Sustainable IT could change the way we work – and slash an organisation’s emissions and costs

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

Home » Reinventing the workplace

Published: 6 March 2020

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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This article first appeared in our Consumer Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 06 March 2020. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

More than 100 million users across 400,000 organisations – including 99% of the Fortune 500 – use Citrix, a digital workspace platform, to increase productivity, detect security threats and keep everything running smoothly on the IT front.

Citrix is helping these companies to be agile and open to new possibilities. It has a lot of clout when it comes to steering businesses towards a more efficient future – and now Citrix is using its expertise and influence to build sustainability into their operations.

Putting the ‘E’ in ESG

Anthropogenic interference has already caused 1.0°C global warming above pre-industrial levels; extreme weather is one of the many consequences and it’s beginning to affect us all. Citrix staff are evacuating the global HQ in Florida more regularly and the severity of hurricanes in Puerto Rico and wildfires in Australia and California are all having an impact on Citrix employees, partners and customers.

From a global citizenship perspective, Citrix’s executive management has been engaged in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) for some time. However, beyond the basics the company acknowledges a lag in the thinking around the ‘E’ – or environmental – elements.

Michelle Senecal De Fonseca, Citrix’s Area Vice President, Northern Europe, has recognised the need to do more to accelerate learnings and governance.

Inspiring 100 million

As the European executive who leads Citrix’s business in the UK and Ireland as well as across the Nordics and Baltics, Michelle’s team works in countries where sustainability awareness is already high.

‘Learning from the practices and programmes of our clients and supplier base, my management team has accelerated its thinking around how we, as business leaders, can reduce our carbon footprint,’ Michelle tells us.

Michelle’s team is making maximum use of standard practices such as video conferencing to lower travel emissions, taking the electric taxis at the ranks in the Nordics and avoiding single-use plastic and coffee cups.

More innovative practices, such as only reimbursing business meal receipts for non-meat meals, were considered too extreme.

‘While all our personal actions are important and contribute over time, we knew their impacts would be limited’, Michelle explains. ‘What we struggled to understand was how we could involve over 100 million customers in our efforts.’

IT and emissions

UK-based Justin Sutton-Parker is Partner Director, Northern Europe and a member of Michelle’s team; he is completing his PhD in Computer Science, focusing on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through enablers such as IT.

Through a series of tutorials, Justin shared the science around the greenhouse gas emissions from IT; collectively, a forest the size of Canada and Greenland combined would be required to sequester the pollution generated by the industry.

In order to scale its impact, Michelle realised Citrix would need to address its wider industry practices. ‘Essentially, we learned that what Citrix delivers to its customers can be a sustainability solution in and of itself’, Michelle tells us.

Changing the way we work

Organisations tend to issue standard PCs; they often require employees to be in the office daily to access them and then manage their organisation’s data and applications in their own data centres.

The CO2 emissions related to the IT and business commuting of a typical 1,000-employee organisation operating this way is equivalent to 277 cars’ annual emissions.

Citrix cloud technologies offer an alternative: they allow users to work securely, anywhere and from any device. Working from home means lower commuting emissions, and the freedom to choose a device provides an opportunity to select devices that consume less energy.

At the same time cloud technology can shift on-premises data centres to efficient cloud data centres that are powered by renewable energy. Decoupling the workspace from the PC, laptop or tablet also helps devices to last longer as they don’t need to keep pace with application upgrades.

The impact of sustainable IT

Boundless device choice allows users to choose a device that is sometimes as much as 90% more energy efficient than a standard PC – such as a Microsoft Windows 10 session on a Google Chromebook or Apple laptop via secure internet technologies.

If the devices require less computing capacity to keep pace with changing applications, users can also extend the product’s useful lifespan by two years. Not disposing of the device prematurely reduces embodied end-user computing device emissions by almost 40% annually.

Being able to work securely – from anywhere – using Citrix Cloud services promotes flexible working. By allowing employees to work remotely from home for just two days per week, an organisation’s employee commuting emissions could be reduced by up to 40%.

Citrix’s cloud workspaces reside and operate in data centres that are 44% more energy efficient than an industry average on-premises data centre, and they are powered by 100% renewable energy.

Effectively, a customer shifting to sustainable data centre practices can reduce emissions related to energy consumption by 100% and experience no increase in supply chain related emissions.

If the typical 1,000-user organisation used Citrix Cloud services and deployed the flexible work practices described, the CO2 emissions removed from the atmosphere would be equivalent to taking 120 cars off the road.

731 fewer acres of forest would be needed to sequester the pollution – meaning one mid-sized company’s IT actions could be equivalent to covering an area half the size of Gibraltar with trees.

Realising a sustainable workplace

All businesses will need to define new ways of working to achieve sustainable living and growth.
While they won’t all adopt every sustainable IT practice, the goal at Citrix is to start the conversation and encourage organisations to operationalise as much as they can. In 2020, Citrix is investing time, money and effort to bring this sustainability thought leadership to life.

‘Currently, my sales, engineering, channel and marketing teams in Northern Europe are being trained on the science and the impact of sustainable workspaces in order to help them take the message to existing and new customers’, Michelle tells us. ‘Yes, this is a marketing message – but the research supporting it validates the environmental gains.’

Early indications suggest that customers agree with Citrix’s approach, and several are already adopting the model. As with any new concept, however, there will be barriers to adoption.

People, planet and profit

A recent and extensive study undertaken by Citrix highlights that 96% of managers and executives in the UK’s service sector agree that sustainable IT is a necessity to abate greenhouse gas emissions – yet the same group noted 48% of sustainable strategies were prevented by lack of budget and 33% by time.

The barriers to achieving sustainability reflect directly back to the authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development: John Elkington’s triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Unless each tip of the triangle is addressed, the world ends up in a perpetual loop of inactivity.

Self-funding strategies

Citrix technologies have always been geared around improving productivity – the ‘people’ aspect of time. Using its new sustainability strategy, Citrix can now address ‘profit’ by showing customers that sustainable strategies can become self-funding.

The cost savings delivered by lowered energy consumption – plus lowered device costs – can offset the initial investment required to introduce sustainability strategies.

With two barriers dispelled – or at least put into the context of a business plan – the Citrix community can importantly address the ‘planet’ aspect of the triple bottom line through quantifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainability for the FTSE250

To help customers on that specific journey, Citrix is funding independent sustainability experts to measure some of its customers’ IT and commuting carbon footprints. The focus is currently on the largest organisations, which are capable of delivering the highest environmental impact.

Citrix is engaging with the FTSE250, the public sector and large companies across the Nordics to create a baseline financial justification and potential abatement measures to outline why they should adopt the vision.

‘Together, our 2020 goal is to transform 65,000 users in Northern Europe towards sustainable work styles’, Michelle tells us. ‘By the end of the year, we hope to have helped remove the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 10,000 cars – equal to driving over one million miles – by reducing IT, commuting and device disposal emissions. Doing so would mean that the world needs almost 50,000 fewer acres of forest to sequester our community’s pollution – that’s 25,000 football pitches!’

Driving a greater purpose

As the model gains pace, Citrix will extend it beyond Northern Europe and act as a spearhead to encourage international operations to scale globally. Citrix believes its approach will support at least nine of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including health, the environment and partnerships.

Without partnership in all its forms, climate change will not be averted or slowed.

‘It is our desire that the people in our IT community and our customers will seek us out to discuss this concept, so that in partnership we can combine people, planet and profit to drive a greater purpose’, Michelle explains. ‘In doing so, we will ensure our actions today underpin the fundamentals of sustainability by not limiting the range of economic, social and environmental options open to future generations.’

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