May 19, 2017
Why digital means sustainable
By: Mohini Rao

Sustainable business growth is of huge importance to Accenture. And, with most of our carbon footprint stemming from air travel and electricity use, it’s clear how we can make an impact. That’s why we’ve built our environmental strategy around three areas: reducing carbon, enabling client and supplier sustainability, and engaging our staff on this agenda.

We’ve set two global goals around this agenda to achieve by 2020:

  1. 50% reduction on carbon emissions per employee from 2007

  2. 30% improvement on energy efficiency from 2007

A shift in culture

Accenture has taken a digital-first approach to business. We’ve done away with physical headquarters. Instead, while our leaders get together once a quarter, they’re usually dispersed throughout the world, closer to our markets, clients and people. Our leaders and their teams collaborate virtually, using cutting-edge digital tools.

People at Accenture know that we move ideas around the world, not people. As such, there’s an expectation that travel will be rare. We’re helped in this shift by the fact that most our employees are Millennials: the "digital natives" for whom digital collaboration is second nature.

Technology as an enabler

Our technology choices have enabled this cultural shift. We’ve invested heavily in collaborative technologies, and we’ve minimised the use of hardware in favour of inherently sustainable solutions such as cloud computing.

And this is just the beginning.

We’re launching apps that will give employees modular tools tailored precisely to the requirements of their jobs. Meanwhile, many of our employees are embracing mobile apps to connect with each other, acquire new skills and increase their client service focus.

This virtual collaboration culture comes from the top. Rather than flying to a meeting of Accenture executives in Chicago, our Paris-based CEO Pierre Nanterme attended in the form of a hologram live-beamed into the event from a Paris broadcast studio. You can see for yourself how successful this was!

People make the difference

The success of our programmes comes down to equipping and inspiring our employees to make a difference. That’s why we give employees smart-working tools that enable them to work flexibly whether it is working from home, our offices or client sites.

It’s also driven by the passion of employees themselves. Each year over 100 of our people in the UK and Ireland use their paid leave to participate in eco-volunteering activities, such as conservation work, community clean-up days and micro-volunteering to support environmental research. Claire Buglass, for example, coordinated a volunteering team of 20 employees from Accenture’s Delivery Centre in Newcastle. They’ve just been recognised as “Accenture Volunteers of the first fiscal quarter in FY16” for their hard work of creating a children’s adventure playground in West Boldon. Of course, this approach only works because it’s supported by leadership. As David Sawyer, senior managing director at Accenture UK and Ireland, put it: “Environmental sustainability is a key consideration for Accenture and it starts with strong leadership support. We’ve invested substantially in cutting edge eco-smart technology to reduce our carbon impact, however, our ability to empower our people to take action is the key to achieving our environmental goals.”

Any company can implement a sustainable way of growing their business, but it’s only effective when it’s tailored to the operations of that business. As a technology services company, we have invested in cutting-edge technology and leveraged digital to provide employees the tools and resources needed to operate more sustainably.

In my next blog, I’ll look at how businesses can empower employees to give back to society through digital micro-volunteering opportunities.

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