Achieving sustainability through technology The good news is that many of the initiatives that can help a business reduce its carbon footprint are also effective for saving costs. By Simon Short, chief operating officer, Advanced.

  • Wednesday, 2nd February 2022 Posted 2 years ago in by Phil Alsop

Protecting the environment and sustainability were not considerations when most legacy mainframe systems were built. Today, businesses not only have to consider their carbon footprint and environmental impact in order to meet the increasing demands of government-mandated compliance, but they are important value metrics that help attract new customers, investors and even bring new talent into an organisation. Businesses that aren’t putting sustainability and ESG at the top of the agenda for 2022 are running the risk of putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

The good news is that many of the initiatives that can help a business reduce its carbon footprint are also effective for saving costs.

IT introduces automated processes that save businesses time and money, optimising workflows so that employees can spend their time on other activities that support the overall business objective. These include building relationships with new and existing clients, and coming up with more creative and innovative ways to solve operational problems. It allows organisations to use people for what they are best at, rather than leaving them bogged down in admin.

In sectors like field service management, using operative and journey management software can help optimise the time each individual is out on the road, helping them spend less time in the vehicle and more doing their jobs. This results in lower fuel costs and higher completion rates, which are better for the books and improve the business’s customer reputation too. The environmental benefit of optimised journeys is lower emissions, which are better for the planet and better for local communities. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Digital solutions exist for every aspect of business management and across every sector. They promote paper-less working, which reduces printing and paper costs for the business while also streamlining access and storage of multiple documents. Bulky and unwieldy files have been replaced by online documents that can be accessed in real time by colleagues working in different locations, letting everyone see the same ‘truth’ at any one time. There is no longer the risk that pages will be mislaid or that some people are mistakenly excluded from updates – it’s all there in the Cloud wherever and whenever it is needed.

In order to understand the environmental impact of an organisation, it must first be measured. The data collected using emissions software tools provide insight for where changes can make the most difference, with areas such as overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from building, travel and data centres, as well as policies for reusing and recycling being central elements. At Advanced we have undertaken our first ESG report, to share where we are now and the progress we are making in achieving our goals around sustainability.

Organisations need to look beyond their Scope 1 emissions, resulting from their own direct activities, and consider Scope 2 and 3 – indirect emissions from purchased energy and other indirect emissions. Migrating from a legacy mainframe to a Cloud-based technology solution can help reduce these harder to quantify indirect emissions. Legacy mainframes use considerable amounts of power to run and the data centres they are based in have other negative environmental impacts relating to energy consumption, such as air conditioning, and waste. By contrast Cloud architectures use a fraction of that energy demand for much greater workloads and many Cloud providers are seeking to source their energy from renewal sources, vastly reducing the overall carbon footprint of the provider and its customers.

At Advanced, we believe sustainability is wider than just carbon footprint. Our ESG report also looks at diversity within the organisation, as it is important that our workforce is representative and reflects the broad diversity of our customers and the industries they operate within. From a business point of view, a more diverse workforce has been shown to be more creative, innovative and prepared to challenge the status quo, leading to higher productivity and efficiency. Digital solutions are helping organisations like Advanced to increase diversity and thus improve our overall productivity, and it helps us attract and retain the best talent too.

We use technology at the hiring stage, with competence and aptitude tests instead of CVs in order to reduce unconscious bias in recruitment and help us identify true potential, ability and suitability. During the pandemic we, and millions of other businesses worldwide, used technology to successfully recruit and onboard new starters, some of whom were not able to enter the office for months because of lockdown. By having a strong sense of our own company culture, communicating this effectively with potential applicants and making sure that they shared our values via online tests, we now achieve a high retention rate, with less than 4% of hundreds of external hires leaving during the first six months last year. This saves us money and time in recruitment, plus it helps us build stability and consistency within our teams and is great for customer service too – people love to deal with the people they already know and trust.

The lessons learned during lockdown included the realisation that with the right IT in place, employees could work effectively and productively from home. This opened new talent pools for businesses prepared to develop and implement on-going remote working opportunities. Technology has enabled people who might previously have been excluded from the workplace for reasons such as geography, domestic commitments, disability or chronic illness, to be able to make a meaningful contribution to the world of work, becoming valuable assets for their employers. Culturally, businesses must be committed to encouraging diversity and discovering ‘hidden’ talent, but having the right IT solutions is what actually makes this policy workable and successful. Advanced has partnered with Astriid, a charity that links employers with people with chronic illness and disabilities, to match the right experience and talent to roles and organisations.

Having secured the right talent, technology plays an important role in retaining and developing those individuals. Online employee engagement tools became more important during lockdown, and all businesses can continue to use these to make sure everyone in the organisation feels that they have a voice and that they matter. Annual reviews are a thing of the past with new flexible and agile performance management software that helps establish a continuous, dynamic, two-way communication and feedback process. This helps employees feel more engaged in their own performance management and more able to make positive changes that help drive greater efficiency and productivity.

We recognise that our people are our greatest asset and we invest in employee-focused policies, utilising all the power of the latest technology to deliver many of these. Technology is the car, but our success is down to the people who drive it. It is our responsibility to help protect the planet for the sake of all its people, playing our part in a fully sustainable future for everyone.