Michael O'Hara, DataSolutions

Channel has plenty of scope for reducing carbon emmissions

Green credentials could be a deciding factor when distributors consider the pros and cons of taking on a vendor, says Billy MacInnes
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Michael O'Hara, DataSolutions

10 June 2022

It was interesting to see the focus on sustainability in DataSolutions’ announcement that it doubled turnover in the last three years, reaching €98 million for the financial year ending March 2022.

The distributor noted that it had managed to significantly reduce its CO2 emissions and carbon footprint since 2018. Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions were reduced by 33% as measured by location-based method and 75% as measured by the market-based method.

It achieved these reductions mainly by focusing on heat, transport and energy, relocating its ERP system to the cloud, replacing its gas burning heating system with an efficient heat pump solution, installing LED lighting and solar panels and switching to a verifiable green electric supplier.

 

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Staff emissions have been reduced by 60% through a hybrid working strategy and helping staff move to green energy providers at home. DataSolutions is also seeking to reduce business air travel by 50% per annum.

Managing director Michael O’Hara said: “The past year also goes to prove that it is possible to be successful and sustainable. We made doubling the business and going carbon neutral key objectives, and I’m as proud of reducing our emissions as I am of increasing our profits.”

Speaking to him after the announcement, he stressed the distributor was “constantly looking at ways to reduce emissions”. He noted the Covid-19 pandemic had brought about a change in attitude to business trips and meetings, for example. “When you’re growing your business, you feel that you need to be at that meeting or go to that conference because you think that’s the reason for your success”. But the pandemic helped companies realise they could still grow the business using collaboration tools. They didn’t have to meet their supplier or customer in person or go to a conference.

One of the big areas for channel partners, given their role in the supply chain, is the carbon costs associated with being part of that chain. Scope 3 emissions, as they are known, are far harder to control. Earlier this year, Westcoast managing director Alex Tatham described Scope 3 emissions as “the toughest for the channel to cope with”.

He argued, with some justification, that the impact of a distributor, such as Westcoast, on the overall carbon emissions of a product was “tiny”. But it does raise the question of what can be done to try and control or contain these emissions.

Counting the cost

Tatham proposed a ‘carbon count’ label by SKU giving information on how much carbon a product had taken and its environmental impact, arguing it would “help the whole channel”.

O’Hara believes that things will improve over time. “If every business was carbon neutral, using any services wouldn’t add to my carbon footprint,” he says, although the industry is nowhere near that and it’s likely to take years.

While it’s the responsibility of individual companies to reduce their emissions, consumer behaviour can be a powerful motivator. That would be where proper carbon labelling would be very useful in helping customers reach more sustainable buying decisions.

O’Hara says this is something that is starting to come through for DataSolutions when it looks at potential vendor partnerships. When the distributor considers the pros and cons of taking on a vendor, it looks at areas such as the technology, the go-to-market strategy and the resources available. “More and more, if there’s a sustainability message, it goes on the positive side of the ledger,” he adds.

The focus on sustainability is not going to come at the expense of future growth. O’Hara says DataSolutions would like to double its turnover in the next three years to hit €200 million and believes it’s “very doable”.

The distributor sees an opportunity to grow more in the UK, possibly with an acquisition as well, as well as in the Scandinavian and Benelux regions in Europe. He’s not too concerned by recent gloomy forecasts for the UK economy because of the distributor’s focus on IT security and cloud, both of which are hot areas.

The big question for the IT industry (and all other sectors), which has always been lurking in the background around environmental issues, is whether more and more people think sustainability will be a hot area whatever the economic circumstances.

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