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How to start your journey towards carbon neutrality

With the climate crisis worsening and public attitudes changing, sustainability has become an issue business leaders can’t ignore.

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john gladstone

John Gladstone

Lifecycle Solutions Lead

With the climate crisis worsening and public attitudes changing, sustainability has become an issue business leaders can’t ignore.

But starting your sustainability journey can feel like a challenge too great.

The reality is, making changes to minimise the negative impact your organisation has on the environment doesn’t mean cutting back or losing money.

At Softcat, we’ve proven this is a false mentality. As part of our journey to operate at carbon net-zero by 2040, our carbon emissions have already dropped 37 percent since 2016. And in this time, our recruitment (49 percent) and revenue (162 percent) have soared.

So, how can the IT industry follow suit?

Start small, aim big

Making big changes can be daunting – especially for businesses that have run the same way for years. But remember, change doesn’t happen overnight and it’s often a series of small, short-term changes that help you realise an ambitious goal.

At Softcat, our sustainability agenda includes a wide range of goals, from removing all single-use plastic cups and cutlery from our buildings, the migration to certified green energy across all locations, to our overall target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions across our organisation and supply chain by 2040.

Those taking the first steps on a journey towards carbon neutrality should begin with attainable short-term goals to drive down their carbon footprint. This embeds an eco-conscious mentality into the culture and helps to build momentum and support with ‘quick wins’.

This may include increasing recycling output, introduction of policies like hybrid working, and reviewing and selecting suppliers based on their green credentials.

These policies may seem far removed from the idea of becoming carbon net-zero, but each one marks the first steps towards a larger goal.

Set tangible targets (and measure them)

It’s not enough for organisations to merely aim to be ‘greener’. The key to real change is identifying and understanding the shortfalls and challenges within the business, and defining how to overcome them as a collective.

This gives you tangible goals to aim towards and holds everyone responsible for achieving them.

For example, Softcat’s main sustainability goal is to hit the government’s carbon net-zero target 10 years ahead of schedule – by 2040. This meant determining the main contributing factors to our existing carbon footprint, as well as the changes we can make to offset them.

Some of the measurable activities we’ve introduced across our regional offices include reducing business travel and commuting, migration of pool vehicles to electric models – including the installation of charging points at our offices – switching to renewable energy in all our buildings and reducing energy consumption, for example through motion-sensor office lighting.  

We track our progress by measuring these individual activities, plus their impact on our wider goals.

As a result, we’ve already achieved our first target of reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions – helping us on our way to net-zero carbon emissions.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Change on this scale doesn’t come from the boardroom alone. Every employee must understand their role in helping their organisation meet its sustainability targets.

At Softcat, to help secure employee buy-in to our eco goals, our ‘Green Team’ has been active for several years. Their daily tasks include communicating sustainability updates and working on the ground in the Softcat offices to make sure common environmental practices are rolled out across the board.

Softcat also have a ‘Green Week’ to highlight the importance of sustainability, encourage employees to educate themselves and participate in initiatives, and launch company updates.

Working through the chain

Our efforts aren’t just internally focused. As part of our commitment to sustainability, we work with our entire supply chain – including vendors and partners – to encourage sustainable changes.

Businesses truly committed to driving change will breed a culture that extends beyond the office and into every action and communication.

Firstly, organisations should conduct regular audits of their supply chain to make sure their partners share their environmental ambitions. They can then work with them to make sustainable changes, for example, agreeing on recycling initiatives and working together to reduce packaging.

At Softcat, we’ve introduced additional initiatives in collaboration with our vendors and customers to specifically limit the impact of IT on emissions. These include organising sustainable disposal/recycling or end of life support services to extend the life of existing equipment. Softcat are also concentrating on how to make the delivery of equipment more efficient.

We have also introduced an IT sustainability assessment services to help organisations get a full understanding of their emissions created from their own IT estates.

Wherever you are in your sustainability journey, taking just one small step can lead to a wave of industry-level change. Together we can protect our future.

Listen to the Sustainability in IT podcast episode to learn more about how the IT channel can contribute towards net-zero goals.

Listen to the Sustainability in IT podcast episode to learn more