ArticleJune 15, 2023 · 7 min read time
First year done and dusted, we look at what has been achieved and the road ahead for Nitor’s sustainability work. We talked to three of our sustainability experts Markku, Ari, and Tiina, about the work done over the first year of concentrated sustainability development.
We at Nitor have been busy sowing the seeds of change for the past year. Sustainability, while now having a definite boost, is a topic with a history at Nitor. For instance, a sustainable pace of work has long been a goal for the whole company and a vested emphasis on skills development.
Markku and Ari, you’ve worked as Sustainability Engineers for 1,5 years. Can you tell us what has been going on?
Over the first year, the lion’s share of our time allocated to sustainability has been on educating ourselves further on sustainability topics and calculating our carbon footprint for 2021. We could describe this as sowing the seeds of change.
We’ve also defined our approach to sustainability. We look at it from four points of view: environmental, social, economic, and digital sustainability. The one that is not part of the traditional ESG framework is digital sustainability. Digital Sustainability means that our solutions are not bandage solutions that only work for a while, but solutions and services that don’t have an expiration date and can keep pace with the changing needs, offering help where needed. We give preference to open-source and ethical AI.
Through designing accessible solutions, we ensure that no one gets left behind in digital development. We feel this is important in sustainable development as the promise to Leave No-one Behind is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We’ve also analysed how we can contribute to specific United Nations SGDs and set goals for the four most relevant ones: SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth, SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG 10 Reduced inequalities, and SDG 13 Climate action.
Over the last year, we’ve signed up for WWF Finland’s Green Office environmental management system and are doing the groundwork needed for joining the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The above are initiatives by credible and trustworthy institutions – international non-governmental organisations, like the United Nations, or non-governmental organisations, like World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). And that is why we base our sustainability work on their requirements.
Our Helsinki office got a WWF Finland's Green Office certificate after an official audit this spring. We’ve been developing our recycling processes and energy efficiency and have learned more about sustainable practices in an office environment. We follow these annually to improve these practices systematically in all our offices. In Sweden, Nitor’s move into a new office was a conscious effort at sustainability as well.
We’ve been a part of the United Nations Global Compact since 2016. As a standard, the UN Global Compact is evolving into more concrete and strict steps with regard to sustainability reporting – which we see as a good development. Last year, we participated in the early adopter program to test the new Communications on Progress (CoP) reporting format and system, and took part in the Climate Ambition and SDG Ambition courses. This was a great opportunity to learn about our current maturity on sustainability overall.
Right now, we are in the process of calculating our carbon footprint. We've calculated our CO2e emissions for 2021 and are working on 2022 as we speak. We have an outside consultancy helping us to validate and audit our calculations, but we also wanted to learn the necessary skills ourselves. Once we have calculations for 2022, the next step is to set our short-term carbon reduction and net zero goals in line with the SBTi requirements.
Tiina, what has been happening in terms of social sustainability at Nitor?
We recently published our Equality and Non-discrimination Plan for 2023–2025 and the results of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion survey we conducted in June 2022. While the results tell us that, by and large, we seem to be on the right path, the whole IT industry, us included, has quite some way to go regarding diversity and creating mentally and physically inclusive spaces.
To spur us on the DEIB road, we are working with a partner with specific know-how to provide relevant training for the leadership and employees. Additionally, together we will take a critical look at our current DEIB strategy to ensure that diversity and inclusion are well promoted and supported in our corporate culture.
Ari, what about business aspects?
Increasingly, we are seeing our customers raise these matters in talks with their partners: we’re asked to report on our environmental sustainability, for instance, much more than used to be the case. Companies that have signed up for Science-Based Targets require their subcontractors and partners to do the same.
Science-Based targets is becoming an industry standard, and it considers the company's emissions for the whole value chain, which includes their partners’. As a result, we will see more and more demands about companies taking their climate commitments seriously and having credible systems and reporting in place with ambitious goals. This isn’t a fad but a straightforward business-critical issue.
Tiina, is this something that you discuss with potential recruits?
Sustainability is something that comes up regularly in recruiting. People want to work for employers that align with their personal values and take these matters seriously. In the IT sector, DEIB matters are very much relevant. Our environmental commitments only add to the sustainability foundations we’ve already had.
We’ve long had the objective of doing our part to create a better working life through a sustainable pace of work. Over the years we’ve for instance taken part in the Great Place to Work -assessment which aims at improving working life and through that, a more sustainable way of working.
The sustainability of our business is built on customer satisfaction – which we’ve measurably been successful at, taking the top position in independent business analysis company Onway’s annual customer satisfaction survey conducted annually. We’ve placed first in the survey for more than ten years.
Markku, what is on the horizon of the sustainability work in Nitor?
Overall, sustainability as a topic has been increasingly on the agenda in the IT sector. Digitalisation has long been seen only as a contribution towards environmental sustainability.
While this is true in many ways, the IT industry also consumes a lot of electricity and its share of global emissions is increasing rapidly. Currently, the estimation is that the IT industry accounts for approximately 4–10 per cent of all energy use and approximately 5 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. This share is expected to triple over the coming decade. This cannot be considered sustainable, so we must also do our share in curbing emissions.
Some of the changes we need to make will require soul-searching on our part. Looking at our carbon footprint from last year, Scope 3 emissions account for more than 90 percent of our footprint. The biggest culprits are employee IT purchases, software as a services, other services like cleaning, security and financial services, and travel.
While we are still setting our targets for cutting emissions, it is obvious that there will be changes in how we operate and work. Next, once the 2022 numbers are finalised, we will start on the emission reduction plan, which is also required for our SBTi work. This will involve many workshops with the teams responsible for each area. In the meantime, we have compensated for the emissions.
Tiina, what about future developments in social sustainability at Nitor?
For DEIB we’ll be concentrating on our long-term strategy planning and continuous learning and training. At the moment, we are in the middle of an internal set of training on DEIB topics. We’re also conducting our next DEIB survey in June 2023. As part of our efforts to promote diversity and gender equality in our industry, we continue supporting and working with actors like Women in Tech and student organisations.
Change can be difficult. But we don’t see it as giving up something; rather, it’s an exchange. What we give up, we get something in return: an organisation that lives by its values and a planet with a better chance of survival.
In late 2021, we established the new position of Sustainability Engineer and appointed two experts, Markku Rontu and Ari Koli, to the role. They use approximately 50% of their work time to develop Nitor’s sustainability work.
Tiina Vanala drives diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) and human resource development work at Nitor.