The role of ‘intelligent infrastructure’ in reducing a company’s carbon footprint

Sustainability in the City

Craig Wilson of Sustology, a Minneapolis-based sustainability consulting firm, interviewed David Wilson, senior managing director at professional services company Accenture, 333 S. 7th St., about their sustainability efforts. Here are highlights.


Q: How has your business evolved over the years?

Innovation and rapid transformation have been themes throughout our history, which we trace to the 1950s with the installation of the first computer system for commercial use in the United States at General Electric. Today we have more than 358,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. In Minneapolis, our team of more than 1,500 is focused on creating value for our clients and giving back to the Twin Cities community through civic leadership and volunteering.

Q: What does sustainability mean to Accenture?

We have a strong commitment to environmental responsibility. Our strategy includes running efficient operations, working sustainably, enabling client sustainability and providing research and thought leadership to advance sustainability.

Q: How has Accenture become more sustainable over the years?

More than 80 percent of our environmental footprint consists of carbon emissions our people generate from air travel to see clients and from the use of electricity. To make our work less travel intensive, we have made significant investments in virtual collaboration technology. To reduce our use of electricity, we have enabled over 300 “smart meters” in high-consumption offices across the globe to monitor usage and reduce overall energy consumption. 

In the fall of 2012, the Minneapolis team completed the design of our new office which embraces both virtual and in person collaboration. The investment has given employees the freedom to choose how they work, the tools they use, and new ways to connect with one another and clients. The new office also utilized sustainable materials for construction including local materials, recycled ceiling tiles and flooring, energy star appliances and low-flow plumbing fixtures.  In 2015, we designed a virtual Minneapolis Connected Classroom so our people could participate with other offices in interactive training sessions taught virtually by our global leadership team.  

Q: How does sustainability fit into Accenture’s business model?

Accenture has assets, offerings and tools to help our clients with sustainability initiatives. We invest in technologies and solutions—including intelligent infrastructurecloud computing and smart grid solutions—that we believe will be drivers of our clients’ growth and will help meet climate change objectives.

We also have more than 300 eco teams in 40 countries. In Minneapolis, our Eco Team leads efforts that include eco strategies for office wide events, telecommuting and alternate travel options, tips on how to live a ‘greener’ lifestyle and volunteer events like this year’s educational tent at the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District annual cleanup and a new community garden for a local school.

Q: Are you using any sort of tracking methodology to measure you progress on sustainability goals?

Since setting our initial carbon target in fiscal 2008, we have reduced our per employee carbon emissions by more than 36 percent against our fiscal 2007 baseline—from an average of 4 to 2.6 metric tons of CO2 per employee. This reduction is equal to avoiding nearly 1.5 million metric tons of CO2. By the end of fiscal 2020, we will reduce our carbon emissions to an average of two metric tons per employee. 

Q: What has been your greatest challenge?

Our need to travel by air for client work is often difficult to forecast. We grow our business in an environmentally responsible way by coordinating efforts closely with our global team, clients and suppliers.  

Q: What sustainability goals do you have for the future?

Accenture strives to contribute to the overall environmental agenda including a leadership role in the UN Secretary General’s Initiative, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All). Our goal is to play a key role in providing sustainable energy to the 1.3 billion people who lack access to it, and to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use in developed countries. Our Twin Cities leadership team is also personally involved in having an impact in the Twin Cities — including my role as a leader on the Greening Downtown Minneapolis initiative launched in 2014.

Q: What one thing would make it easier for you to achieve your sustainability goals?

Our people enthusiastically support our environmental strategy — that is key. I believe ongoing advances in technology will be a key driver into helping us all create a more sustainable future.

Sustainability in the City is an occasional column that features Minneapolis-based business owners’ views and efforts on sustainability.  If you would like to be considered for future articles, please contact Craig Wilson at [email protected].