David Tebbutt, Teblog

Imagine my joy when a 3.1MB pdf from CA landed on my digital desk. When I realised the filename was sustainability-report.pdf,  I got interested. As a fairly avid supporter of sustainability (I won't bore you just now, but you might want to look here and here) I thought, "Great, CA is another vendor which is taking this environmental stuff seriously." Either that, or I had to brace myself for a big bucket of greenwash.

At first glance, I was disappointed. It starts off as a conventional report about the company and doesn't give environmental sustainability a proper look-in until page 50. I thought this odd, but then remembered that sustainability is not just about the environment. If you can't sustain your business, then you can't do much for the people in it, its customers, the community or the wider world. Or, as the report summarises, "sustainability incorporates environmental responsibility, economic prosperity and social accountability."

The details of the report matter little here (you can read it yourself). Suffice it to say that CA is looking at its own business and it has taken some actions, reported some of its behaviour to the Carbon Disclosure Project and others and is planning further actions. It is also applying what it learns to the development of products and services for its customers which will start to become available in the spring.

This is the first time that CA has 'come clean' on sustainability issues. Unlike many other companies that have been banging the environmental drum for a while now, it was either watching and waiting or it couldn't see the point of publicising its fifty or so existing environmental initiatives. Then, just over a year ago, it decided to create an overarching sustainability strategy for the company world-wide. The report is the first major public evidence of the journey the company has taken, although the subject did get a couple of airings at CA World in November.

(At this point, a small confession. As a journalist, I was conditioned to be primarily interested in new and different stuff. In this previous life, I would have been tempted to ignore CA for being so late to the sustainability party. Now, in my life as an analyst, I realise that everyone turns up to any particular party at a different time. This doesn't make them less welcome. Lesson learned.)

So, back to CA. Perhaps because it arrived at the need for a cohesive sustainability strategy later than others, it has been able to take a more holistic approach than most. Steve Boston, VP of sustainability strategy, explained to Freeform Dynamics that his primary consideration was to "protect and nurture all resources needed to stay in business." This covers: environment – air, water, power for the data centre, and so on; social – the people needed to build, sell and buy; and economic – top line, bottom line and governance. Only after taking care of the business can global citizenship be addressed.

We talked about Al Gore – big tick for raising awareness, big cross for the nebulousness of the climate change challenge, which makes CEOs and CIOs feel relatively powerless. A tick for carbon trading and a cross for carbon taxes. Steve Boston has spent a year closely engaged in the subject and has emerged with some clear ideas of what he thinks will work in the business world and what will not.

CA starts its thinking in its traditional area, the data centre, but don't expect it to stop there. The goal will be to create automated management systems that can react in real time to current conditions. In September, it introduced a solution internally called CA Green Governance, "to help prioritize our sustainability initiatives, keep projects on track and monitor risk, compliance, cost, timelines and measurement." It's early days for the company, but its intention is to refine the product in the light of the company's own experiences then make it a customer offering. You'll find details on page 60 of the report.

While the company's individual green initiatives detailed in the report are interesting in themselves, the more important aspect of the CA story is that it is focusing on sustainability in the round. While the drivers for its own actions and its planned products and services are strictly commercial, the benefits are intended to accrue to both the business and to the wider environment.

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