When we talk about the climate crisis, we’re not discussing events that will unfold in several years’ time – we’re talking about now. It’s the responsibility of organisations to ensure a greener present and future and, while many leaders worry about the challenges of such a transformation, there are plenty of benefits that taking action will bring.
To explore these outcomes in further detail, leaders from technology companies across the world have shared their experiences and stories of working toward a greener world. If you haven't already, read my previous blog, featuring quotes from some of these contributors, here.
In the UK, N2S work to recycle and reuse technological equipment to reduce the burden on the earth’s natural resources. In recent years, their Executive Chairman, Andy Gomarsall MBE, has seen greater interest in the work and believes that organisations’ reputations will suffer if they aren’t serious about the climate. He explains: “Where we’re getting materials from is at the heart of every discussion now, and it should be. And if it's not, you don't want to be working with those companies. I think the really big overarching point is that if your company isn't taking this seriously, your share price is going to go down. You're not going to find any staff and so you're just not going to exist.”
Linian Li is GM for the Greater China region at Modern Water, a company that offers services and technologies for monitoring pollution in water. Li agrees with Gomarsall, and thinks that it’s not just the opinions of employees and partners that will matter: “The change of corporate image has become an important factor in opening up product sales, and environmentally friendly products are more favoured by consumers.
“The recycling of resources also greatly reduces the production cost of the enterprise…In the past, organisations generally believed that investment in environmental costs was an important factor affecting corporate profits.”
ESUS Mobility was one of the startups recognised in the CleanTech and Industry Challenge categories at the Super Connect for Good competition in 2021. Operating in Valencia, Spain, the company produces electric scooters and vehicles for deliveries, last-mile journeys and more. As such, it’s vital that it can promote these products as a viable alternative. William Venturim, CEO, summarises the challenge: “How are we going to convince these companies, which work with vehicles that are sometimes 10-20 years old, to switch to ours? That now there is a better way, that can be more optimal, means fewer costs and can be more environmentally friendly.”
For Venturim, the solution is simple: “If you can prove that sustainability is cheaper, everybody becomes environmentally friendly!”
iChoosr started 14 years ago in the Netherlands and Belgium, and now does business in the UK, US and Japan. It organises group-buying for sustainable technologies such as solar panels, ensuring that hundreds of thousands of people can access equipment such as this easily and at a cheaper rate.
This means not only connecting directly with individual consumers, but communities too. Irsan Widarto, the company’s CTO, explains: “In our case, we have these extra stakeholders, which are these community leaders, such as the Greater London Authority in the UK or the Homeowners Association in the Netherlands. They partner with us because we have the story of sustainability. We cannot greenwash, because then we would lose the trust of these NGOs and even governments. That would be as big a problem as losing customers.”
From speaking to these tech leaders, it’s clear that greenwashing is a concern. The term refers to an organisation’s practice of misleading consumers and partners on its dedication to being environmentally friendly.
It's something that Gomarsall also feels very strongly about: “I have a wry smile every time I see certain companies talking and advertising how green they are. It’s the sensitivity of marketing, isn't it? Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!
“In the tech sector there’s an element I call, ‘See no evil, hear no evil’ - and that's just pure blissful ignorance. It's: ‘I don't want to listen to you, Andy, because I know it's bad, but don't ruin it for me’.”
Having worked at iChoosr for five years, Widarto’s advice is clear: “Don't do any greenwashing. Make it clear that, ‘Hey, we're not there yet’ - that's fine. I think that's much better than not telling a story or telling the wrong story.
“There's a lot of big companies struggling with this because they don't have a good story yet and then they're basically making up stories. I have two kids, aged 22 and 19 - they can see right through it. They don't buy it. I might fall for that trap, but they don't. This is the generation that's going to suffer most for what we did and what our predecessors did. We are sometimes blind to this, but that's not the case for the younger generation.”
It’s obvious to Widarto that organisations must promote their green credentials when hiring new workers, particularly with those entering the workforce at a young age. He explains: “There's a shift happening. I especially see it with the younger generations, and that they think work should fit their life and their goals in life. Just in my case when hiring a developer, I can tell them that they have to work 40 hours a week and I pay good money - that's not enough, they can take that job anywhere.
“A lot of people that work at iChoosr have this passion for sustainability. You know how competitive the IT market is overall in Europe – it’s hard for me to get developers. The extra thing we offer is that, if we are successful, then it’s very likely we are helping consumers to be more sustainable and that in the end will help make the world a better place.”
This isn’t just speculative. Widarto points to iChoosr’s relationship with the AP University of Applied Sciences and Arts Antwerp, where students contact him regularly to request a traineeship or placement as a rest of the company’s values. As a result, he takes on at least two people from the university each year.
Gomarsall expands on this, with a warning to organisations who fail to prioritise sustainability: “The next generation are growing up in a green revolution. There's a context of climate change happening in the school curriculum. They're going to be the ones sat down in front of your organisation and they are going to be asking you at point blank range: ‘What are your sustainability goals? What are your targets? Why should I join your company, and what are you doing to save our planet?’”
Hiring such an enthusiastic workforce pays off, too. Li gives an example from her own organisation, where one employee proposed a partnership that benefitted everyone: “Modern Water China takes sustainability as one of employees’ assessment indicators and we are open to employees for any good ideas about public benefit and environmental protection activities, to which young employees really pay attention. Only a few years ago our application engineer, Jie Li, introduced us to MyH2O, a Chinese NGO dedicated to improving drinking water quality in rural regions of China. He had been a volunteer for this NGO during his time at university.”
Li warns that organisations shouldn’t try to implement a quick fix when tackling the climate crisis: “Business leaders must have a clearly identified vision and set of values, successfully embedding sustainable business strategy and practices across their operations to transform the organization towards a sustainable future.”
It’s also important to remember that passion doesn’t always directly equate to expertise, even if you or your staff are keen to take responsibility. What can leaders do to gain knowledge, and how can they encourage their workforce to do similarly?
Gomarsall offers insight into his own story: “We are so fortunate in this generation that you can just go on the internet and learn. I spend most of my time on LinkedIn just passing on information, educating and sharing some of the stories that shocked me. So first and foremost: go learn and understand. That doesn't mean to say you have to be an expert, but just know and understand it.”
It's only a small step, but it can lead to a much brighter future.
Read part one of this series on sustainability here.
Global Head of Technology at Hays
James Milligan is the Global Head of Technology at Hays, having joined in 2000. In his role, he is responsible for the strategic development of Hays' technology businesses globally.