Case Study in Sustainability: Symantec

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The Evolution of a Responsible Enterprise

The sustainability guru, Bob Willard, developed the very useful Sustainability Continuum to describe the five stages companies go through as they evolve and integrate sustainability initiatives into their business operations. After speaking with Cecily Joseph, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec, who provided the detail below, I would say Symantec is making all the right moves evolving beyond compliance (Stage Three) to a fully integrated strategy (Stage Four) to gain enhanced business value.
Symantec provides a range of security, storage, and systems management solutions that help businesses and consumers secure and manage their information. And they also offer an excellent template for other companies considering a move up the sustainability continuum.

First Things First
Symantec decided to formalize their commitment to sustainability about three years ago by signing the UN Global Compact. The Compact provides credibility as it is universally accepted, and it also provides 10 organizing principles for businesses to align their operations and strategies in the areas of human rights, labor, and the environment.
Next they formed an internal, cross-functional Stewardship Council with participants from groups like IT, facilities, supply chain, procurement, travel, manufacturing, PR, and marketing, among others. The Stewardship Council holds regular meetings with the CEO who is fully committed to this effort.
And finally, they developed a sustainability strategy, a list of initiatives that would have the biggest impact and were appropriate for their business. They captured these initiatives in a Corporate Responsibility report and posted the report on the company website to allow feedback from the company’s various stakeholders.
Symantec’s Environmental Strategy
Ms. Joseph emphasized Symantec’s ongoing commitment to minimizing its environmental footprint. The company continually looks for innovative ways to decrease their energy, water, and materials use. The strategy features four key components:
Green IT (including the Green Data Center): Symantec has established practices to minimize energy use and optimize performance in their clients’ and their own data centers and beyond. Solutions employ technologies like server virtualization and storage consolidation to help reduce hardware and energy needs. Server consolidation leveraging virtualization and reducing the number of physical servers by using Veritas Cluster Server has reduced device count across their business from 1635 to 352 (a 67 % energy consumption reduction).
In 2007, they deployed a custom power management profile on company PCs. Systems go into standby mode after four hours of inactivity, saving approximately $800,000 and more than 6 million kWh of energy per year.
Resource Conservation: The company recognized that emissions related to energy use in their buildings, facilities, data centers, and research labs constituted the major portion of their greenhouse gas emissions. So they began to look at reducing emissions, through implementation of Green IT as well as the deployment of other conservation and efficiency solutions. Another positive step was to complete their first global greenhouse gas inventory in 2008 to provide a benchmark to measure future reductions.
Ms. Joseph indicated the new Culver City campus was built to LEED NC Gold standards and achieved Gold certification in 2008. They are also working on LEED retrofits and certification for many of their other facilities.
Responsible Software Packaging: They integrated the concept of reduce/reuse/recycle into packaging design and manufacture, and now deliver approximately 70% of their software products electronically which greatly reduces consumer-generated waste as well as Symantec’s carbon emissions from product transport. Estimates show this is saving several hundred tons of packaging material, cardboard, shrinkwrap, and paper.
Transportation: Symantec calculated that employee travel accounted for more than 30% of their total emissions, so they began working on ways to reduce employee commuting and business travel. They implemented HP’s Halo video conferencing solution to reduce travel. Eight Halo studios are currently in place at locations in Asia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. And they are working with Rideshare 511 in the SF Bay area to facilitate carpooling.
Employee Engagement
Employees are key stakeholders in this evolution, according to Ms. Joseph. Symantec learned early on in the process that their employees expected the company to operate responsibly and provide resources for them to participate. Symantec has done this through the formation of Green Teams and enlisted the help of the local non-profit Sustainable Silicon Valley in this effort.
In 2008, Symantec reached another milestone in their evolution by publishing their first CSR report according to the GRI guidelines. CERES awarded the report “Best First Time Report.” It was recognized for its innovative online podcast that presents the business rationale for reporting, and for its candid discussion of the company’s experience and challenges as a first time reporter.
Green Products
Symantec has also introduced their Green PC service that allows the consumer to engage online with a NortonLive PC expert. The Norton consultant connects remotely to the PC to assess and optimize the computer’s power settings.
Throughout April, to honor Earth Day, Symantec is offering their Green PC Service at a special promotional price. You can get more details on the website.
Any company wondering about where to start and how to proceed can learn volumes from Symantec’s evolution along this continuum. You can get much more detail on their programs and download their latest CSR report from the Corporate Responsibility section of their website.

Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher based in Silicon Valley focused on business, technology and the environment. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on topics that include: sustainable business practices, clean tech, the environment and next generation transportation technologies. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Contact him at

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