How Autodesk Helps Design a Better World

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Image courtesy Autodesk

This week Autodesk released its sustainability report for FY 2012. The $2 billion design software firm offers a compelling case of how its products can help build a more sustainable world and mitigate a company’s impact on the planet. The 30 page report also illustrates how a company’s sustainability agenda can be fully integrated within its overall corporate strategy.

Autodesk’s sustainability program includes five pillars: products, carbon emissions, employee engagement, community and partnerships with non-profits. From offering its software free in order to democratize the design process to using its own products to ensure its offices use less energy, Autodesk continues to demonstrate how companies can lead in social responsibility efforts by capitalizing on its greatest strengths.

Some of the highlights in this year’s report include:

Free software licenses: Since 2010, 350,000 people have taken advantage of Autodesk’s Sustainability Workshop, the company’s free online class that teaches sustainability principles in the fields of engineering and design. With a huge part of energy-efficient and less resource-dependent products relying on better design, Autodesk has had a huge role in allowing that basement tinkerer or starving graduate student test their ideas at minimal cost.

Energy efficiency: At facilities around the world, Autodesk has used its products to design the LEED certified spaces in which its employees work. Overall the company reported a 33 percent reduction in energy consumption since 2009.

Employee engagement: Autodesk repeatedly scores high in indices that measure the most desirable companies where employees want to work, and it is easy to see why. Internal surveys reveal that the percentage of employees satisfied with their tenure at Autodesk rose four percentage points since last year, although it is still off from 2008 levels. Wellness programs, such as subsidized health plans, are generous, and for a workforce that is not only sedentary but also constantly in front of a computer, Autodesk also has an ambitious ergonomic safety program.

Community work: Autodesk’s greatest contribution is offering its suite of software to organizations than can benefit the most from it. Hundreds of clean technology companies around the world have scored Autodesk’s software at very little cost. The company works with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) on a program that will create a standardized platform by which cities can disclose their carbon emissions and the risks and opportunities that arise from climate change. Autodesk also partners with Granta Design to create a system allowing designers and engineers to improve the overall environmental impact of the materials they use in their products.

For companies feeling the pressure to improve their social, environmental and governance performance, Autodesk offers the simplest lesson: stick to what you know and do it well.

The full report is available on

Leon Kaye, based in California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and covers sustainable architecture and design for Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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