It’s hard to conceive how a professional services company with over $40 billion in revenues and 506,000 employees, operating in more than 120 countries can be viewed as an innovative leader in sustainable business practices. The good news is that Dublin, Ireland based Accenture fits the sustainability leader bill on several levels.
Accenture began as the business and technology consulting division of the accounting firm Arthur Anderson – back in the early 1950s. They started by conducting a feasibility study for General Electric around the installation of a UNIVAC computer in Kentucky. This is believed to be the first commercial use of a computer in the United States. Anderson Consulting split from Arthur Anderson in 1989 and became Accenture in 2001.
Today Accenture provides a broad range of services in strategy and consulting, interactive, technology and operations with digital capabilities across all these services. They also have a dedicated sustainability services practice.
Fast forward to 2020 and the company’s recent enhanced commitment to sustainability. In October the company announced three industry-leading goals:
• Achieve net-zero emissions by 2025. Accenture will make actual reductions in emissions by powering offices with 100% renewable energy, engaging key suppliers to reduce their emissions and equipping Accenture’s people will be making climate-smart travel decisions. To address remaining emissions, the company will invest in proprietary, nature-based carbon removal solutions, such as large-scale tree planting, that will directly remove emissions from the atmosphere.
• Move to zero waste. By 2025, Accenture will reuse or recycle 100% of e-waste, such as computers and servers, as well all office furniture; and will eliminate single-use plastics in all locations at the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Plan for water risk. Accenture will develop plans for their facilities to reduce the impact of flooding, drought and water scarcity in high-risk areas by 2025; and will measure and reduce water use in these locations.
These goals build on Accenture’s ongoing efforts to reduce their environmental impact. Efforts include their signing of the UN Global Compact’s Business Ambition for 1.5° Pledge, reducing their emissions in line with their existing science-based targets and a commitment to RE 100’s global initiative to use 100% renewable electricity by 2023.
“This is the moment for business, government and society to come together to reimagine, rebuild and transform our global economy into one that works for the benefit of all,” said Julie Sweet, Accenture’s Chief Executive Officer.
“Today’s rapid acceleration to digital presents us with a breakthrough opportunity to create a more sustainable future. By scaling these ambitions, we can help make real change and deliver 360-degree value for all” Sweet observed.
Sustainability Thought Leadership
The company has been active in providing thought leadership around the benefits of sustainability. In September they issued “The Green Behind the Cloud” report which detailed the benefits of sustainability initiatives. This report details how cloud migration can reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 60 million tons a year – which equates to taking 22 million cars off the road.
The report was based on their experiences supporting sustainable cloud migrations for hundreds of clients globally. Accenture contends that cloud migrations can unlock new opportunities like clean energy transitions enabled by cloud-based geographic analyses, material waste reductions from better data insights, and targeted medical R&D as a result of faster analytics platforms.
Accenture Sustainability Services
Accenture also helps their clients improve business performance by providing sustainability advice, support and solutions. The company provides the following sustainability-related services:
- Sustainability Strategy: helps clients to develop robust sustainability strategies that support growth, enhance brand reputation and increase productivity.
- Sustainability Operational Excellence: Empowers clients to use analytic solutions that help them better respond to consumer-driven sustainable behavior challenges and opportunities.
- Energy and Resource Optimization: Allows our clients to do more with less by improving resource utilization and reducing emissions, waste, water and energy consumption.
- Intelligent Infrastructure and Cities: Helps clients solve complex infrastructure challenge – across construction, transportation and services by enhancing energy efficiency reducing emissions and maximizing technology and mobility opportunities.
Appointment of Chief Responsibility Officer
Seeking to better the sustainability efforts of its industry rivals, Accenture recently appointed Peter Lacy to be their first Chief Responsibility Officer. He will also function as their Global Sustainability Services lead effective 1 December 2020.
Reflecting on his appointment to this new position, Lacy remarked “I am delighted to be overseeing the integration of sustainability and responsibility into all our client services as well as our operations.”
Lacy had previously been leader of Accenture Strategy in Europe, and Sustainability globally. He has decades of industry experience advising senior leaders of companies and public organizations on strategy development, digital transformation, innovation and sustainable growth having worked previously at McKinsey & Company and as a Strategy Consultant with Anderson Consulting.
Lacy is co-author of “The Circular Economy Handbook” (along with Jessica Long and Wesley Spindler). The book explains how the “circular economy” offers a powerful means to decouple growth from use of scare and harmful resources – enabling greater production and consumption with fewer negative environmental impacts. The book further suggests that adopting a circular economic approach can offer companies the chance to be more innovative and competitive. In fact, the book show that $4.5 trillion in economic value is at stake.
Lacy will work closely with clients and ecosystem partners to help transition industries to low-carbon energy, reduce the carbon footprint of IT operations, cloud and software, design and delivery of net-zero along with circular supply chains, embed sustainable practices and reskill workforces.
Accenture is a company that is “talking the talk” of sustainable business practices with its impressive thought leadership efforts and business consulting practice, and of equal or greater importance is their effort to “walk the walk” when it comes to sustainability. They are a global consulting powerhouse that “dares to care” about sustainability.