It's not every day you get to rock-up to the BAFTA's for a Summit & Awards (in fact, this was the ONLY time I've been allowed into the BAFTA building 😅), but yesterday was one of those days!
The EcoSend platform may just be shy of its first birthday, but we were delighted to be invited to CRN's inaugural 'Sustainability in Tech' Summit on Thursday 8th February.
Better still, it was a real honour to be nominated for the Summit's 'Green Product of the Year' Award, amongst household names in the software industry like Lenovo and Dell.
And so James and I donned our tuxedos, I mean, causal business attire (it was a day-time summit after all…), and grabbed the opportunity to mingle with thought-leaders in the Tech Sustainability space, and listen to CRN's impressive line-up of speakers.
The Sustainability in Tech Summit was created by CRN UK to address the climate-emergency and in particular, the need to decarbonise the IT supply chain.
A sobering statistic is that the emissions of the digital industry are on a par with the airline industry, so the need for innovation and change is immediate.
The climate-emergency presents both challenge and opportunity, and CRN's all-star list of speakers delved into the details for both.
Acronyms to Action: The future of carbon
The Summit kicked off with a keynote from Stephen Finnegan from arete zero carbon.
Stephen is a leading voice for businesses on the road to zero carbon, and he started his keynote by delving into the increasing complexity for businesses to report on their Sustainability efforts.
Once upon a time businesses only needed to report on their Carbon Reduction Commitments and Energy Savings Opportunities. Nowadays, businesses are faced with a dizzying laundry-list of acronyms to report on.
Stephen highlighted the importance of IT businesses to focus on the carbon impact of their Supply Chain.
Supply chain emissions form part of a businesses 'Scope 3' Emissions of the GreenHouse Gas Protocol.
As Stephen explained, Scopes 1 & 2 are very much just the tip of the iceberg; it's Scope 3 where the real bulk lies.
Stephen used the somewhat terrifying example of Apple's AirPods.
150 million of which have been produced to-date, with a production supply chain beginning with sourcing Lithium and Cobalt in Chile, Australia, and the DRC.
The resources are then driven and shipped to processing plans in Vietnam in China.
Once manufactured, the parts are flown to Kentucky, USA - before being finally distributed as AirPods across multiple countries.
If you think of the emissions of each of those journeys, and the sheer scale and number of it all, it quickly becomes evident just how much change is needed. Not to mention the known human-misery cost of Cobalt mining in the DRC.
But, Stephen did round off his keynote with a strong sense of optimism. Though the challenge we may face is pressing, Stephen noted he has seen businesses make more effort in the past two years towards carbon zero, than the previous twenty years combined.
And as a man with more than 25 years experience in this sector, I think we can take his word for it!
Elevating Sustainability: Catalysts for Accelerating the Transition through Collaboration and Responsible Ecosystems
Virginie and Richard discussed the need for IT leaders to collaborate better with their suppliers, in order to bring around positive change to Scope 3 emissions.
Supplier relations can often be minimal at best, but building on these is crucial to encouraging IT suppliers to review and improve their processes.
And taking it a step further, why should forward-thinking IT leaders not collaborate better with their competitors too?
It might seem counter-intuitive, especially to all of us indoctrinated to the idea of zero-sum business competition...
But what's really at stake here? The planet!
If both we and our competitors improve our Sustainability credentials, resulting in a better planet for the future, is anyone really losing?!
Balancing environmental urgency and economic pragmatism
After a networking break we returned with a another fireside chat between Roger Whittle, Founder & CEO at Jigsaw24 and Sara Yirrell, Consulting Editor at The Channel Company.
Roger is another veteran of the IT sector, founding Jigsaw24 all the way back in 1992(!).
With his unique blend of humour and enthusiasm, Roger highlighted how the current economic climate presents a significant challenge to progress in the Sustainability sector.
The rise in borrowing rates means IT businesses are being pressured to make concessions, and it is often Sustainability efforts which bear the brunt, as they are not deemed crucial to bottom-line metrics.
But as Roger made effort to point out, even with our 'Capitalist hats-on' there is great opportunity from going Green.
Creating holistic businesses, which combine both financial and environmental objectives not only creates new business opportunities, but can also:
Boost team moral and performance.
Attract and retain the next generation of talent.
Not to mention of course, reducing human-misery and preserving the world for future generations!
Combining financial and environmental goals is something we've seen many of our guests on The EcoSend Podcast do to great effect.
And we've certainly seen a wealth of innovation spring out from it, such as Dirk Eschenbacher's seaweed T-shirts!
Despite his enthusiasm and optimism, Roger did also make effort to underline the scale of the challenge we face.
Fossil Fuel lobbies are incredibly powerful, and we've seen that influence evidently spread into the COP Events - most recently held in the United Arab Emirates, and the next scheduled to be hosted in Azerbaijan... Both countries which rely heavily on the fossil fuel economy.
Roger also stated that, although tree-planting efforts are important, we simply "cannot plant our way out of this”.
We need to focus first and foremost on decarbonising our supply chains, and also planting trees. But not just continuing our current processes and planting trees in an effort to 'offset our sins'.
Roger's concluding point was that making impactful change will rely on a combination of carrot and stick motivation. With the stick motivation likely coming from Tax penalties for suppliers and vendors who do not meet Sustainability standards.
Let's Amplify our Impact together and Sustainable Laughter
Roger's take was followed by a presentation from Isabella Phoenix, Director of HP's Global Channel Sustainability Strategy & Enablement. Isabella discussed how Sustainability has been a core principle ever since HP was founded by Bill Hewlett and David Packard in a garage back in 1939.
Isabella shared how Amplify Impact, the recognised leading and award-winning channel sustainability programme is educating and empowering +3900 HP partners, in over 48 countries to maximise both sustainable impact and sales.
We then enjoyed a unique session, and a personal first at a conference, with comedian and environmental researcher, Dr. Matt Winning.
Talking about climate-change can get a bad rep. And it's understandable.
People lead difficult, stressful lives, and oftentimes the last thing they want to hear is about the climate-emergency. Especially when typical approaches to talking about the climate often resort to 'doom & gloom' language.
Matt's session playfully flipped the script on the traditional way of talking about climate.
Matt blended his humour with facts, to communicate in a way which gets past those traditional defences.
Matt managed to cover everything from Busted songs (hands-up if you remember them!), Nando's Peri-Peri, Peppa Pig, and even the shrinking of British crisps - all related to facts around climate change.
I walked away from Matt's session with both hurting sides from all the laughter, but also a far better understanding of the scale and details of the climate challenge.
Panel discussion: Sustainable Synergy: Unveiling End User Expectations in a Green Partnership
Our final panel discussion was hosted by Jenny Latimer, Head of Alliances & Operations at Highgate IT Solutions, and featured the following speakers:
Rich Kenny, Managing Director at Interact
David Wilde Managing Director at Dwilde Consulting
Ania Abbott Decade of Change and Engagement Manager at Gatwick Airport
Jenny led a great selection of questions as the expert panel gave their insights into fostering green partnerships.
The panel not only discussed where the biggest blockers to Sustainability lie among vendors, distributors, and resellers, but also the positives of where organisations are getting it right.
David Wilde for example, talked about progress in the North Sea Transition from fossil fuels, Rich Kenny talked about the nascent progress in circular economy and Ania Abbot described London Gatwick's creation of a STEM research centre.
The most striking point I took from the discssion however was Rich's point that we must move away from a discussion about carbon metrics, which seem somewhat abstract and can be easily dismissed. And instead focus on climate-related human misery to help galvanise positive action.
After all, it's much easier to quibble over stats and kg's of carbon than it is over caustic burns on a six year old child, mining for Cobalt in the DRC.
Tomorrows World and the Nature of change
We rounded off a wonderful afternoon of speakers with a presentation from former 'Tomorrow’s World' and naturalist presenter, Philippa Forrester.
Philippa gave a fascinating talk about her work with wolves in Yellowstone Park, and related this to the importance of narrative.
Telling great stories is 22 times more likely to motivate people to change than just giving them facts. Which is something we often get wrong when talking about the climate.
So weave those facts into stories, and you'll go much farther!
CRN Sustainability in Tech Awards 🏆
We concluded a wonderful Summit with CRN's Sustainability in Tech Awards. We were delighted to see EcoSend nominated for 'Green Product of the Year', which unfortunately we didn't win - but the prize went deservedly to Lenovo. Congratulations to them, and to all the rest of the winners!
And also a big thank to our client The Channel Company EMEA, and CRN UK for hosting such a wonderful event.
I came away from it brimming with better knowledge about the climate-challenge, and what IT Companies need to do to address it.
Summits like this are so important for businesses to better understand the challenges we face, and how to adapt to them if we are going to preserve the planet for future generations.
The facts are sobering, but the energy in the air felt optimistic.
We have a lot of work ahead. But with enough good people working determinedly to fix things, we might just have a chance.
Thank you for reading!