Green IO
#31 - Estimating IT footprint: the ABB Motion case study with Fiona Leibundgut and Thomas Mosser
January 30, 2024
How do we tackle the Green IT blind spot? 🏞️ In many big corporations, IT is never number one, number two, even number three for GHG emission sources (and other environmental factors). But everyone working in the digital sustainability sector knows that, actually, little streams make big rivers with the digital sector accouting for around 4% of global emissions. 📏 In this episode we explore a very concrete case of measuring IT footprint in a massive corporation: ABB Motion with Thomas Mosser (ABB) and Fiona Leibundgut (SparkIT Consulting). How to kick start, how to leverage the Resilio tool which they chose, how to scale, etc. And the insights shared can be used in smaller organisations as well!
How do we tackle the Green IT blind spot? 
 🏞️ In many big corporations, IT is never number one, number two, even number three for GHG emission sources (and other environmental factors). But everyone working in the digital sustainability sector knows that, actually, little streams make big rivers with the digital sector accouting for around 4% of global emissions. 
📏 In this episode we explore a very concrete case of measuring IT footprint in a massive corporation: ABB Motion with Thomas Mosser (ABB) and Fiona Leibundgut (SparkIT Consulting). How to kick start, how to leverage the Resilio tool which they chose, how to scale, etc. And the insights shared can be used in smaller organisations as well!

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Gaël  (00:08)
Hello everyone, welcome to Green IO, the podcast for responsible technologists building a greener digital world, one byte at a time. Our guests from across the globe share insights, tools and alternative approaches, enabling people within the Tech sector, and beyond, to boost digital sustainability. 

Today we're going to talk about a curse, the Green IT curse. Sorry, it sounds a bit dramatic, but that's actually the point, that IT especially, in large corporations, is very often a blind spot. And this is due to the fact that we are never number one. We don't pollute, we don't emit enough greenhouse gasses. Such a bad thing. But everyone working in the green IT sector and overall in the digital sustainability sector knows that, actually, little streams make big rivers. And I would say actually little streams of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution make massive rivers of greenhouse gas emissions. It is widely acknowledged that the environmental footprint or the greenhouse share of emissions by the IT sector overall, including devices, obviously, is around 4% of global emissions. This is as much as the global road freight.

Gaël (01:31)
But as you can imagine, not every company owns big lorries or trucks, and not a single person has, except for a few exceptions, a delivery van in his or her garage, which is actually the case with IT. So this is why, actually, for the same weight, when it comes to a sector like IT, it's much, much harder to tackle its environmental footprint than road transport, for instance. Hence, my very dramatic approach talking about the green IT curse.
And to fight this curse today, I wanted to get my feet back on the ground. We had a wonderful episode with Max Blondeau in December 2023, where we explored technology and cosmology. Then last month, again, I explored digital marketing, which is a topic that I'm not familiar with. 

Gaël (02:19)
But today, I really wanted to talk about green IT, and how you deploy and start measuring how to reduce the environmental footprint of an IT system, but in a big corporation, where actually it will never be the number one, the number two, even the number three for emission sources, yet still has a lot of impact because of this ’little streams make great river approach’. To stay with the dramatic tone, I looked for, I would say, two vampire hunters, or at least two very experienced people in the IT sectors with a soft spot for sustainability.
I was also looking for a very tangible, very concrete case, and I managed to find both Fiona and Thomas, who worked on the measurement of the IT footprint of a massive industrial corporation called ABB. What is funny here is that we have quite a lot in common with both Thomas and Fiona. Thomas, he actually studied at the same time as me in the same city of Lyon, and now he works in Switzerland. He's a very experienced IT guy, a senior IT manager who leads operational effectiveness, compliance, etc at ABB. And Fiona has the same background as an IT manager. And that's very interesting to see all these common paths, I would say, towards sustainability, where you gather some experiences and knowledge in IT, and at some point you say, wait, I want to do something positive with sustainability. And Thomas obviously is the lead of this big, big project of IT footprint assessment at ABB. And Fiona, basically, she quit her previous functions and now, like me, focuses 100% on IT sustainability, which is really great. I love this approach that once you've gained enough experience you try and do something good in your own industry where you can have the most important leverage. So let's welcome Fiona Leibongut and Thomas Mosser to this very hands-on episode. 

Thomas (04:11)
Thank you, I'm glad to be with you today.

Fiona (04:15)
Happy to be here. Thanks for having us. 

Gaël (04:16)
It's a pleasure. Before we deep dive on why, how, all the feedback you can provide to anyone working in a pretty big corporation and trying to implement some measurements or some evaluation, sorry, the Boa Vista folks, about your IT footprint, maybe Thomas, what is ABB and it's not a rock band? 

Thomas (04:39) 
Yeah, thank you, Gaël, for asking it. A very good question. Well, ABB is most of all an industrial company. So we are actually technology leaders in electrification and automation. This is the credo. We do manufacture industrial products in the electric domain. So it goes from the motor, I think medium sized motors to a very large sized motor that would be wider than the room you're probably sitting in. We do manufacture robots as well. We do process automation, enabling factory end-to-end processes in some of our businesses. So we're having a broad range of electrification and automation related services. And I think beyond that, we're also trying to do this in a very sustainable way, and enable mostly business-to-business partners and customers. The business I'm operating in is actually Motion Business Area. So we have four business areas as part of ABB, and Motion is the one manufacturing motor and drive. This is where the whole Green IT story started. 

Gaël (05:47) 
So you're a wonderful guest because I've got my transition all cooked up already by you. Why did you start focusing on Green IT strategy, the Green IT journey? I don't know the word you use at ABB…

Thomas (06:02) 
Well, we started with humility. So we started by calling it IT sustainability assessments. I think we need to spread a project beyond. And the why, well, it's a bit of a long story, because you don't get into it like in a snap. It actually takes some time, takes some change management understanding of the issue beyond. There's a couple of dimensions I'd like to touch on. One, obviously, is the broader organizational targets. ABB does have some sustainability targets for 2030, and that makes it very tangible at the group level, that we need to reduce the CO₂ footprint on the Scope 1 and 2, on the Scope 3 as well. So we have a broader mandate given by the organization targets, but I think it really takes a couple of passionate people and a broader understanding on the IT side on how sustainability is actually becoming crucial to make the needle move. 

So this is what really got us into this green IT or sustainable IT journey. And it didn't start from one day to another. It really took a couple of years, actually, to get there. The very inception from my standpoint started with the Climate Fresk. So we started with a colleague deploying and promoting the Climate Fresk internally in 2020 at ABB. And what started from a very small climate-fresk call out in France, I think, then expanded, broadened, and really got into a very structured type of workshop event we called ‘Greener in Motion’ that has been deployed in many countries, in India, South America, US, Europe as well. And that really helped while educating people on climate change and the consequences, obviously. But from an IT standpoint, I've been facilitating a couple of sessions. And this helped me to identify some allies, some people actually concerned with the topic: ‘Oh, we're learning about something, but what can we do to improve the overall IT footprint?’. So this helped us to create a tipping point with a couple of people feeling involved, getting ready and creating a momentum to initiate the green IT journey. 

Gaël (08:14) 
So the Climate Fresk triggered a sense of awareness or a sense of actions within the IT department, is it what you said? Because did they feel a bit left alone? Like, you know, most of the sustainability is obviously all about the manufacturing process and everything you buy from your suppliers. How did they connect the dots between ‘hey, we receive all this information about climate change’, and on the other end, ‘we're in the IT department, so we're not where the main battle is at fault’. 

Thomas (8:48) 
People actually go to a climate-based workshop and they take three, four hours to really understand the climate change mechanism and the impact on human life on the planet. So it's a very tough understanding and process. And once you come out of it, you don't necessarily make a clear connection between what's the big problem and what you can do at your own level in IT. Some people make the connection, but the challenge being you don't necessarily identify what's the big impact. What can you do? What are the most meaningful activities you need to start doing? 
So the Climate Fresk helps us to create a common understanding at the IT level for a couple of people to raise awareness. And we saw the people coming. Some people had a passion, some genuine interest in the topic. And they came to us because we facilitated the Climate Fresk. And by doing so, you get some people along and you start building a sort of momentum, a sort of a team; you create energy as well and some dynamic in the organization. So we translated this into what we call a community of practice, having once per month or once every few weeks, a regular alignment call, and try to understand, okay, what do you do in your organization? Because ABB is a massive organization. We have 100,000 employees. We have more than 2,000 on the IS side. Their colleagues might be doing some initiatives on the end user device, on the sourcing side, on training and so forth. So the intention was to build this community of practice and start to understand, okay, what is happening in a not so visible way already, but is starting to happen. And by putting this small river together, you understand there's more energy, a team ready to work and do something. And the next step, well, you quickly realize that we've got so many people interested in the topic, ready to do something about it, but do we have a clear baseline? Do we know where we are? Do we have clear priorities?  No, we don't. And that's really what got us into this need to start measuring. So let's go and measure something. Do we need to measure the 100,000 employees? Maybe not at once, it's too big, but let's start by taking a pilot country, and we took Switzerland, and captured the footprint, trying to understand what the big rocks are, and what we can do to start moving them. 

So we had a bottom-up approach. We also had top-down ABB framework targets, sustainability targets. And at some point, we needed to get management buy-in and approval to move ahead on this one. So this is where Motion and especially the Motion CRO - I'd like to thank her in this process because he's been extremely supportive of the process - he was convinced. He's been playing the Fresk at some point, she was also ready to support us and get the baseline. If you look around, there's actually a few either passionate people or people who trust about the value of data. And this is where you can find the best management to buy in. Say, ‘Hey, we have a sustainability target at the group level. We have some people ready to do something about it. Where do we start?’.  So rather than going in too many directions, let's prioritize and be clear on the big topics. Let's measure the footprint we have currently. 

Gaël (12:01)
Fiona, you've worked with several projects and not only with ABB. Is this kind of approach where you've got kind of step one, raising awareness, some kind of a bottom-up momentum with people saying, hey, now that I'm aware, now that I understand better, we need to do things and self-organize and connect the dots with top management, and getting some support, including financial. Is it kind of the three steps project that you often see or is it very specific to ABB? 

Fiona (12:36)
I think it would depend on the industry, and especially for a company, like ABB which is heavy in industry, and you said this very well in your introduction that it's not the first, second or third priority for whoever is in charge of sustainability. Where this movement comes from is something I really empathize with, where in your personal life, you really care about sustainability, you start to practice sustainability in your personal life, and then you start looking at your professional life,  and you don't see how you can make the connection and you're struggling a little bit with this disassociation of ‘I have my personal values, I have my job, and how am I bringing sustainability into my job?’. I'm sure hundreds of your listeners feel the same thing. And I'm guessing this is where Thomas's inspiration came from as well, to start looking around ABB, what it is that he can do, in the remit of his position, to bring more sustainable thinking, especially to IT. And this disassociation is something I saw also in my early conversations with the Motion CIO, which you mentioned Thomas, and what was great, is that he was able to see the proposal laid out by Thomas, and say, okay, here's a practical approach. We're not going out and hugging trees, but we've got a really practical view of what it is we need to do. It aligns with our corporate strategies, so it aligns with my position. And I have somebody in my team who is passionate about it, who is knowledgeable about it, and knows how to find the resources that will help them, and become that mobilizer and influencer within the organization. 

Gaël (14:18)
Yes, it resonates with some situations. At some point, if you don't have this buy-in or even limited support from C-level, things start to get a bit complicated and you hit this glass ceiling where people believe that they can change everything. They're like, I cannot go that  (far) up. 
So, Fiona, how did you get involved? Let's talk about this assessment project in detail. But first of all, how did you get involved in this project? Why did they need to bring you in? 

Fiona (14:50)
So I've been having conversations with ABB I think my entire career, even before I was working in sustainability. I was working with ABB, pretty much for the last eight years, I'd say. So when I started my own company, Spark IT, I naturally started to continue these conversations with my contacts and who I knew. At the same time, I was partnering with Resilio because we have a similar vision. And for me, for my own personal company strategy, I didn't want to build another tool that could do measurements. I know there are tools out there that do it really well. And my personal skill set lies much more in change management and company dynamics, organizational structures, governance, in that direction. So there was a great resonance between the skills of Resilio and what I was able to bring on top of my experience of ABB and understanding the immense complexity of this organization, which is not an easy one to navigate. Correct me if I'm wrong, Thomas. 

Thomas (14:58)
I'm fully with you, Fiona. I think what really makes it valuable for us was the good combination of a solid technical platform. I think we're relying on the existing norms, regulation, providing a life cycle analysis and simple to use on the residual side. And your skills on the change management and engagement level. I think having someone able to translate the results into something that we can actually have the organization on the people side actually makes a lot of sense. And we're struggling to see these things on the market really. When I look around I can see a lot of good robust solutions available to get the baseline, to get the numbers out, CO₂, water, mineral resources, so even on the different planetary limits and impact. But translating this into tangible findings and projects that people can use to turn the findings into reality is not so easy today. And that's probably a big step forward; the large organizations such as us have to be, have to do in terms of maturity to understand where are we and start planning in concrete terms where do we reduce and where we start.

Gaël (17:12)
So talking about this kind of the second step of the project, but at the very beginning, so you've picked Resilio to start this assessment. What did you do concretely? How did you crunch the data? What kind of indicators did you choose to follow? And yeah, we might talk about the 
pitfalls a bit later. How did it start concretely?

Thomas (17:41)
It’s interesting process I must say, 

Gaël (17:45)
Interesting because the European way or the American way?

Thomas (17:49)
I think both ways actually you'll see that there's a lot of positive benefits but challenges by the way as well. So we started the project so we started with a budget and an RFQ (request for quotation) to understand what's on the market. What is the right tool we can pick and to help us in this overall green IT sustainable IT journey at ABB in order to do a first evaluation. So on the scope, the scope was defined from the beginning. It was clear for us that doing it at the entire group level was too ambitious. And picking a country, a location, where we know the service could be representative of the rest of the group landscape, was much more agile and simple to start with. So limited scope, 1,500 users. It's 2% of overall ABB, but again, similar usage. And then trying to find a supplier. Finding suppliers was actually not so easy. There's a lot of interest today on the market for sustainability solutions. So we had a lot of different partner suppliers coming to us and offering solutions. We felt the value was not so much in buying the skills and competence, but actually embedding this into the ABB DNA, into the IS ways of working.

If you really want to make that sustainability journey sustainable, and to last for more years, because I mean, we're only at the beginning now. We need it for the next 10, 20 years to keep going. And getting the skills internally was quite crucial. So we privileged the technical solution, a robust technical solution platform, and again, reasonable pricing overall. And that's how we got into Resilio. There were a few good candidates on the table. Once we found this platform and signed the contract, well, you actually get into the data collection phase. And the data collection is also interesting in both ways, meaning it's not so simple. If you have a high quality CMDB, you know your assets, you know your server, you know your screens, you know the network, you know the data center you're using, fine. But in reality, there's often some gaps. Typically, the accessories registration was a bit of a gap for us, even though Switzerland was doing it in a rather proactive manner. And the granularity also matters very much. So one, the data you have, the overall comprehensiveness of the data, and second, the granularity of the data. How deep down can you go? And for this assessment, again, we wanted to keep things small and simple enough. We didn't look at 100% data quality or granularity. We felt if we capture the big rocks, the big items, this is enough for us to take the next steps. And then we can reiterate and go more granular, refine the data as we go. So we looked at the big portion. Data center, typically. We have five different vendors globally, with a lot of different locations, server closets in the factories, and a local data center in Switzerland, global hyper-scaler and partner. So we took an overall average on the data center side because we felt that was good enough to start the journey. 

Gaël (21:09)
So you provided to Resilio a comprehensive list of all the servers you've been using on-premise or was it an average? I didn't fully understand this kind of average data centers that you talked about.

Thomas (21:23)
It's a hybrid if you want. If you look at the landscape in Switzerland, we have offices, we have factories, we have R&D centers. So depending on where you look, you have different types of setup. I think the closer you get to the manufacturing process, the more local servers you might find. So we have a couple of local servers being locally managed. And then we have a large data center provider. What we found out is that the larger the data center and the more external, I think, externally provided it was, the more incentive there was to actually make it really sustainable from the beginning. So economies of scale, overall sustainability measure, and commitment from the vendor. The large data centers were actually not doing too bad in comparison to the local ones. So what we did, we took the server from the local server inventory, the data center inventory, the virtual machines we're using, and so forth.  We collected them all in a file, and then we calculated an average impact. So we looked at the key machines, the key configuration, and said, oh, configuration one, we have three of them in the cloud and 10 of them locally. Or configuration two, we have 50 of them in the cloud and two of them locally. And we made an overall average, knowing that this was the first iteration. So I think the very intention behind it is to make this process iterative.

Gaël (22:52)
This is your idea of a sustainable digital strategy. You create a process, it's not just a one-shot of measuring things. Am I right? 

Thomas (23:03)

Gaël (23:05)

Fiona (23:06)
I think it's important to mention that when you're measuring, it's important to know why you're measuring and to focus on that. It's very easy to get lost in the details and want to be as accurate as possible. And it is important to be accurate, but is it important to know for every single server the exact footprint. In this scenario, maybe not. And there's something one of your previous guests has said, which really stuck with me, which is that a lot of it is logic, when it comes to green IT. More servers means more energy consumption means less green. In this case, it was important to get a set of data that was informative and gave a view of priorities, of what can be changed and what can be impacted. It wasn't a preparation for an audit, for example, where you would need that extreme precision. 

Gaël (24:01)
That's why you've chosen to get some, I would say, standard configurations across the different use cases, so that you can go back to the people and say, okay, we know that you are in the R&D department. Your standard configuration is a bit like this, a bit like that. You use a bit of AWS, a bit of GCP, and you might have some on-premise machine or whatever. So this is kind of your persona, I would say. And this is a footprint, and this is what you can start working on.

Fiona (24:35)
Exactly. And it's also important to bear in mind that this is the first time that we've gone through this exercise with ABB. And of course, there's going to be data gaps, because nowhere before has this level of granularity been needed in terms of reporting information for the organization. So this learning from the first time of what are the challenges, what are the gaps, what are the inconsistencies, there's already a higher data quality now than there was before. And next time, it will be even more. So even data gaps of, well, we don't have all the information we maybe need from our vendors.That's something that we now know there's a data gap there and we can work on that to make sure that information is starting to be provided.

Gaël (25:22)
And how did you identify, track and remediate this data gap? 

Thomas (25:29)
That took a bit of a project management type of organization. So to really make this assessment happen, the timeline is we started back the RFQ in February 2023. We did the vendor selection from March to June, and we signed the contract in July. We then started a data collection. So data collection took us two good months. So that was August and September, with regular data check and data review. So every two weeks, we were sitting with the team. It's been a team effort, not an individual effort. So for data, you need a data center specialist. Network, you need a network specialist. And user devices, I think it's the same story. There was a team of a few people meeting every two weeks and saying, ‘okay, where are we today on the data collection process?’ Initially the very first review was very much driven by the structure, do we have the right structure in the tool to capture, to have the right configuration? Do we have the right assets being reflected to capture the usage we're having today in ABB? And I think the further we go, the more we get into the precise data. So no, it wasn't only about the structure, but what data? So do we have the right number of servers? How do we make the count? How do we make the average? There's some debate on how to do this, it's not easy because there's a lot of sustainability claims on the market as well. So how do you account for software as a service, for example? Do you take the vendor commitment and copy/paste that into your assessment or ? Because we're still missing, I think, a solid regulatory landscape to provide reliability of the data. Do you reassess that and factor it in a different manner? So this debate happened through the data collection process. 

Gaël (27:22)
Yeah, I can imagine. I had eight NGO talking about that in Green IO, Paris, and they were like, we need to have something, but it's a long road ahead of us. 
But coming back to this data, and how you structure it…Goodness, I have thousands of questions,  but lets pick out three for clarity for our listeners. Did you only measure carbon emissions, or greenhouse gas emissions? Or did you start with other environmental indicators, like water, material use, pollution etc?

Thomas (27:59)
I think this is one of the great values of the Resilio solution, which is to provide an overall life cycle analysis, and not only carbon, but also planetary limits related measurement criteria. So it's really going beyond the CO₂ impact. I mean, CO₂ climate change is happening now. We need to do something about it. That's where most of the metrics take us to. But there's a lot of different other impacts on the raw materials, on the water usage. And, yeah, this must be coming into the picture because there's a lot of education to be done about that.

Gaël (28:37)
And did you spot pollution transfer or any kind of mis-actions that could have been triggered if you had only focused on carbon? Or, overall, everything you do to reduce your carbon emissions, both during the use phase and the embedded carbon, is kind of aligned with water consumption and other environmental impacts?

Thomas (29:02)
As Fiona put it just before, I think there's a natural way of looking at it, a rather logical way of looking at it. The less you use, the less devices, the less data center capacity, the less impact you have. And that's true for the carbon impact, but also for the rest. So if you use less devices, or use devices for a longer time span, you actually have a lesser footprint in terms of CO₂ and raw material and water. Because one of the big learning aspects we had was very much about the life cycle stage. Most of the impact, 80% of the device impact, comes from a manufacturing process. So manufacturing is really the big item. You can use it (a device) and the longer you use it, the better it is, because you can depreciate this overall manufacturing impact over a long life span. 

Fiona (29.53)
And I think, just bear in mind, that for a lot of people, it's the first time they're seeing data around this. And the measurements for CO₂ as individuals, we're starting to get familiar with it. We start to understand what a carbon footprint is. But when you see a measurement for toxicity or water usage and you don't even know what the unit is, and there's some configuration on the slide that says it's bad, it's very important for this data to be put into context. So you say it's X amount of this bad stuff which compares to something else, you're able to put it into context and understand the gravity of it. Because otherwise this data is useless. And I think we saw a lot of that when going through the data together with ABB and Resilio. If you don't understand what's on that slide, are you really motivated then to make that change that we need to make? So we spend a lot of time focusing on how we are communicating the data.

Gaël (30.56)
So do you talk in swimming pools? A lot of the time, when you want people to understand water consumption, you need to translate it into something they can picture, because nobody really knows what four tons of water is. I do it a lot, but I'm not the only one at all. For example, how many swimming pools do you use per day, per month, just to build a chip, for instance, or build servers or whatever? How did you make, for instance, regarding water consumption, things intelligible for people?

Fiona (31.27)
It's exactly that; for every metric we put it into context. 

Thomas (31.33)
Regarding water we talked, we didn't talk about swimming pools but we actually talked in terms of family usage. So if you take a family of three in a given country, an average western country, it's close to 100 cubic meters per year. And if you realize that your average yearly consumption of water for ABB IS services in Switzerland is already 200 cubic meters, two households of three people could actually live a full year with the same amount of water. 
I think this is already starting to provide a bit of impact and to put the number into perspective.

Gaël (32.09)
I would have loved you to start doing the math with Geneva Lake. But you have amazing leverage, and if you have a global contract, is the plan to change the procurement policy right now, or is the plan to do the assessment, scale the assessment, and then change the procurement policy, to be able to better measure any savings? How do you plan to do this?

Thomas (32:34)
If you are asking me personally, I would like to do both. Why? Because measuring is not an end in itself. Why do we measure? We measure to reduce. We measure to understand what we have and where we need to start reducing, to calibrate the ambitions. But we really need to focus on the active reductions, so touching back on the previous questions, scalability, yes, we need to scale. In terms of contract or procurement, this is also the number two finding. A lot of the sustainability impact depends on the supplier. So, engaging with the vendor, with the supplier in an active discussion relationship to, one, get sustainability commitments and criteria in the contract. And two, getting meaningful discussion on the potential solutions we can jointly put in place is really something we need to do. That must be on the roadmap. 

Gaël (33:35)
And Fiona, from a change management perspective, scaling from 2%, I know it's not like 2% to 100%, but, how would you plan for such a big step in such a big organization? 

Fiona (33:49)
So now we've said it a couple of times, but the question of why we are measuring and scaling the measurement is super, super key. And what Thomas has described in terms of scaling the scope of measurement is looking at what it is that we need to be informed about. They're not trying to measure every single IS component of ABB, because that's not the purpose of the exercise. The purpose is to understand what we've seen in Switzerland, is that still relevant globally? Are our assumptions of this extrapolation correct? What are the other areas that we may have missed that are relevant to other countries, but not to Switzerland? And in the meantime, the findings that we have, let's get started on those. And what we talk a lot about in terms of change management is two levels on which we're addressing it. There's one which is implemented change and the other is mindset change. And they have two very different approaches. The implemented change is very much based on the data. What are the gaps? What is it that we need; engaging with the suppliers. And starting to embed steps in our governance and our processes that take sustainability into consideration, and take these data points into consideration. The mindset change is much harder to get at. And it's something that a lot of these awareness platforms are really good at. And what we look at for mindset is how are we communicating the findings? How are we getting people engaged in that as well, in their day-to-day job? How are we inspiring them? And doing all of this with consistency. It's not just sending out a slide deck and saying ’look what we found, have a good day’, but really building up the knowledge of employees. And I don't just mean IT employees, but anyone who's engaging with technology (which is typically everyone); building up their knowledge of what it means when they get a new phone every three years or every four years, or why should it not be three years and why should it be four years. And working together with the leadership across the organization that will set the tone in terms of this communication. 

Gaël (36:08)
And did you already  see some pitfalls or some issues ? Yeah, how do you communicate? Because you say like, it's not about just sending the decks and say, hey, here are the findings, do something about it. So, what is the typical way for you to communicate with other countries, for instance, or another department.

Fiona (36:28)
I think the biggest challenge is that this is an initiative that has really been driven bottom up so far. And if you're sitting and you're doing your job and someone comes from the left side and says, look, I did some research and I got some really good data, I think you should change what you're doing and how you're doing it. You're going to look at them and say, well, my job as per my boss and my contract says ‘no’. So it's really much more about how the leadership is living the change or living the data, and believing it themselves, and communicating it to the teams. So, you might come across detractors who, maybe, even in their personal life, they don't really believe in sustainability or there's this also, I don't know if you've both of you've come across this as well? There's a bit of fatigue around sustainability. People are like, oh yeah, okay, fine. Someone else who wants to talk about sustainability, good on you. Let me get on with my job. But it is really more about the channels of how it's communicated, that it's not a personal project that Thomas and the team are doing, but this is really part of ABB strategy, part of ABB IT strategy and beyond. So it should be present in everybody's day job. 

Gaël (37:46)
And so how do you tackle this sustainability fatigue, as you said, and do so in a concrete manner?

Fiona (37:55)
Yeah, me personally, I do it with pragmatism. I think a lot of people associate sustainability with a sort of blue sky thinking, or big ambition, or we should stop oil today, but a lot more what needs to be done, what's pragmatic, what's realistic, a lot of empathy. And Thomas has a lot of this mindset as well, which is really great, where especially with the conversation about extending the life cycle of devices, there's a lot of resistance to that, because there's no other real reason to do it other than, well, it's sustainable.  But looking at what's practical, you know, starting with when is the next contract renewal date? 

Gaël (38:40)
It's like a big ambition. Oh, we've got vendor lock for the next five years. 

Fiona (38:45)
Exactly. You know, we don't want to come in and say, stop everything you're doing and, and now start being sustainable. That's not at all how people work. That's not how organizations work. It's more, what are we doing today and how can we start changing it?’And then what are the big milestones where we can do something a little bit more transformational? So, we're keeping ambition levels high, but also not sort of bowling in this, this change that will not be accepted. 

Thomas (39:11)
And a good way of doing so, what we're actually going for after the results have been shared and to the project team, we're actually engaging, so that there's the specific team with the highest impact. So if you think, for example, of the end user device management . This really came up as one of the top-run findings in the report,  the highest impact. And probably one of the quickest wins if we really manage to change and adjust to prolong the lease period. So we'll be having a dedicated session with the people who manage the end user device across the group, with different colleagues, and we'll dive into this result. So we'll spend two hours and a half that Fiona and the Resilio team will be facilitating, to look at, okay, this is the data we have, the precise one. Let's sit down together and discuss what would be the next potential solution. What's realistic in the current landscape? There are probably a few bridging solutions we can put in place now, maybe extend or prolong by one year. That can be easy, but maybe it's more about communicating, but there should also be some bigger shots we need to look at. At repairability. A typical example is we actually need modular laptops, we need modular devices, which we can easily repair or change, add RAM, change the battery etc., as we go forward. I think the framework laptop or the Fairphone mobile, we need more of this on the market. So again, it goes back to raising the change, doing something internally, but also finding a broader fix and a strategy with the vendor and partnering with the broader ecosystem to put something in place that can fix it.

Gaël (40:47)
That's a good point. And actually, what do you think about the green IT ecosystem at the moment? You mentioned two brands that are quite famous within this niche, of green IT devices. But you're part of a very large group, Thomas and Fiona, you've both worked across Europe and even beyond. So are we a victim of the information bubble symptom or is this ecosystem growing?  And what are the positive aspects of it and what are the pitfalls at the moment for this green IT ecosystem?

Thomas (41:28)
I can try from an ABB standpoint. I'm sure that Fiona  would be happy to complement me from a broader perspective. But what I see, if I take Fairphone, if I take Framework, I think they're designing an excellent product, going for modularity, going for sustainability. So they're really setting the way where we all need to go. Can we scale this up and bring it in at 100,000 company level on a global worldwide operation? This is where we need the broader ecosystem to actually inject this criteria into their manufacturing process as well. 

Gaël (42:04)
Is it an option on the table?  I'm not talking about like ‘give me the number’ because obviously that's confidential, but is it an option on the table to say, well, in 2025, 100% of our laptops or 100% of smartphones should be provided by Fairphone, because at the moment they're pretty much the only one doing truly repairable and as sustainable as it can be smartphones, or is it just non-scalable for the moment?

Thomas (42:30)
I'd like it to be an option. I don't see it as scalable. Probably we can try, at different levels, pilot it and see how modular it can become and use it to pass that mindset change also, to raise awareness on the modularity of the device, what we can do. And I hope that Fairphone and Framework can actually scale up, or that other vendors and suppliers can scale up and bring modularity in their devices.

Gaël (42:53)
But why cannot they scale up today? I mean, they cannot supply you with, I don't know, 1000 or 2000 smartphones at once? The issue is the geographical coverage? Is it that they're not fit to work with big corporations, and request for proposals? What are the pain points?
Thomas (43:12)
Well, to be honest, we haven't gone the full way of going for an RFQ and evaluating how we can do that. We have just finished the assessment now. So regarding looking at the device scenario, it is on the table. That's something we need to investigate further in 2024. And yes, I think this should be part of the discussion. This type of partner should definitely be involved in the scenario and perspective. Will they be able to meet the ABB standard and support us globally? I don't know. I think it will be difficult for them. It will be a bit of a stretch, but it's also maybe setting the path towards a more greener IT landscape. 

Gaël (43:53)
It's a kind of a virtuous cycle. I mean, I've seen it countless times. The moment you start having one or two big brands, whether it's B2B or B2C on any kind of product, it's kind of, okay, I'm not the first one trying it. So, if ABB has bought 10K framework laptops, I can do the same, even if I'm a big company. No one will fire me, because I've picked a small supplier. But anyway, I'm not kind of promoting for these two brands. It's just that the two more iconic, I would say. 
Fiona, what's your thought on it? 

Fiona (42:25)
So, I think the topic of green IT is booming. If I compare where we are today to where I saw the topic a year ago, there's a lot more conversation publicly from organizations, from companies talking about what they're working on. There's a lot more conversation at conferences. There's a boom in technology around it. There's a boom in companies setting up services around it. If I look at classic consulting companies, they're all starting to look at this, what is this green IT topic and should we have an offering around it? So there is a boom. I think it's going to continue what's lacking and it's sort of the typical change curve where you have the first peak and then a trough. There's a lot of ambition, and there's going to come a point where it's going to collapse, and we're going to start looking at things like, great, we have all of these ideas and ambitions and NGOs and companies doing all these things. But realistically, how are we going to do this? So there's going to be this more pragmatic upwards curve again, of whatever companies are working on there will be different things floating to the top and the ones that can't keep up will sort of get absorbed. That movement will come with the regulation, or that movement will drive the regulation. That consistency - and a lot of the topics that were discussed at the Green IO conference in Paris, where there are all of these ideas and thoughts and happenings worldwide - but how are we bringing that into consistency in the industry, even a simple terminology agreement? That is going to start to have to come, I hope, next year, and the year after.

Gaël (46:13)
And before we close the podcast, I have one question I want to ask you. And I'm not sure you will, you will agree, but, can you share some numbers? Just to give a sense of proportion, not super accurate numbers, it could be a range, for example ,  2% of the ABB information system when it comes to water use, greenhouse gas, et cetera. What is it? 

Thomas (46:37)
Yeah. Keeping in mind that it's a first iteration again, so not, not the most granular detail, but overall, for the 1,400 users we've seen, I think we're above 500 tons of CO₂ per year, which translates to 365 kilos of CO₂ per user, and 200 cubic meters of water. This is really the number coming off the top of my head. I think there's more below on the material usage, for example. This is equivalent to five to six smartphones being used and thrown out every day, every year by users. 
So impact. If you look in terms of the Paris agreement of two tons target per individual in 2050, for example, that's a significant piece. I think it's about 20% of the whole 2050 target. So there should be a real incentive to reduce. 

Gaël (47:32)
So that was very insightful and thanks for being that honest with the numbers, the granularity challenge, the definition of the scope, and Fiona, I got it, your favorite word is pragmatism. So I think you can print it on your t-shirt, or whatever, a dress or a piece of equipment you want to use. But I kind of like it as well, because otherwise big expectations fall very fast and very short of doing anything, and changing anything. So I would like both of you to share another piece of good news, because Fiona already mentioned the Green IO Conference. Thanks a lot for this and thanks a lot for attending by the way, with low carbon transport. So both congratulations two times over. But could you share one piece of good news which made you optimistic recently about a path toward a more sustainable world? 

Thomas (48:34)
It's not that fun, but I think the regulatory landscape for me is actually bringing some positive news. I see regulation coming into play, for example the European CSRD, and I think there's some French regulation as well, which are really setting precise criteria and ways to measure the IT footprint.
So in my view, this will really help us to gain a lot in terms of maturity and reliability of the numbers we see around us. 

Gaël (49:01)
Thomas, you know, I'm trying very hard here not to jump on a cliché, by having a cool conversation between a French and a Swiss person, but honestly, you don't help me with this one. It is definitely not the most sexy news that you can share. Like regulations and law and norms. But it is so Swiss, and actually it is so true. And this is why there are so many great NGOs and norms happening in Switzerland, because yes, obviously this is great news. But yeah, not everyone will have the kind of bottom up approach with a green light from top management that you have experiences at ABB, or other companies. So sorry about the cliche. 
And Fiona, you want to share maybe one piece of good news?

Fiona (49:50)
Sure. So as much as I love regulation as the next person or as Thomas does. 

Gaël (49.58) Regulate me. I think we should maybe change the jingle of the podcast. You know, use Regulate by Warren! 

Fiona (50:09)
So I'm not going to pick regulation for my good news, even though I do see it as becoming very important. What I love to see is these movements of people, and how natural leaders form out of ideas. And what I'm really enjoying seeing is the growth of the topic of green IT outside of the French speaking world. So, seeing it bleed into the German speaking part of Switzerland, where I work, but also across Europe. And just seeing the passion that has stemmed a lot of, you know, a lot of the good work has been led by the French speaking world. Seeing that overflow now, across, is much more exciting for me than the regulations. 

Gaël (50.58) 
You need that at some point. I mean, if you've got 1 million passionate foot soldiers willing to tackle a military objective, that could be an option to provide them with some tanks. And sorry about the military image here. And obviously, regulation is like a kind of tank. That's great to have millions of people starting to get really into these green IT topics, but with a bit of help and better weaponry. I would say it will not be a luxury. 

Thanks a lot both of you for joining. I think it was a very in-depth episode, and thanks for being that honest about what you managed, but also what you didn't do yet, the processes, which are even more interesting than the actual results, despite the fact that you've shared them. Thanks a lot for that. I hope it will inspire a lot of people working in big corporations where green IT is not considered, it’s not figuring amongst the top three environmental impacts. Let's talk about it next year, to actually have good tools and good examples to start moving right now and not the next year. So thanks a lot to both of you for joining. 

Fiona (52.05) 
Thanks, Gaël. It was nice. 

Thomas (52.05) 
Thank you, Gaël. It was nice to have this podcast.

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