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CSO Profile: Richard Goode on IT’s Role in Reducing Carbon – and Cost

SPrichgoode

Telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent’s corporate sustainability officer (CSO) Richard Goode

As a follow-up to our review of the Weinreb Group report describing the emerging role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), “CSO Back Story,” we sat down with Richard Goode, senior director of sustainability for Alcatel-Lucent, to discuss the drivers of sustainability at his company.

“Our business,” Goode began, “is to supply telephony gear to the world’s largest phone companies – AT&T, Deutche-Telephone, Tellcom-Italia, Verizon, etc. – to provide telephone solutions to their customers. Our products are network end points and we are basically a B2B provider.”

Goode says his job “is to measure, report and reduce the carbon footprint” of his company, which includes conducting a comprehensive analysis of companywide carbon emissions. “We report those emissions in a transparent way to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) as well as in our annual corporate responsibility report,” he says, “and work closely with operations leaders to develop meaningful programs for reducing our environmental impact, as well as metrics designed to chart our progress.”

Alcatel-Lucent has opportunities to impact our environment, its customers and society as a whole. “We make telecommunications equipment that help reduce the carbon footprint of other companies and other high-carbon activities,” Goode says. “For example, our equipment is the ‘plumbing’ behind videoconferencing, which reduces the need for business travel. Basically, in this manner, we are allowing the substitution to a low-carbon activity from a high-carbon activity.

“We also help enable applications like Smart Grid, Smart Cities and Smart Logistics. We are the ‘smart’ in those things by tying together all the elements over the network to allow it to work together. We call this the 2%-98% rule – all telecom products constitute 2% of emissions; our solutions can help reduce the other 98%.”

Reducing carbon this way is not driven solely by environmental principles. “One quote I frequently use is, ‘Follow the carbon, find the money.,” Goode adds. “Some managers may not care too much about carbon, but they do care about money. The areas described are among those where we have the greatest opportunity to reduce this impact.”

Asked how his position started and how it has evolved over the past year, Goode responded frankly and genuinely. “Well, I talked my way into it. After being a product manager for eight years, I decided I could do more for the company by trying to get it to act in a more sustainable fashion. I went back to school – Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco – for a degree in sustainable management and basically made a pest of myself. I met with every executive who would listen to me and told them that reducing carbon would reduce our costs, as well as help us drive additional revenue. Finally, someone listened.” What a fresh and novel approach.

When we asked what steps he had implemented to move his sustainability program forward, Goode replied, “We have to work top down, from the CEO, to set strategy and motivate senior leaders to take this seriously. However, we also work from the bottom up, by engaging employees along our three core pillars, which are Green, Investment in our People, and Digital Inclusion – bringing telecom services to those who are most underrepresented.”

With respect to specific commitments, we asked Goode which ones Alcatel-Lucent had achieved to date, as well as whether the company has any ISO certifications, such as ISO 14001, and how it adheres to any requirements of any voluntary reporting initiatives by various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Goode replied, “We submit every year to CDP and allow the public to view our responses. We also submit to the GRI (B+ in 2010), and are ISO 14001 certified across our major locations worldwide. We also publicly committed to reducing our carbon footprint by 50% by 2020.”

Since his company is certified to ISO 14001, we asked Goode his thoughts regarding the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the GRI entered into with ISO, and what impact that new MOU relationship may have upon future GRI sustainability reports and the reporting requirements relationship to ISO 14001. “While the focus is about reporting, in general, the key is providing value,” Goode responded. “Getting a B+ GRI rating is pretty good, for example, and standards like ISO 14001 have potential and a real benefit for the process, but it does represent substantial time and effort, so the process needs to provide a tangible benefit. It’s too soon to tell what the end result will be as GRI and ISO get together.”

We asked, with all the efforts your company is pursuing to showcase its environmental sustainability and good corporate citizen efforts, is that having a positive effect on your customers? Goode replied, “We are seeing a nice increase in demand for networks that allow customers to leverage existing investments and respond to the massive bandwidth demands coming from their customers. Also, being listed as sector leaders on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index shows our commitment to the environment and that we embed sustainability throughout our operations.”

With respect to Alcatel-Lucent’s sustainability efforts, we asked, can you share the metrics you maintain to validate such efforts? “Sure,” Goode responded, “We track overall carbon footprint, water use, the energy efficiency of our products, waste generated from our operations and a whole list of Scope 3 indicators, which are highlighted on the last three pages of our Corporate Responsibility report.”

Asked for a big-picture view of some of his short-term and long-term goals for his facility and for the company as a whole, Goode replied, “In the short term: reduce water use by 20% by 2013. Longer term, we plan to reduce the carbon footprint from our operations by 50% by 2020. As of 2011, we are one-quarter of the way there at 12.6%. This means more than changing lightbulbs – it requires re-architecting how we operate as a company. Under our current CEO, we are doing that.”

We wrapped up our interview with one last question: What does “sustainability” mean to you and to Alcatel-Lucent? Goode concluded, “It’s an opportunity for our company to thrive in perpetuity. The reality is that every resource we use to make our products will become increasingly scarce and/or expensive. By shifting our focus to use less, be more efficient and be ahead of regulations, we will be in a better place than our competitors.”

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