Scrutinizing Deloitte's latest corporate sustainability update

When you're helping other companies shape their energy efficiency, environmental and corporate social responsibility strategy, you better make sure your own house is in order.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Updated Feb. 14 to modify information about level of LEED certification sought for Deloitte University.

When I was covering information technology services more closely, I was often struck by the have- and have-not nature of the business. That is, there were many times when the experts selling a new widget, application or piece of whiz-bang networking gear didn't have the benefit of actually using what they were recommending. It always struck me as a little ironic.

So, I must admit that I scrutinize the corporate social responsibility and sustainability strategy reports of the so-called sustainability services companies -- many of the same management consulting companies you have known for years -- just a wee bit closer than those of other companies. Maybe that isn't fair, but I figure that if you're going to advise people about this sort of thing, you should at least be trying to do it yourself within your business operation.

Up today it Deloitte, which just published a report covering the fiscal year ended May 31, 2010. The report was compiled with an eye to conforming with the Global Reporting Initiative standards, which is a good checklist item for starters. As documents go, it is pretty easy to navigate although (note to the Deloitte Web team) it seems to load somewhat slowly when you reach the home link.

I spent most of my time looking at two sections of the report: an interview with the company's first Corporate Responsibility Officer, Tom Dekar, and the section that highlights some of the specific achievements and goals the company has laid out. More on the latter in a moment. There were two insights in particular from the Dekar interview that I want to share, in the form of quote excerpts.

The first underscores the fact that sustainability measures -- like all great business strategies -- are moving targets. They will change over time. Dekar says:

"What has been challenging -- and we view this as a good thing -- is that the performance bar within the corporate responsibility and sustainability (CS/R) community continues to rise so that maintaining a leadership stance requires more and more creativity and progress. Achievements that were once considered extraordinary are now 'table stakes.' "

The other thing worth special note is the weight that Dekar plans to put into getting more of the company's roughly employees on board. He notes:

"We want to more deeply embed the concept of sustainability and corporate responsibility in the minds of all our approximately 46,000 people across the United States and in India. We will accomplish this through education and training programs for our people, robust internal greening initiatives, substantial volunteer programs, constant internal and external communications programs, and making CR a key part of Deloitte's strategy."

I'll wind up this post with some of Deloitte's specific milemarkers. I'll remind you that these metrics are at least six months old, although that's actually a lot fresher than a lot of the other sustainability data that we're bound to see in the next few months. Here goes:

  • For the fiscal year in question, Deloitte reported an increase in total carbon dioxide emissions to 326,879 metric tons (up less than 1 percent) but it squeezed its per-person emissions by roughly the same amount. Most of its impact comes in Scope 3 indirect emissions, from travel, car rentals, and other travel activities, so this is understandably one of the biggest foci for its sustainability efforts. The company is trying to move more of certain meetings to videoconferencing and other services that can help offset travel, but it is largely beholden to its clients on this front. The company notes: "For our organization, travel is to a large extent unavoidable, primarily required to serve clients, thereby eliminating the need for the client to travel to where we are."
  • Deloitte managed Gold LEED certification for its buildings in Boston and San Diego, and several other offices are under review for the same designation. The company will be seeking the highest level of certification possible for its Deloitte University, due to open this year. By the end of 2012, the company expects to have 30 percent of its 8 million square feet of office space certified to LEED green building standards.
  • The organization virtualized more than 70 percent of its data center servers, which meant that it could eliminate more than 1,000 of them. It also consolidated 2,000 individual printers, scanners and fax machines into 179 multifunctional devices. Deloitte adopted duplex printing as a policy in April 2009, and since that time it has saved close to 60,000 reams of paper.
  • Deloitte has adopted a mandatory PDA recycling program. During the year, 11,788 devices were returned and they were either recycled or refurbished.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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