Skip to Content

Why making employees sustainable IT accelerators

Roman Hess
8 Nov 2021

In the past years the usage of IT infrastructure by organizations and their employees increased drastically. Accordingly, the harmful effects on climate and environment, eg. the amount of data- and hardware waste is rising. With a closer look at the usage of IT by employees in the Life Science and Healthcare sector, we raise awareness and promote #greenITemployees

The global climate crisis is driving businesses towards implementing sustainable solutions and investments. Investments in enterprise IT controversially contributes significantly to the global greenhouse gas emissions and generates over 50 million tons of e-waste per year, with an increase of 21% in five years [3]. Consequently, there are some overlocked aspects in the Life Science industry, where external investments are not enough: The awareness of the own employees regarding Green IT and the consecutive engagement in their daily live. While we already introduced the concept and definition of Sustainable IT and insights on the impact of FIs, this article will focus specifically on Life Science and the possibility for their employees to engage sustainability in their daily use of technology.

The climate impact of employees in Life Science and Healthcare

In Life Science and Healthcare 56% of the organizations have outlined a strategy covering their sustainable future, but only 14% are showing a well-defined Sustainable IT strategy with dedicated goals and target timelines [1]. Thus, it is not only to consider the environmental impact of Life Sciences companies through a consumption of natural resources and numerous forms of waste, but the digital waste too. Evident, primarily in how Life Sciences companies handle their records, data governance and their hardware, employees play a substantial part as well [4]. The growth in users equipped with at least one connected device and further the ratio of connected devices per individual from 2.1 in 2015 to 3.3 in 2020, demonstrate the increase of employee influence [2]. Coming top down from the company’s overall sustainability ambition to which IT must contribute to a significant extend, the relevance of employees and their handling of technology and data is considerable. To reduce the emissions caused by IT, the employees themselves need to be made aware about their impact and their potential contribution. Hence, the organization needs to help their employees in becoming ambassadors.

Sustainability through “Green IT” employees

To establish sustainable IT operations, organizations need to ensure their employee are environmentally aware and engaged. Nevertheless, only 40% of organizations state that their employees show a desire to take initiatives that can support sustainable IT [1]. Strategies and initiatives to encourage and support employees are lacking. There is an urgent need to guide employees in the path towards sustainable IT:

  • Raise awareness by setting up events like a strategy day focusing on sustainable enhancements or digital cleaning days for everyone to focus on their digital waste. Further, the creation of a dedicated intranet or a newsletter help to scale the awareness across the organization.
  • Upskill employees with a sustainable strategy and plan for each role and teach them new methods to convert behaviors that have a negative climate impact. Training modules on targeted themes like procurement, data center management, etc. supported by dedicated training material, enable teams to act more sustainably in their daily work.
  • Scaling and adoption of a community of sustainable IT ambassadors, equipped with processes and tools to keep them engaged in the long term. With the implementation of specific KPIs, results can be visualized and tracked which encourages employees to sustain their changed practices.

Using these three-step approach, an organization can raise awareness among its employees and make them sustainable IT accelerators. In the same way as the climate change affects all of us, everyone can improve the impact of IT on sustainability. Ergo, every employee in an organization should be encouraged to strive towards a green usage of the individual IT environment.

[2] The Shift Project, “Lean ICT – Towards digital sobriety”, March 2019
[3] United Nations institute for Training and Research, “GLOBAL E-WASTE SURGING: UP 21 PERCENT IN 5 YEARS,” July 2, 2020
[4] Iron Mountain, “Advancing Sustainability in Life Sciences”, 2020

Thanks to the Co-Author David Schädler


Roman Hess

Senior Consultant