Bird's eye view of a building with a tree and the sun in the corner.

Walking the Green talk

Sustainability is on everyone’s bucket list, but how do you implement sustainable practices into your business? Here is how T-Systems is doing it

May 09 2022Christian Till Roga

Rethinking together

In this day and age, I assume that all businesses have a focus on environmental sustainability and related activities already running — ranging from single initiatives to avoid wastage or plastic usage to all-hands-on-deck programs to save the environment.    

Getting started

Grüne Fußabdrücke auf den Stufen symbolisieren den Kohlenstoff-Fußabdruck.

But if a business had to start from scratch, what would they do? When it comes to drawing up a roadmap for T-Systems’ sustainability journey, I drew from within, initially. Father of two kids, spending maximum of leisure time outside in the nature, and seeing what we are doing to the world, it felt urgent and natural to change my personal behavior.  I was excited to then leverage the much larger potential that we  as a company have by reducing our operations’ footprint, enabling our clients to speed up their journey by changing their operations, and facilitating different, eco-friendly business models with our IT solutions.

While enabling our clients on their journey to become more sustainable seemed most rewarding, it felt mandatory to start with T-Systems first. Our advisory team from Detecon helped us understand T-Systems’ baseline and derive a clear commitment and action plan to net zero in own emissions by 2030 and in full scope by 2040. While working on this understanding of our own footprint, we already implemented some “no-regret” measures like avoiding usage of plastic wherever possible and joining the climate-neutral Datacenter Pact. It was important not to wait for the final numbers, but to just get started.

The set-up

From the very beginning, it was clear to us that this is nothing we can tackle with a central team driving and owning the change—but that we rather need a focused and lean small dedicated central team (I am talking of two people) working with a larger virtual team that is staffed from all functions of T-Systems. This way, we receive great ideas, ensure fast execution, and enable continuous ownership for sustainability in all parts of the organization. Plus we ensure that specific requirements and circumstances of the business areas and different local business units are respected.

Agile ways of working helped (and still do) to adapt to new learnings and ensure step-by-step results on this long journey. A centralized approach is needed to ensure common understanding and methodologies and to enable the team on the ground to execute along their intrinsic motivation. Plus, “supporting” the areas where intrinsic motivation is maybe not yet sufficient. Coming from a tradition where we used to tackle corporate challenges with a strong central setup, it is both a refreshing and good learning for other implementation projects.

The right levers

There are many levers and certainly great ideas on how to become “green” – but it is important to not get lost in the ocean of ideas and possibilities.

Based on our current footprint in Scope 1, 2, and 3 and in comparison to peer data, we identified not just the largest levers, but also the areas with fastest potential implementation or high visibility. This way, we were able to address the challenge holistically, while ensuring some fast results. Visibility was important to send a clear message about what we want to achieve. Based on the understanding of the levers, we took a commitment decision in our Board of Management and communicated accordingly across the organization—along with a general awareness communication to all employees to better understand our specific footprint and action plan going forward.

Client collaboration

The good news is that nobody is alone on this journey. We are in close contact with our clients on their sustainability journey. There are big similarities not only in the focus on this topic, but also around the challenges. For example, the current task to better understand and manage Scope 3 carbon emissions (along the value chain). We not only use the exchange and involve analysts and consultants to agree on assumptions and methodologies, but also jointly advance in topics like offsetting and the usage of new technologies. Co-innovation is a key approach towards jointly tackling the challenges that lie ahead.

Next big challenge

While we have covered some solid ground and are well under way to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions to net zero, I would name the understanding and management of Scope 3 emissions as the currently biggest joint challenge. It is not sufficient to just focus on the company’s own emissions and switch to green energy and alike. We need to make sure we understand — and manage — the end-to-end impact and focus on a true reduction along the value chain. This will only work as a joint effort along full ecosystems.

Employees as sustainability allies

Vier Kollegen, die sich unterhalten und lächeln.

It’s important to note that employees are what makes the company and therefore, having their buy-in is key to a successful sustainability strategy execution. Acceptance, even the willingness for change along sustainable goals, is big. However, I sometimes see a tendency to “wait for a central decision”. In a company that has rules and processes, people tend to follow these — and wait for them to be changed accordingly. We put a high focus on awareness and understanding, like using gamification in trainings around sustainability and integrated communities to listen very carefully to what employees tell us and react to their ideas and input, while trying to drive fast and visible change in our daily operations. I am impressed how our international units for example in Brazil, Hungary and Spain are driving change in their units.

Positive results

Our efforts are already bearing fruit. I am motivated by what we can do for the world—by reducing our own footprint and also by enabling a much larger positive impact by helping our clients to achieve their sustainability goals. We have come a long way in understanding and reducing our carbon footprint, and already have great examples about how we enable our clients’ journeys. For example, we leveraged our digitalization expertise to enable sustainable water management in Germany’s Diepholz district via an IoT solution. We also helped the Spanish city of Gijón to be become a smart city with intelligent lighting management, through which they are achieving optimized resource utilization. A social sustainability project based on Open Telekom Cloud, Telekom's public cloud offering, is also gaining ground. We also helped a Chinese megacity reduce its CO₂ emissions by more than five megatons per year. These, and many other examples, depict our commitment to the environment.

What I am most proud of is how the virtual sustainability team drives this—constantly learning, encompassing the full organization, having our clients in focus and achieving tangible results.

T-Systems’ outlook

We will continue to relentlessly reduce T-Systems’ footprint, end-to-end. This will not just mean a better understanding and holistic management of Scope 3 emissions, but also a focus on implementing the key actions around our own emissions. For example, our new policy for using only electric company cars will go live in May 2022.

In addition, we will boost our portfolio with a focus on our client enablement offerings. We have the unique chance to support our clients in their journeys with solutions that give them full transparency, help them select the right levers, and enable them to shift how they operate or even change entire parts of the business model towards a sustainable future.

And again, we have a strong people focus. We will not just continue to communicate and strongly involve our employees in this journey, but also share the great results we have achieved so far as a motivating basis to push forward to a greater goal.

I would be happy to hear your thoughts about incorporating sustainability into personal and professional realms. Write to me at Christian.Roga@t-systems.com.

About the author
Christian Till Roga

Christian Till Roga

SVP Global Portfolio Excellence, T-Systems International GmbH

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