Green Preference and Lower Costs

By Isankya Kodithuwakku.

Published on May 21, 2015 with No Comments

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Two factors, thrift and the greater availability of energy-saving technology, are driving sustainability goals at private firms. Over the past seven years, software developer Virtusa’s sustainability efforts have been driven by these factors with extraordinary success.

Between 2008 and 2014, software firm Virtusa’s Colombo office reduced energy costs per staff member by half with little investment. The US headquartered firm employs almost 3,000 people at its Colombo software development centre and has similar development centres in India and offices worldwide. Because its clients are located all over the world, transport accounts for a chunk of Virtusa’s energy demand. Lighting, cooling and ventilating buildings are also energy intensive. The company’s energy use lowering initiatives were launched under a programme called Code Green. It aims to reduce the firm’s environmental footprint by achieving absolute and per person reductions in energy use. The Code Green initiative is a key part in Virtusa’s worldwide sustainability strategy. At Virtusa’s Colombo office, rent, depreciation and energy account for over 75% of costs. Lower costs are an offshoot of the strategic initiative to reduce the corporate environmental footprint. Optimizing the use of space – reduced square footage per seat and increased utilization – and reduced energy use has significant impact on the costs per seat. There isn’t a manual of standard practices to reduce costs per seat; instead, companies need to design and implement cost-cutting strategies according to the particularities of each space.

Virtusa’s Shared Services director Denver De Zylva says greening can also have another benefit. Just as Sri Lanka’s apparel industry markets itself under the “Garments without Guilt” slogan, meaning the country has no child labour or other questionable manufacturing practices, the Sri Lankan IT and business process outsourcing industry could market itself as a green outsourcing location. He’s currently working with the industry umbrella body here, SLASSCOM, on getting an industry-wide greening initiative off the ground.

TRAVEL
Improved teleconferencing facilities and encouraging increased use of audio/video conferencing to cut energy usage for business travel. An automated shuttle service system for employees working after hours, using optimized travel routes to reduce emissions. Free charging for electric bikes.

Transport accounts for 27% of global energy demand. Lighting, heating, cooling and ventilating buildings account for roughly another third. New vehicles and buildings are far more efficient than old ones.

COMPUTERS
Shutting down idling computers and monitors. Even if an employee works 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, that adds up to 2.5 days of computer usage. If machines are left running the rest of the time, they consume electricity equivalent to 4.5 days each week without any benefit to the company. Even in hibernation mode, computers consume some electricity. Moreover, they emit heat, which leads to increased air-conditioning usage

LIGHTING
Switching from CFL bulbs to LED which, unlike incandescent bulbs, turn most of the power they use into light rather than wasteful heat. Installing independent switches for each light. Changing lighting systems – such as reducing the number of lights or increasing wattage – according to the needs of the room.

GREEN PROCUREMENT:
Looking for the Energy Star in all computing equipment. Use of energy-efficient products. Recycling of e-waste. Only farmed paper is bought. Paper usage is made further eco-friendly through setting all printers to duplex printing

RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
This has been difficult to implement at Virtusa Colombo because the office is in a rented space. However, the office has still been able to integrate the use of solar for heating water for the gym and for pantry use.

WATER USAGE:
The company has replaced trucking in bottled water with a filtered water system. More efficient water
usage in facilities management

AIRCONDITIONING
This accounts for the largest component of the electricity cost. Regular checks of insulation – the sealing of doors, windows and ceiling sheets. Temperature control, monitoring of floor temperature and zoning
air-conditioning. Server space consolidation.

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Virtusa is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, a strategic policy for businesses which are committed to aligning their operations with ten universally accepted principles in human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. By aligning with these principles, business, as a major driver of globalization, can assist in ensuring that commerce, finance and technology develop in ways that benefit society.

*All figures applicable to Virtusa worldwide, unless otherwise stated. The global figures were obtained from the Virtusa Sustainability Report 2012-13.

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