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The benefits of adopting sustainable IT


In the first article in this short series, we noted that IT sustainability is not a priority for many organizations, and we considered why that might be.

This time, we’ll look at the benefits of taking action.

Brand – and business

Climate change is a significant feature in the public consciousness these days, so one of the principal benefits of increased IT sustainability will, of course, be to the perceived status of the organization. The survey conducted by the Capgemini Research Institute (CRI)[1] found that, of organizations with high levels of maturity in sustainable IT, 61% noted improvements in their brand image, and 56% reported improved customer/client satisfaction.

Benefits weren’t, however, restricted to public perception. Almost two-thirds (61%) of high-maturity organizations reported improvements in their ESG score (environmental, social & governance), and 44% of them – twice as many as their lower-maturity peers – said their green practices were delivering tax savings. In fact, our report showed that organizations that have scaled sustainable IT use cases have achieved, on average, a 12% reduction in costs.

Quick wins

How have these benefits been achieved? The CRI examined use cases across six categories, to establish which actions were producing the best results. The report covers them in greater detail, and you can read it here – but this is a quick summary:

  • IT hardware/user devices – the auto switch-off hardware/features use case delivered the highest cost savings (14% on average) from power reduction, while reducing carbon in this category
  • Cloud computing/virtualization – switching to a green cloud architecture and framework delivered a 19% cost saving among organizations that were able to scale the solution organization-wide
  • Applications and data – developing sustainable architectures to rationalize applications, and to identify and decouple those that were energy-intensive, offered 11% cost savings. The lesson here was that organizations should audit their applications so they can identify the most energy-intensive applications and take steps to address the worst offenders
  • Cooling techniques – data centers are an organization’s second largest consumer of energy (mobiles and laptops are first), with 35% of data center energy taken up by powering cooling equipment. Using machine learning to optimize cooling systems can deliver 8% cost savings
  • Utilization – using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to optimize data center utilization delivered cost savings of 9% among those who have deployed it
  • Energy efficiency and usage – the cost of running and cooling servers far exceeds the initial price of hardware. Our report said it was therefore critical that energy-rated servers such as “Energy Star” are mandated in procurement.

Leading the way

If technology is responsible for much of an organization’s carbon footprint – and clearly, it is – it isn’t surprising to find that technology companies themselves are keen to lead the way on mitigation efforts.

Examples include Google, which became carbon-neutral in 2007, and has offset its entire carbon footprint since its inception by investing in “high-quality carbon offsets.” The company also aims to run its data centers on carbon-free energy by 2030.

Microsoft is planning to become carbon-negative by 2030; Apple is aiming to be carbon-neutral by the same year; and Amazon aims to be carbon-neutral by 2040.

As we’ve seen, though, sustainability isn’t just about greener hardware and energy. Some organizations are also reviewing their business applications to see if any of them can be retired or replaced, so as to reduce redundancy and hence energy consumption. They are also using programming languages that are designed to consume minimal energy.

Further named examples of initiatives such as these can be found in the CRI report.

Efficiency is key

As I mentioned in the first article, sustainable IT is one of the five pillars of what we at Capgemini call the Frictionless Enterprise, which is a business concept that enables information to flow smoothly and intelligently between people and processes. It’s not hard to see why it’s part of the mix: frictionless operations and sustainability are each built on the principle of efficiency.

In the third and final article in this series, we’ll consider the elements needed to draw a roadmap to IT sustainability.

Read the full CRI paper entitled “Sustainable IT is the backbone of a greener future” to learn why it’s time for a Green revolution for your organization’s IT.

Learn more about how the “sustainable business” pillar of Capgemini’s Frictionless Enterprise concept can help your organization factor in responsibilities to the environment and society.

Pierre-Louis Seguin is the global sales officer for Capgemini’s Business Services global business line.

[1] Source: Capgemini Research Institute, Green IT survey, December 2020 – January 2021, N = 1000 organizations.