Blog · 05 May 2020

How going digital is the first step to sustainability

Sustainability is key for organisations that want to stay competitive. A balanced, holistic approach is best, and that starts by going digital.

Head of environmental sustainability

Going digital: the first step to sustainability

Going digital isn’t just about making our working lives easier and more flexible. ICT solutions have the potential to help lower global CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2030.

There are many ways that digital technology can promote sustainable ways of working. Going digital means that there’s less need to:

  1. Travel. People can work together effectively even though they’re not in the same place.
  2. Have lots of equipment. Not necessary once a business has moved to the cloud.
  3. Use energy keeping on-premise hardware online. Organisations simply won’t need it anymore.

We’re already seeing some of the environmental benefits of digital working. Our products and services helped customers avoid 11.7 million tonnes of carbon last year — that's the equivalent carbon emissions of nearly 3 million UK households!

If you haven’t made the move to digital yet, now’s the time. With the right solutions, it’s possible to find a balance between sustainability, security and efficiency that works for your organisation.

A balanced, tailored approach to sustainability

There’s evidence to support a balanced approach to digital working, with some roles remaining face-to-face, for example in hospitality, and others ‘going digital’. Before Coronavirus, the move to digital working was typically a slow one. The key to success was deciding how digital working could add value and where there was still a need for a human touch. Under the current lockdown, many of us have quickly moved to a digital work environment but once things return to normal, the right digital working balance will be found by organisations using digital technology more flexibly.

Develop the leading edge: technology, employees, customers and partners

Sustainability isn’t just about using laptops to work from home. It’s also about looking at a business’ entire operation to find out where they can introduce more sustainable ways of working.


Companies with a competitive technological edge are likely to do better than their peers but equally, sustainability is an important market differentiator. In fact, it’s becoming so integral to business that investors see a lack of interest in sustainability as a risk to their investment. So, by combining a leading technology platform with sustainable ways of working, organisations can lead the way in their market.


Employees are another key consideration. In order to reach net zero by 2050, companies need to recruit talented people who understand the importance of sustainability. The more sustainable an organisation tries to be, the more likely they are to recruit people who will help them to achieve this goal. In fact, 40 per cent of millennials have taken a job, because of a company’s good sustainability credentials and a further 10 per cent would take a £10,000 pay cut!


Like employees, customer focus is also increasingly shifting to sustainability. We work with Unilever and they have recognised the importance of having all their products related to a sustainability goal, whether ethical, societal or environmental. Their Sustainable Living Brands grew 69 per cent faster than the rest of the business in 2018, up from 46 per cent in 2017. Because of this, Unilever are now reviewing products and potential divestments that don’t have a clear link to a purpose.


Strides toward sustainability shouldn’t be made in isolation. It’s important for an organisation to recognise their purchasing power and to work with others to ensure their supply chain is striving for sustainability. At BT we have 16,000 suppliers and over £13 billion in global spend. And we are starting to ask key suppliers to reduce their carbon emissions over the life of their contract with us.

The importance of a holistic approach to sustainability

As this blog post highlights, environmental sustainability should be end-to-end and include employees, operations, customers, value chains and the industries you work with.

We already have a zero carbon network in terms of the services we offer, so get in touch to find out more about how we can help your organisation to become more sustainable using the digital working tools that have worked for us.

BT’s sustainability journey

Here at BT, we’ve been on a climate action journey for over 25 years, since setting our first carbon reduction target in 1992. In 2008, we tasked ourselves with cutting carbon emissions intensity by 80 per cent by 2020, and we met this target four years ahead of time in 2016.

Our next goal is to cut carbon emissions intensity by 87 per cent by 2030 — something that will herald a radical decarbonisation of the business. In addition, we want to become a net zero emissions business by 2045.

Our leadership journey is important to us because it’s important to our employees, customers and investors, too. It’s also saved us £300 million through energy efficiency in the past decade, proving sustainability’s good for the bottom line!