Hugh Jones, MD, Carbon Trust Advisory Services

Carbon Trust Advisory helps large businesses to harness opportunities and manage risks in the move t

Click here for infographic about cutting carbon from the supply chain

The past few years have seen carbon rise up to the boardroom agenda, with energy efficiency and targeted legislation on carbon emissions turning the spotlight on the financial benefits available. CEOs and the board have catalysed many significant carbon reduction projects, with 93% of multinationals now addressing their own carbon emissions in order to exploit reputational and efficiency gains.

This has led to companies making significant progress in the measurement and reporting of their corporate carbon footprints, with an increasing number of companies also taking a systematic approach to prioritising carbon reduction opportunities and setting appropriate carbon targets.

But there's a piece missing from the puzzle. While action on corporate carbon footprints is providing tangible results in terms of cost savings, a much larger prize awaits those who take a broader view of carbon and other environmental sustainability factors. For many companies, the majority of their emissions and cost reduction opportunities lie outside their own operations. These are known as indirect or "scope 3" emissions. These include everything, from the development of a product or service through to supply chain, logistics, sales and distribution, and customer usage. Regardless of whether these aspects of the product lifecycle are outsourced to third parties or not, they should be recognised as one of the most significant contributors to company carbon footprints. GlaxoSmithKline for example found that 80% of its overall carbon footprint comes from indirect emissions and 40% of this is from consumer end use.

Whilst some large organisations are clearly setting out their total carbon footprint 60% of multinational companies are yet to look at their indirect emissions - which means they are not taking full responsibility for all the ways in which their products or services emit CO2. Out of the 40% which are addressing indirect emissions, pressure from the board, a need to boost sales and marketing and the personal vision of the CEO are stated as the top reasons for their actions. However, our research suggests that external drivers are likely to become increasingly influential on company plans in this area, with shareholder pressure to cut carbon increasing in importance. This was identified by just 4% of UK respondents as a current driver, but in the future, 74% of UK respondents said that shareholder pressure would become a key driver for them in tackling carbon emissions.

Given these increasing pressures, certain forward thinking organisations have already taken action. Marks & Spencer has been working in partnership with its supplier, MAS, on the first of four 'eco-factories'. Designed to be carbon neutral, the lingerie manufacturing site, in Central Sri Lanka, combines energy saving devices, renewable energy, waste reduction processes and a healthy working environment for the factory workers . The site has enabled M&S to launch the high street's first ever carbon neutral bra, which has given the company some fantastic publicity and demonstrated its commitment in this area to shareholders.

This example stands out because it demonstrates a forward thinking approach beyond that of most organisations. Even amongst those already tackling indirect emissions only 43% have a defined strategy and just 60% have set targets. With so little progress in the area, there's still plenty of scope for early adopters to reap the benefits of getting ahead of the game. Understanding how to influence these factors through supply chain and design decisions, or incorporate them into product and investment portfolio decisions, can drive significant value to both companies and their customers. It also sets businesses one step ahead, providing a competitive differentiator. But with 42% of companies planning to look at indirect emissions within the next two or three years, this competitive advantage won't last long before it becomes a standard business practice to address indirect CO2 emissions.

That is not to say that suppliers themselves should leave it to their customers to drive down carbon emissions. Our research shows that suppliers that can ensure their place on 'green' supply chains by meeting the criterion of carbon efficiency held by multinationals could benefit from a healthier bottom line, with 50% of multinationals set to select their suppliers based upon carbon performance in the future and 66% willing to pay a premium to purchase a product or service with low emissions.

BT, for instance, has introduced a Climate Change procurement standard for all its suppliers. The standard encourages suppliers to use energy efficiently and reduce carbon during the production, delivery, use and disposal of products and services supplied to BT. The company has also held a number of workshops with its suppliers to help them with their own carbon reduction policies and share best practice.

So we see that supply chain carbon is the next key area to be tackled to enhance efficiency and reputation, and meet compliance. The companies that have a full understanding of their carbon emissions, including from their suppliers and customers, will be better able to measure, manage and reduce them in an environment where carbon emission reduction is an increasingly business-critical issue. Through leading the market and addressing supply chain emissions now, businesses can enjoy reputational benefits. Communicating their actions to stakeholders will set them apart from the majority of businesses, which are yet to make this area a priority.

Click here for infographic about cutting carbon from the supply chain

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This Ada Lovelace Day, let’s celebrate women in tech while confronting its sexist culture

In an industry where men hold most of the jobs and write most of the code, celebrating women's contributions on one day a year isn't enough. 

Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program. In the 1840s Charles Babbage, now known as the “father of the computer”, designed (though never built) the “Analytical Engine”, a machine which could accurately and reproducibly calculate the answers to maths problems. While translating an article by an Italian mathematician about the machine, Lovelace included a written algorithm for which would allow the engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.

Around 170 years later, Whitney Wolfe, one of the founders of dating app Tinder, was allegedly forced to resign from the company. According to a lawsuit she later filed against the app and its parent company, she had her co-founder title removed because, the male founders argued, it would look “slutty”, and because “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders. It just makes it look like Tinder was some accident". (They settled out of court.)

Today, 13 October, is Ada Lovelace day – an international celebration of inspirational women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s lucky we have this day of remembrance, because, as Wolfe’s story demonstrates, we also spend a lot of time forgetting and sidelining women in tech. In the wash of pale male founders of the tech giants that rule the industry,we don't often think about the women that shaped its foundations: Judith Estrin, one of the designers of TCP/IP, for example, or Radia Perlman, inventor of the spanning-tree protocol. Both inventions sound complicated, and they are – they’re some of the vital building blocks that allow the internet to function. 

And yet David Streitfield, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, someow felt it accurate to write in 2012: “Men invented the internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolised Mr Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died.”

Perhaps we forget about tech's founding women because the needle has swung so far into the other direction. A huge proportion – perhaps even 90 per cent - of the world’s code is written by men. At Google, women fill 17 per cent of technical roles. At Facebook, 15 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the code respositories on Github, an online service used throughout the industry, are owned by men. Yet it's also hard to believe that this erasure of women's role in tech is completely accidental. As Elissa Shevinsky writes in the introduction to a collection of essays on gender in tech, Lean Out: “This myth of the nerdy male founder has been perpetuated by men who found this story favourable."

Does it matter? It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t. Our society is increasingly defined and delineated by code and the things it builds. Small slip-ups, like the lack of a period tracker on the original Apple Watch, or fitness trackers too big for some women’s wrists, gesture to the fact that these technologies are built by male-dominated teams, for a male audience.

In Lean Out, one essay written by a Twitter-based “start-up dinosaur” (don’t ask) explains how dangerous it is to allow one small segment of society to built the future for the rest of us:

If you let someone else build tomorrow, tomorrow will belong to someone else. They will build a better tomorrow for everyone like them… For tomorrow to be for everyone, everyone needs to be the one [sic] that build it.

So where did all the women go? How did we get from a rash of female inventors to a situation where the major female presence at an Apple iPhone launch is a model’s face projected onto a screen and photoshopped into a smile by a male demonstrator? 

Photo: Apple.

The toxic culture of many tech workplaces could be a cause or an effect of the lack of women in the industry, but it certainly can’t make make it easy to stay. Behaviours range from the ignorant - Martha Lane-Fox, founder of, often asked “what happens if you get pregnant?” at investors' meetings - to the much more sinister. An essay in Lean Out by Katy Levinson details her experiences of sexual harassment while working in tech: 

I have had interviewers attempt to solicit sexual favors from me mid-interview and discuss in significant detail precisely what they would like to do. All of these things have happened either in Silicon Valley working in tech, in an educational institution to get me there, or in a technical internship.

Others featured in the book joined in with the low-level sexism and racism  of their male colleagues in order to "fit in" and deflect negative attention. Erica Joy writes that while working in IT at the University of Alaska as the only woman (and only black person) on her team, she laughed at colleagues' "terribly racist and sexist jokes" and "co-opted their negative attitudes”. 

The casual culture and allegedly meritocratic hierarchies of tech companies may actually be encouraging this discriminatory atmosphere. HR and the strict reporting procedures of large corporates at least give those suffering from discrimination a place to go. A casual office environment can discourage reporting or calling out prejudiced humour or remarks. Brook Shelley, a woman who transitioned while working in tech, notes: "No one wants to be the office mother". So instead, you join in and hope for the best. 

And, of course, there's no reason why people working in tech would have fewer issues with discrimination than those in other industries. A childhood spent as a "nerd" can also spawn its own brand of misogyny - Katherine Cross writes in Lean Out that “to many of these men [working in these fields] is all too easy to subconciously confound women who say ‘this is sexist’ with the young girls who said… ‘You’re gross and a creep and I’ll never date you'". During GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian was often called a "prom queen" by trolls. 

When I spoke to Alexa Clay, entrepreneur and co-author of the Misfit Economy, she confirmed that there's a strange, low-lurking sexism in the start-up economy: “They have all very open and free, but underneath it there's still something really patriarchal.” Start-ups, after all, are a culture which celebrates risk-taking, something which women are societally discouraged from doing. As Clay says, 

“Men are allowed to fail in tech. You have these young guys who these old guys adopt and mentor. If his app doesn’t work, the mentor just shrugs it off. I would not be able ot get away with that, and I think women and minorities aren't allowed to take the same amount of risks, particularly in these communities. If you fail, no one's saying that's fine.

The conclusion of Lean Out, and of women in tech I have spoken to, isn’t that more women, over time, will enter these industries and seamlessly integrate – it’s that tech culture needs to change, or its lack of diversity will become even more severe. Shevinsky writes:

The reason why we don't have more women in tech is not because of a lack of STEM education. It's because too many high profile and influential individuals and subcultures within the tech industry have ignored or outright mistreated women applicants and employees. To be succinct—the problem isn't women, it's tech culture.

Software engineer Kate Heddleston has a wonderful and chilling metaphor about the way we treat women in STEM. Women are, she writes, the “canary in the coal mine”. If one dies, surely you should take that as a sign that the mine is uninhabitable – that there’s something toxic in the air. “Instead, the industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can’t breathe, saying ‘Lean in, canary, lean in!’. When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn't enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.” We need more women in STEM, and, I’d argue, in tech in particular, but we need to make sure the air is breatheable first. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.