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why sustainable it is the backbone of a greener future

Ygor Zeliviansky
Apr 11, 2023

As organizations begin seriously considering their post-pandemic futures, they now face the challenge of walking the tight rope between meeting growth objectives and building sustainable businesses. 

Over the last year, promises of long-term sustainability agendas have more than tripled, with pledges of zero carbon and carbon neutrality abounding. While many organizations are turning to technology to meet these targets and solve environmental issues, enterprises need to ensure their IT does not become a part of the problem.  

The era of sustainable tech is on the rise. Companies are now leveraging innovative, data-driven technology to simultaneously streamline operations, cut carbon emissions, and reduce their carbon footprint. Often perceived as a savior rather than a sinner, the production, use, and disposal of technology has an often-overlooked carbon footprint: an estimated 57.4 million tons of e-waste were generated worldwide in 2021 alone. The total is growing by an average of 2 Mt a year. 

Accelerated by the fiercely dynamic and competitive markets, more organizations are embracing digital transformation across their business. As a result, demand for computing power and data storage is on the rise and so too is the energy required to produce and run them. Curating sustainable enterprise-wide digital systems will be crucial for any business trying to balance the objectives of sustainable growth post-pandemic.   

But with so little awareness on the matter, the road to successful and sustainable IT needs a clear and rigorous roadmap. Our research has found crucial factors to consider when building and implementing sustainable IT strategies – let’s have a look through each one.  

  •  Understanding the task  

When it comes to strategy, half of firms have defined an enterprise-wide sustainability approach, yet less than one in five (18%) have a comprehensive, sustainable IT strategy with well-defined goals and target timelines.  

Before a clear and robust framework can be rolled out, organizations need to get clued in on what they are dealing with. Our research revealed an alarming gap in awareness regarding the overall environmental impact of IT, with fewer than half of executives (43%) globally aware of their organization’s IT footprint. Many are confused about the true impact of IT. Only 34%, for example, know that the production of mobiles and laptops has a higher carbon footprint than the usage of these devices over their lifetime.  

Getting a clear understanding of the issue is the first critical stage for firms looking to develop sustainable strategies. Once the baselines and benchmarks of an enterprise’s environmental footprint have been marked out, organizations can then look to establish, implement, and monitor key performance indicators, targets, and frameworks. 

  •  Engaged and informed employees  

Employees and leaders who are engaged with sustainability agendas drive greater progress. Even the most thorough strategies can come undone when those involved are not committed to the cause. Taking things one step further by developing a specialist sustainable IT team can provide streamlined purpose and coherence. Organizations must adopt the same mindset with employees as with consumers. People want to buy from companies with sustainable products and services. Likewise, employees want to work for such organizations. People are a critical component of sustainability transformation. Therefore, you must foster a culture that celebrates and promotes environmentalism, while trusting and empowering your people to contribute their own ideas. Those who have made sustainability a pillar of the organizational culture have seen greater progress.
Our research found that 60% of organizations are adopting sustainability to align with the demands of potential employees.

  •  Sustainable software architecture 

Sustainability needs to be at the very center of an organization’s business. While emissions and output need to be carefully scrutinized, developing a sustainable software architecture is an imperative.  

Understanding the environmental consequences of software deployment and making decisions based on the carbon cost of infrastructure will ingrain sustainability into the foundations of an enterprise. Once the architecture is available, specific software modules within the structural design must be viewed from a sustainability perspective. For instance, organizations should empower their developers to understand the carbon cost of their software modules and use green coding to produce algorithms that have minimal energy consumption, at all times.

Upskilling developers in circular design will help product and design teams lessen their waste and thus their environmental footprints.

Sustainable IT can play a critical role in creating a circular economy by reducing waste, maximizing resource efficiency, and promoting more sustainable production and consumption practices. By introducing sustainability into the company’s value chain, you will drive the whole organization toward new efficiencies and a circular economy.

Moving forward, sustainability must be at the core of all our efforts. While many organizations have begun to focus on their overall sustainability agenda, the critical issue of sustainable IT has been overlooked. To give sustainable IT the attention it deserves, organizations need to understand the carbon cost of our digital world and accelerate the move to sustainable systems with engaged and dedicated teams. In this way, sustainable IT can play a central part in tackling climate change, promoting a circular economy, driving innovation, and moving the world to a more resilient and sustainable future.  

Meet the author

Ygor Zeliviansky

Head of Global Portfolio, Cloud Infrastructure Services, Capgemini 
I am a Solutions Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry and have delivered business value for global clients in service delivery, enterprise software, HP products, enterprise architecture, and storage.