenture’s energy efficiency strategy.
That strategy was on full display when Accenture hosted an “International Energy Competition,” using a specially designed dashboard on the cloud-based energy management platform, in which employees in locations around the world competed over four weeks to competitively improve their energy efficiency by adjusting lighting, AC and desktop PC power. All the teams had names, and competition was friendly but fierce, with India surpassing a strong Philippines team in the final week.
Finally, but significantly, Accenture has moved nearly all its operations to the cloud, a process that began in 2015. This cloud-first approach to the way the company operates, develops new apps and innovates began with migrating on-premises data centers to the public cloud to take advantage of newer, more sustainable capabilities. A consumption-based model allows IT managers to optimize computing through just-in-time features and constant optimization. Additionally, the Accenture global IT organization is cloud platform-powered first. From deliberate analysis of usage patterns, performance data and new cloud offerings to creating a CO2 calculator prototype to estimate how much energy the public cloud is consuming, the company drives even further efficiency.
“Transformation happens when the right data converges with human leadership. Technology is enabling our people to be intentional and make a difference when it comes to energy efficiency, with a hugely positive outcome for our business and the planet.”
— Margaret Smith, Senior Managing Director and Executive Director – Corporate Services & Sustainability and Business Operations
A valuable difference
Accenture has worked hard for a long time to reap the benefits of better energy efficiency—decoupling business growth from carbon growth—by steadily applying the measures described above over the last 15 years.