Sustainability and the economy are highly compatible

Quite paradoxically, Annelies Hermens has only been travelling more and more since she got involved in the environment and sustainability for Capgemini. Her goal? To get Capgemini certified worldwide. Her way? Making clear that sustainability is good for your disposition. And your wallet.

Her people simply have to be mobile. They work IT projects for customers during a limited time frame, which can be six months to two years. “That’s what we do”, Annelies Hermens says. “That’s how we at Capgemini make our money. I can’t just tell those people they are not allowed to travel.”

Hermens also cannot ban her people from driving their car to work. That’s to say, she could, but banning things goes against the company’s core values. Capgemini has been around for 50 years now, and safeguards its employees’ right to choose. The fact that all employees – around 4,000 in total - hold a national railways business card is among proof that sustainability and the environment have been a top priority for Capgemini for over a decade. And yet, it is difficult to prevent people from driving to work in their lease cars. “Everybody is always quite capable of coming up with reasons why not travelling to work in their car is not an option”, Hermens says, “The real challenge is to encourage people to think about what is.”


A relaxing train ride

Hermens has made stimulating people her job. She has been working at Capgemini for 30 years now, the first 13 of which as a project manager at clients. Since 2004, she has been concerned with everything at Capgemini that’s related to health and vitality. In 2006, socially responsible entrepreneurship and sustainability where added to her responsibilities. Two magical words that at the time were put on the agenda at the advice of employees, clients and the national government. Since 2015, Hermens has an international role at the Capgemini Group, where she is responsible for environmental compliance.

“I’ve done a lot more travelling since I started to concern myself with the environment”, Hermens says. “But whenever I get a chance I will stay at home and use a lync meeting when I have international engagements. It’s just that it’s not always possible to completely avoid travelling. In my international role for Capgemini, I often travel from London to Manchester and then on to Wales. I prefer to make these trips by train, which is more relaxing compared to hopping from airport to airport. It’s also nearly as fast and less expensive.”


Stress due to electric car

And this is exactly what Hermens has to make people understand. That sustainable is also good for the wallet. Which is why every employee is awarded a mobility budget, which allows them to make their own travel choices. When those choices are sustainable, they’ll have money left over. If they choose to drive a big car and only buy petrol on the motorway, chances are they will have to pay extra. “A financial incentive is a great instrument for changing people their behaviour”, Hermens says. It is unrealistic to expect that everybody will be intrinsically motivated to act sustainably. If you want to see results, you have to be practical about how you are going to get them. What you do see is that the financial incentive makes people try out different types of travel behaviour and then as a result come to understand the convenience and advantages of travelling differently.” Hermens does not herself drive an electric car. To her, always having to worry about finding a place to recharge is simply too stressful. Also, her 1930s house – without solar panels – has no space for a charging pole. “But I sort all my waste: plastic, paper, glass and residual waste. And I never leave my appliances on stand-by when I am not using them. Because of my job, everybody expects me to set the good example where it comes to health, ethics and sustainability, but I am definitely not perfect.


No lagging behind

In a world that is increasingly dependent on IT solutions, it is obvious that the sector’s energy consumption is relatively high. “But that doesn’t mean that we are not sustainable by definition. On the contrary, the IT sector is growing exponentially, but our energy consumption is stabilizing. In addition, IT is deployed along the innovation axis as a tool to ensure that those sectors become sustainable. So there’s really no way around IT.”

Hermens says that at Capgemini sustainability was already on the agenda before 2006. “Our previous office building, for example, was highly sustainable, even though they it was built that way for reasons of economy. But that quickly taught us that sustainability and economy go very well together. Which is why we introduced a certified environmental management system quite soon. Also, when you’re certified, you don’t have to tell a really long story each time you’re asked about your sustainability policy. Also, after achieving the first good environmental results, we wanted to be our sector’s frontrunner in this field. It would be unacceptable to have everybody but us take action on a certain theme.”

In 2013, Capgemini moved into the new and even more sustainable building in Utrecht, which was only half the size of the previous one. “During its construction, we carefully examined what environmental measures we could take. But, admittedly, Capgemini will always take Return On Investment into account. If we are there for ten years, we will take those energy-saving measures of which the costs can be recovered in those ten years. As far as the energy efficiency plan for the next four years is concerned, we have now reached the point where all that’s left for us to do is to insulate the pipe couplings. Everything else, we have already been done!”

Particularly the symbiosis between sustainability and economics will be driving Hermens in the coming years. “What I’m involved in touches on all aspects of people, planet, profit. When we take environmental measures, we ensure that the work-life balance of our people improves. And its financially profitable for us as well.”


Everybody committed

Compared to other countries in which Capgemini is active, the Netherlands is in the vanguard in the area of sustainability and the environment. “On a global basis, Capgemini spends about 250 million euros on travel annually” Hermens says. “That is a lot of money. In the Netherlands, it’s a fraction of that amount, but still several million. It’s our global ambition that the measures we take will lead to a 20 percent reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. If we succeed, that means a reduction in travel by a factor of four, and a reduction in energy consumption by a factor of two compared to what we are spending now. As you can see, there is a business model underpinning these measures. Reduction and sustainability, those are our objectives. But there will always be travel, bringing it down to zero is just impossible in our trade.” And yet, she has dreams for Capgemini. “I very deliberately worked toward acquiring an international role. I would really like for us to also realize elsewhere what we achieved here in the Netherlands. My dream is to have the whole Capgemini group committed to this theme by 2020. That means that all countries are certified.”


Capgemini on the CO2 Performance Ladder

The CO2 Performance Ladder is an instrument that helps companies reduce their CO2 emissions. Climbing the ladder makes companies realize that the costs of investments in sustainability are recovered in the form of, for instance, lower energy costs and material savings. Capgemini is now at the top rung of this Performance Ladder. “At Capgemini, sustainability is firmly rooted in the business processes and the way we work” Annelies Hermens says. “We utilize a pragmatic approach with clear, ambitious targets to minimalize our impact on the environment and plans to realize those targets. This care for the environment is a continuous process in which we also highly appreciate the collaboration with our stakeholders. The CO2 Performance Ladder fits perfectly with this approach. The fact that we are now on the top rung of the Ladder is a beautiful reward for the results that we have achieved so far.”