The next stage for public sector sustainability

Consumers are demanding more of organisations in terms of sustainability, and public sector organisations and governments are integral to realising meaningful societal change. Microsoft’s Jeremy M. Goldberg discusses the challenges of doing so, and highlights where Microsoft can provide support

The next stage for public sector sustainability
Disaster Tech

Disaster Tech provides decision support technologies before, during and after natural disasters

The science is clear; humanity needs to do more to protect the planet from the disastrous effects of climate change, by preventing global warming from exceeding a temperature rise of 1.5C.  

People may be making a more conscious effort to recycle, reduce their use of central heating and walk instead of using cars or public transport, but global organisations need to do more work. Reducing the environmental damage caused by manufacturing, supply chain and logistical operations would not only enable businesses to protect the planet, but it would also allow them to meet significant demand from consumers for them to go green. To encourage businesses to realise the real commercial value, governments and public sector bodies need to step in to provide leadership in advancing global efforts and realising meaningful societal change.  

“Policy is the clearest example of how to achieve this change,” says Jeremy M. Goldberg, worldwide director of critical infrastructure at Microsoft. “Public sector organisations are setting the standards to which businesses, organisations and people must follow. Major global events like the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) highlight the importance of addressing carbon emissions, and that is key to public sector policymaking and goal setting.” 

However, carbon emissions are not the only area of interest. “There are other areas of sustainable infrastructure as well, such as the municipal water management organisations that are using technology to reduce water waste and loss due to leaky pipes, unoptimised systems and machinery, and ineffective monitoring capabilities,” says Goldberg. “Because of the threats associated with climate change, this sort of environmental sustainability project often goes under the radar but it has a big impact on peoples’ day-to-day lives.” 

While consumers may demand more from the brands and organisations they engage with, Goldberg believes that it is important to understand that there are differences between public sector organisations and enterprises. “Public sector organisations have an obligation to protect life and property in the face of ­climate-related disasters and damage,” he explains, adding that those working in the sector have three main tasks: predict climate change impacts, prepare for them, and respond when they occur.  

“Although the impacts are now severe enough that many private sector businesses are thinking about how to deal with these questions as it applies to them, the ultimate responsibility to proactively protect life and property for all constituents lies with governments and adds another level of commitment,” he adds.  

There are also similarities between the way public and private sectors are approaching sustainability. For example, many organisations in both are now prioritising how to operate in greener and more energy-efficient ways. “Operating a more fuel-efficient or electric fleet of vehicles is a concern for both the public sector, which is now limiting the manufacture of non-electric vehicles, and the enterprises who manage such fleets, which have to align with these new policies,” says Goldberg. “ 

One major challenge for both sectors to address are the discrepancies in standards to demonstrate environmental compliance. “Organisations don’t just have to actively pursue and implement greener ways of working, but they need to be able to prove it according to official metrics and standards,” explains Goldberg. “When I worked in the public sector, I had to be constantly vigilant to ensure compliance standards were met and clearly communicated, so this stands out to me as something that anyone working with governments needs to keep near the top of their priority list.” 

To support public and private sector organisations to achieve these shared goals, Microsoft announced the launch of the Cloud for Sustainability at COP26 in 2021. “One of the biggest challenges that both sectors are dealing with right now is how to account for their total greenhouse gas emissions,” says Goldberg. “Without true and accurate accounting, we can’t measure our progress. That’s step one, and the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is helping public and private sector organisations to do it.” 

The cloud platform enables organisations to record, report and reduce their emissions, invest in sustainable practices, and partner with experts to accelerate their goals. 

Microsoft has set the tone for how businesses can and should address their own environmental impact. For example, the firm has said that it is on track to reach its goal of using 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025, having procured 5.8 gigawatts of renewable energy across 10 countries in 2020 and 2021. It has also been piloting a 24/7 renewable energy matching solution in the Netherlands with energy provider Eneco and technology company FlexiDAO. The solution will offset hourly energy consumption at one of Microsoft’s Amsterdam data centres with power generated by Dutch offshore wind farms. 

Microsoft has become well-known for its partner ecosystem and the benefits this creates on many levels. As part of this, the firm has also been working with partners such as Schneider Electric and Disaster Tech to accelerate the journey towards more sustainable infrastructural planning within the public sector. US-based Disaster Tech specialises in providing decision support technologies for situational awareness, operational coordination and planning before, during and after disasters. The firm leverages Microsoft technologies such as the Azure cloud to provide distributed high-performance ­computing infrastructure for conducting modelling, simulation and data science workflows to public sector clients.  

“Our partnership with Microsoft enables Disaster Tech to deploy sustainable solutions to clients faster with added agility to save time and money,” says Sean Griffin, CEO of Disaster Tech. “As a public benefit corporation, we strive to provide sustainable solutions while also supporting public sector clients on their own journeys towards sustainability. With the help of Microsoft, we are delivering cutting-edge solutions for agencies in disaster risk reduction, resilience and sustainability.” 

Partner perspectives  
We asked a selection of Microsoft partners how they are using the firm’s technology to deliver tools that improve the efficiency and outcome of sustainability projects in the public sector. Below are extracts from their responses, which you can read in full from page 136 of the digital edition of the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record.   

Tammy Fulop, vice president of sustainability at Schneider Electric, said: “Schneider has been using Microsoft’s Azure technology suite to capitalise on cloud computing and smart meta technology to transform our clients’ operations into connected and collaborative systems that accelerate decarbonisation and resilience.” 

Mourad Boufenar, team manager software and related services, Diehl Metering, said: “Thanks to our IZAR Software offer, we are committed to developing solutions that empower a sustainable future.” 

Gary Wong, industry principal of global infrastructure and water at AVEVA, said: “AVEVA and Microsoft are helping public sector customers embrace a holistic approach to accelerate digital transformation by leveraging industrial information.” 

Sam Winterbottom, public sector director at Gamma, said: “Gamma’s Microsoft Teams voice solutions are a great way for public sector organisations to deliver more sustainable processes and increase employee well-being, while leveraging existing environments and set-ups.” 

Steve Witt, public sector director at Nintex, said: “One of the largest impacts Nintex and Microsoft have on sustainability efforts in the public sector is the drive to eliminate the tremendous amounts of paper used in government processes.”  

Kimberley Totten, operations director at Akari Solutions, said: “We leverage and embrace Microsoft technologies such as Azure Data Factory, Teams and Power BI to better record, manage and report against sustainability challenges, turning these into opportunities.” 

This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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