ITD: Mr. Schultz, Earth Day on April 22 is the leitmotif for a wide range of activities related to a wide spectrum of environmental and climate protection. How is this day perceived in Germany? Is this common knowledge?
Torsten Schultz: The date is not yet as deeply rooted in collective consciousness as, for example, International Women’s Day. However, in the field of education and NGOs it already plays an important role and will continue to grow in importance as a result. For example, schools use it for activities such as project weeks, while NGOs use it to communicate the topic of “sustainable development” intensively. And for companies, Earth Day is an ideal opportunity to further raise awareness about “Sustainable Development in IT”.
ITD: To what extent are German companies aware of Earth Day and plan appropriate actions?
Schultz: Earth Day is also becoming more and more famous in Germany and is becoming more and more important for German companies. But still there is no wide movement, but rather individual actions of people or groups. In addition, there are companies that operate globally, in which, for example, employee groups – we use the English term “Employee Resource Groups (ERG)” – carry out various activities during the day.
ITD: How much was your own company involved in this year’s Earth Day?
Schultz: Traditionally, we like to use the event to convey valuable knowledge to our employees and further sensitize them about them. Especially on April 22, we organized the worldwide “Earth Day Summons”. These are internal virtual events that we invite external speakers such as renowned behaviorist Jane Goodall to share their extensive experience. In addition, shortly before this year’s Earth Day, we launched a new asset recovery service for business customers. It helps companies to operate their equipment fleet more sustainably, extends the life cycle of the equipment and simplifies its recycling.
ITD: Mr. Lippmann, climate protection, the reduction of CO2 emissions and the sustainable orientation of the supply chain are becoming increasingly important in the IT industry. What tools and solutions can companies use to measure their own carbon footprint?
Emmanuel Lippmann: We offer our clients and partners the measurement of the CO2 footprint per device, which is determined using the so-called MIT’s PAIA methods. This means that, on request, we can also create CO2 reports for all IT purchased from us. This enables the IT manager to integrate all devices into his company’s climate strategy.
ITD: What are the first steps to tackle the topic of “sustainability” in your company so that digitization does not become an accelerator of climate change?
Lippman: If we reduce the issue of “sustainability” only to climate protection, then a reliable inventory of the burdens generated by each company is necessary. This starts with the data center and can make its consolidation, virtualization, or integration into the cloud make sense. In addition, it is also about the topic of sustainable reusable customers, and how many hours of traffic jams and air travel can be replaced by video conferences. The credo is: Ideally, emissions should be completely avoided or at least reduced. Ideally, what remains is compensated for. Recycling and renovation services can also support this in the sense of a circular economy.
ITD: What are the biggest challenges and obstacles here?
Lippman: While preliminary methodology and reporting standards already exist which make many different activities comparable and transparent, there is still a need for further optimization. We must not be allowed to slow down by persistent objections or prejudices, or by superficial – and mostly false – arguments about cost. Change is necessary, but we all know that it must be mediated in order to overcome latent resistance. Clear, understandable facts help tremendously.
ITD: However, sustainability relates not only to environmental aspects, but also to dealing with employees. How can companies “take their employees with them” when implementing sustainability initiatives and convey their visions to them or integrate the team into the company in the long term?
Schultz: After all, many initiatives and ideas come from employees. The company itself should integrate them into a balanced overall concept and create the appropriate freedom for this. Above all, the principle of a role model applies. If sustainability is not credibly and consistently portrayed by top management, all program initiatives and measures remain groundless.
ITD: What role does the theme “home office” play in the context of sustainable development measures?
Lippman: This can help, especially by shortening the travel distance. In addition, the home office offering has other positive side effects, such as higher employee motivation and a better work-life balance. In any case, IT support is important. It will only be used if networks, servers and clients optimally support working from home and if employees are not slowed down by lack of access to data and applications. On the other hand, inadequate equipment or poor support make it unattractive.
ITD: Ultimately, what impact does the company’s approach to the topic of “sustainability” have on customers, partners and the rest of society?
Lippman: Every company needs to be aware of its social responsibility and the signal it sends. We manufacture over two devices per second worldwide, plus over 130,000 employees and thousands of suppliers and partners. In this way, our environmental initiatives penetrate society, create local added value and thus increase our attractiveness as an employer.
ITD: What is your advice to companies in 2022 that have yet to think about sustainable development strategies?
Lippman: Begin! And now! Closing your eyes to it would be fatal for the future of any company. The pressure to produce and manage in a sustainable manner is increasing. It comes from all sides – from the legislator, from investors, from partners, from employees and finally from those who might want to stay one day. From this point of view, sustainable development is a matter of survival in two senses.