Corporate conscience: Sustainability is a huge challenge for business

With climate change arguably one of the biggest threats to mankind, businesses need to gear up to what is likely to be their biggest business-transformation challenge ever and put sustainability on the executive agenda. But with a challenge like this, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Businesses are already feeling the impact of climate change, whether it's accessing competitive markets where customers see sustainability as a differentiator, or attracting the best people to work for them. For we all want to work for businesses which have a strong reputation and act responsibly, but it is those which go beyond the minima, and see sustainability as an opportunity, that are emerging as the best places to work. Meeting legislative requirements, voluntary codes and benchmarks are all crucial.

Also vital is how we work with our suppliers, and our suppliers' suppliers. Sustainable procurement has an important part to play in making sure businesses meet their sustainability obligations and commitments.

At Capgemini UK, we recognise that sustainability is not just about what we do within our own organisation, but also how we help to shape the conversation with other organisations. As part of our approach to improving our collective performance, we're engaging with other organisations, such as suppliers, industry and political forums and competitors, as well as non-governmental organisations.

We're collaborating with WWF-UK and are a founder member of their "One in Five Challenge" encouraging businesses to reduce their dependency on air travel. As a leading consulting, technology and outsourcing provider, our business model is based on the mobility of our people to deliver transformation solutions to clients and as such, business travel has a significant impact on our carbon footprint. The reality is that we are never going to eliminate travel – we will always need to visit our clients – but we are looking at ways to travel less, or in smarter ways, in order to meet our corporate target of reducing our CO2 related to travel by more than 30 per cent by 2014.

Sustainability is likely to be the biggest challenge to business ever. So let's talk about it – and let's take collaborative action today.

James Robey is Head of UK Corporate Sustainability at Capgemini