Atos Origin faces sustainability challenge with Siemens merger

Aligning sustainability strategies will be one of the biggest challenges of the Atos Origin and Siemens merger this summer, according to Atos Origin’s sustainability chief.

The merger of the two organisations was approved by the European Commission last month.

“The big thing this year [for sustainability] is the Siemens integration, which is due to complete in June or July,” said Jeff Chater, head of UK sustainability at IT services company Atos Origin.

“It is going to throw things all upside down.” This is partly because the merger will cause a disruption to Atos Origin’s corporate carbon reduction goals.

The company is well on its way to achieving a 15 percent reduction in its global carbon footprint measured against its 2008 baseline of 136,968 tonnes of CO2.

It reached the 12 percent mark (a reduction to 120,512tCO2) by the end of 2010, and Chater said that the company will “comfortably” achieve its 15 percent target by the end of this year. However, he admitted that the company currently had a carbon footprint of around 200,000tCO2, which is a higher figure than the baseline because the 2008 figure did not cover all countries and all types of emissions, such as water, waste and refrigeration.

Atos’ efforts to become more green have been recognised with accreditation such as The Carbon Trust Standard for its managed operations business, which includes all of the company’s UK data centres. To achieve this accreditation last year, Atos had to demonstrate that it had reduced emissions on an ongoing basis over the past three years, and that it had plans in place to continue do so in the future.

This year, the company has also received the ISO 140001 environmental management system standard for its UK data centres, which it hopes to extend to its offices in the next few months.

It has also been consolidating its data centres, having recently closed one in the past few weeks, a strategy that will be affected by the merger.

“We’ve got three core data centres, four in total in the UK, and Siemens are going to add another six. We are going to aim to go down to three. It takes about two years to consolidate data centres,” Chater said.

However, he expected to have a better idea of the challenges ahead after the mid-year sustainability assessment planned for both organisations.

Meanwhile, Chater has helped to drive a culture change in the business, in order to promote sustainable behaviour among its employees.

The company holds “hundreds and thousands” of virtual meetings every year, through video and voice conferencing systems, and towards the end of last year introduced Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS), which allows staff to hold meetings through their PCs, in the UK business, as part of a global rollout.

Strategies are also in place to reduce carbon emissions relating to staff travel.

“We have a hierarchy of travel, with railway taking priority. There is also an increased expense rate for car sharers,” said Chater.

This year, Atos is also pursuing an ongoing virtualisation programme, having already virtualised thousands of servers. It is including its customers in this, with the company trying to encourage new and existing customers to adopt virtualisation. So far, 33 percent of the servers Atos hosts are virtualised.

“Generally, the interest is quite strong,” Chater said.

As well as having sustainability as a core corporate value championed by the company’s CEO, Thierry Breton, Chater said that one of the main drivers for operating more environmentally friendly is because customers expect it.

“In outsourcing, customers focus more on what we do than what we do for them. If you outsource your IT, it is still reported and we directly affect the reporting,” he said.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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