Published on in Responsible Business

Let me be perfectly clear, the pain and hardship that COVID-19 is causing and will cause for so many people globally is a tragedy, but I am an optimist, which makes me look for silver linings even in the worst of situations. The one I have chosen to focus on is the positive legacy for sustainability, which will hopefully emerge from this period.

The enforced lockdown has very tangibly changed our behavioural patterns both societally and commercially. Manufacturing and operations in many sectors is either stopped or slowed down; we are travelling less by plane, car and public transport in preference for walking and cycling; and we are at home for more hours of the day. Collectively, this has had a major environmental impact in reducing our footprint in terms of air and noise pollution and perhaps, most crucially, in reducing our carbon emissions.

For instance, as someone who travels quite a bit for work, I was really taken back by the results of a new paper by researchers at the centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI) in University College Cork. Their research has shown that transport outputs, which account for 40 per cent of Ireland’s total energy consumption, are down hugely.

They have calculated that based on 12-weeks of (likely) restrictions and another 12 weeks of partial restrictions on road, aviation and rail travel could result in CO2 savings as high as 1.5million tonnes, 3.3 million tonnes and 22,000 tonnes of carbon respectively – staggering figures

If these trends are replicated across the many countries around the world that are enforcing lockdown, that adds up to a huge amount of heat trapping gas avoided. Nature is healing itself in front of our eyes and we must take notice. My hope for the future is that once we have the ability to return to ‘normality’ we won’t.

There is a once in a generation opportunity to make corrections to the unsustainable lifestyles we have been living. Leaders in business and politics must do exactly that – lead. Would it be possible to designate 1-2 days a month where manufacturing of non-essential items ceased entirely? It seems a small price to pay for the long-term benefits.

All of society must play its part in taking action. That’s why in 2018 we undertook the Business in the Community Low Carbon Pledge. – the first dedicated pledge generated by Irish business to set industry standards on sustainability and reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. I’m so proud to say that Fujitsu Ireland has exceeded this target with an overall reduction of 60% in 2020 – ten years ahead of target.

This is part of a long-term effort to achieve zero emissions and alignment with the COP21 climate change agreement in Paris.  Fujitsu is aiming to lower its environmental impact, such as its efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions at all of its business and to reduce our C02 emission to zero through 2050, achieving a decarbonized society.

While we are very proud of our efforts to date, we know we cannot rest and are committed to finding new ways to achieve our carbon emissions to zero even sooner. Thus far, we’ve taken actions like switching all lighting to LEDs; replacing various equipment with more energy efficient units; using only renewable energy providers; and ensuring no waste goes to landfill. Our internal Green Team is committed to finding new initiatives and actions to do even more.

If every cloud does indeed have a silver lining, then let’s make sure it’s in a sky with clean air.

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Tony O'Malley

Tony O’Malley is CEO of Fujitsu Ireland and Chairman of the Fujitsu Ireland Limited board. He is leading the delivery of Fujitsu’s innovative ICT services to the public and private sectors.

As CEO, Tony is committed to creating value for customers and putting into practice Fujitsu’s vision to create a Human Centric Intelligent Society.

He also oversees significant research programmes in Ireland in collaboration with Fujitsu Laboratories Japan, in particular addressing Data Analytics and Healthcare systems for assisted living.

Tony sits on the Dublin Chamber of Commerce Council and is a member of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics Advisory Committee.

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