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Exploring a 360 approach to climate responsibility

Exploring a 360 approach to climate responsibility

Background

 

At Thoughtworks we have always been concerned with the relationship between tech and society since our founding almost 30 years ago. We take it seriously and work effectively and consciously in every partnership or engagement to see this addressed. This attitude toward the matter is one of the levers of our social change framework, which we proudly share publicly to clients and partners, but also to existing and potentially new colleagues and friends.

 

These values and convictions guide how we engage externally with our clients and the community. Climate action is a key, and fast growing, part of these internal convictions. We understand the complexity of the issue and believe that it can only be addressed and resolved through cooperation. As industry leaders, we have a moral obligation to lead that change and influence the tech industry toward a more sustainable future. 

 

As a global company, we embark on these sorts of initiatives collaboratively across all our offices. Every single one of them is pushing some work on this particular topic, however in this article we zoom into the efforts being carried out in Thoughtworks Spain.

 

Diagram showing Society to Thoughtworks to Clients

Spain

 

The country of Spain has a rich history of advocating for social change in several aspects, and climate emergency initiatives have not fallen behind here. The Spanish offices were born around 2016 and from day one Thoughtworkers brought climate action into the local agenda. 

 

Everything started with individual actors and small initiatives. It evolved into the creation of a Climate Action group, an internal community that engaged in multiple related activities both in-company and externally as well. These days, we address climate action in a holistic way, which includes society, clients, and Thoughtworks. A 360 approach, if you like, to make a dent in this global joint effort.

 

Society

 

The societal aspect of our climate effort is the most colorful. It has taken many shapes since our office in Barcelona first came to life in a city well known for its active social involvement. Activism is in the air, everywhere.

 

At the beginning, Thoughtworkers were involved by going to conferences and sharing viewpoints, having dedicated speakers at office events, etc. This evolved and expanded into very varied things, such as going to beach cleanup meetups and attending waste management workshops given by professionals from the city government.

The fact that we have matured our regional involvement with Society has been a key motivator for many Thoughtworkers, including myself. This involvement has also led us to march and demand action from our elected officials. We can proudly look at pictures in our offices, in which Thoughtworkers were firmly demanding change in the street with fellow citizens marching right next to them, both in Madrid and in Barcelona.

Image of protestors holding signs saying Error 404, Planet B not found and no more business as usual
Image of protestors holding signs that say March now or swim later and No es el cuma es el capitalisme

Clients

 

Along these lines, we have worked with some regional clients and partners to enhance their mindset, tech, and practices in terms of sustainability.

 

Two particular engagements in terms of Sustainability consulting services were related to deploying and configuring our Cloud Carbon Footprint monitoring tool. In a nutshell, this is an open source tool that we have developed to empower organizations with data around their cloud expenditure, and carbon emissions. For Holaluz, a 100% green energy provider, the tool made quite an impact since sustainability is already part of their business model.

 

It is interesting to see how organizations have different motivations to be part of the change. Organizations that are starting off their carbon accountability journey, would drive the conversation from an optimization perspective, a more than fair point. On the other hand, truly carbon responsible organizations find sustainability as a strong enough factor on its own to drive business decisions. We have taken an innovative approach by combining Team Topologies as a framework with carbon responsibility. This enables tech organizations to address carbon awareness and management at every organizational level. 

 

Thoughtworks in Europe is geared up to help modern digital businesses on their journey to sustainability / carbon responsibility, wherever they are on this maturity spectrum.

 

Thoughtworks

 

Last but not least, there is an internal effort that we have also been nurturing. Thoughtworkers get to be part of an active community of practice and contribute to internal capability development. This includes a broad offering of spaces and instances such as Pecha Kuchas, Lunch and Learns, in-office instructions for recycling awareness, vegan and vegetarian snack options, a concerted effort to optimize office space and supply, and a quarterly newsletter to inform our fellow colleagues. 

 

Globally, we’ve committed to near term targets with Science Based Targets (SBTi), with significant reductions planned for 2030.  Nonetheless,  we stress the importance of regional leadership vision, and in Spain, we’ve set our goal to reduce our impact on climate change by 2025. That is why we are proud to say that 100% of the energy in our Barcelona office (with plans to incorporate Madrid as well) comes from green sources thanks to a clean energy provider, which also happens to be our client. Recycled office products and biodegradable cleaning products are also part of our two cents in this matter. 

 

Moreover, we are organizing and executing other small ventures such as training our colleagues in the principles of Green Software Engineering as soon as they join through our Thoughtworks University program. What better way to guarantee the quality of our services than starting off your career in the software industry with a practical outlook on sustainability?

 

We are founding members, and active participants of the Green Software Foundation, for which we collaborate in many ways. The most significant moment yet will take place in June 2022, as Barcelona will be one of the 6 Thoughtworks hosting locations of the Green Software Foundation Summit event. Another big one is our collaborative effort in defining a standard specification for measuring software carbon intensity.

 

As all this takes place, we are also working on coordinating our effort at the European level and thus have created the role of Green Tech Lead for Thoughtworks Europe to support all these sustainability initiatives, aggregating this effort for the whole region.

 

Conclusion

 

The climate emergency is a problem that is right in front of us and addressing it will need every actor in society to do their part. Technology by itself won’t save us, it rarely does. However, if we take a holistic and humanistic approach there is hope in changing things. Sustainable Tech, and its emergent principles, are part of this complex yet necessary change. At Thoughtworks we aim for that change to happen at different levels and we are certainly working hard to keep up with that effort.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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