Capgemini's Top 5 Lessons for Implementing a Sustainability Program

Capgemini's Top 5 Lessons for Implementing a Sustainability Program

Sustainability is no longer a fringe activity, according to Jon Hampson, environment director of Capgemini's U.K. business unit.

Instead, it has become a mainstream commercial reality. The global low carbon good and services sector employs millions of people and generates trillions of dollars in revenue. At the same time, investor activity keeps growing and regulatory activity is heating up in the U.K. The nation's carbon tax, for example, will cost businesses 12£ for every ton of greenhouse gases they emit next year. 

"We predict that will cost us roughly 350,000£ in the first year," Hampson explained. "In U.S. dollars equivalent, that is $570,000 a year. That may not sound like a big deal, but when you operate with the margins we have, that means we need to sell $8 million worth of work to make up that loss in terms of the bottom line."

As a result of these significant drivers, the firm has implemented a broad sustainability program that now stretches up to its Board's Ethics and Governance Committee. In a webcast Wednesday, Hampson shared five key lessons he and his company learned along the way.

"When thinking about these five lessons, I've focused on the things I wished I'd know at the beginning of the program when we started," Hampson said. "To be honest, it was a bit of a challenge to keep it at five ... They don't follow a step-by-step methodology. Assuming every organization will have its own way of doing things, I think they are broadly applicable."

1. Focus on What Matters

When Capgemini first started down this path, it needed to understand the main environmental impacts on its business. Some people automatically thought a few visible issues, such as recycling and paper use, would generate significant impacts, but further analysis revealed the electricity use in its data centers represented the largest slice of its U.K. carbon footprint. Prioritizing impacts led to five clear areas to focus its efforts.

2. Build the Business Case, and Continually Refresh It

Sustainability carries with it several benefits, Hampson said. It provides access to resources, such as raw materials and talent, and to markets, in the form of new business, license to operate and supplier expertise. From an operational perspective, improved efficiency has a direct impact on the bottom line. Even though regulation is moving more quickly in some areas, businesses shouldn't wait, lest they miss out on potential business opportunities.

3. Leverage Final Processes Baseline Early and Manage Expectations

Get the finance department involved and leverage the processes and systems that have been developed there to overcome data challenges. Treat carbon as you would money, and make sure your chief financial officer is up to speed. "We found that a lot of the data you need to do this stuff is within the CFO's empire," Hampson said.

4. Integrate and Hold Your Nerve

This is about business transformation, Hampson said, so change processes, but don't want to create parallel ones, Hampson said. "You can't know everything." Don't forget to engage experts, employees and suppliers, but remember everyone has an opinion -- for a while.

5. Make Your Reporting Count

The external reporting done for stakeholders should only be the tip of the iceberg; internal reporting can also generate actionable insight. Make sure whatever information is gathered and disseminated is tailored to be the most relevant and material for your specific audience.

An informal poll of those attending webinar showed Hampson's second lesson -- Build the Business Case, and Continually Refresh It -- was the most relevant for nearly 37 percent of audience, followed by the first tip: Focus on What Matters.

Paul Baier, vice president of sustainability consulting at Groom Energy and a senior contributor, moderated the panel and offered his own list of five drivers he's seeing in the marketplace for corporate investment in sustainability programs and reporting.

Joining Hampson and Baier was Duncan Bradford, vice president of engineering services and principal architect of CA ecoSoftware. Bradford presented five vendor-neutral best practices for implementing sustainability software.

The free, 60-minute webcast is available for download at