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Sustainability superheroes – CIOs are pulling on their green capes

  • Posted on August 11, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes
Sustainability Superheroes CIOs

We know that sustainability is rapidly rising up the agenda on both a personal, and a professional level. Whether it’s home renewables and efficiencies, electric vehicles, growing consumer demand for more sustainable products, or corporate sustainability initiatives, the human interest is driving organizations to rethink their approach to sustainability. A recent blog discussing the journey beyond net zero highlighted Accenture research findings that 99% of CEOs from billion-plus dollar companies agree sustainability will be a key to future performance.

Accenture research also tells us that 75% of companies believe their investments in digital technologies will help them achieve their sustainability objectives.

The role of the CIO must not be underestimated. In fact, IT departments can again be the changemakers, superheroes of the current green revolution, as they lead from the front to enable organizational sustainability. And there’s an obvious place to start.

1. Cloud migrations cut carbon
It’s pretty obvious the data center is carbon intensive with all its power requirements, and it’s clearly something of an anomaly in an environmentally conscious world. When you go to bed you don’t leave the lights on all night, you simply switch a light on when you need it. In commercial buildings it’s common for lights to be on sensors – they’re only on if people are moving. And it’s the same when you think about the datacenter – if a resource is not in use there’s no need for it to run. Why should it be any different for servers?

We know that most organizations have made some moves to the cloud, but did you know that moving to the Microsoft cloud can lower your carbon footprint by up to 98%? And, with Microsoft’s commitment to being 100% renewable powered by 2025, and carbon negative by 2030, the sustainability benefits speak for themselves. And of course, the more you use Azure, the greater the potential for reducing your carbon footprint.

But let’s not pretend that simply moving to the cloud is enough, that’s just the start. 

2. The power of the cloud enables greater change
The cloud enables an organization to measure, monitor and act, to become future ready by enabling the business to take action through support, tracking and empowerment. The first place to look is cost and consumption. While Azure will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025, it’s best practise to optimize the cloud for cost, which is tightly coupled to energy usage. If you’re mismanaging costs, you’re likely mismanaging carbon. And consider another core part of sustainability, recycling; if resources are running but unused, they should be reallocated – reducing wastage is critical to cloud optimization, and sustainability.

Beyond cloud migration, consumption and efficiency, the incredible power of Azure provides organizations with ways to not only collect and store carbon related data, but more importantly, the ability to uncover insights, ideas and recommendations. And, the power to react quickly and at scale, through automation. Imagine for example, the ways in which you could analyze data to optimize your logistics and bring carbon efficiencies to your fleet, the dashboards you could create for facilities teams to track and improve energy use across your buildings. Technology can be the starting point for an ecosystem of sustainability opportunities. 

3. You need a rounded sustainability strategy
You’ll already have dashboards within your business, but do you have one for sustainability? Many of those dashboards can be viewed through a sustainability lens, but without a dedicated, focused view, any strategies you do have will be lacking. If you’re not accurately measuring, you’re not going to drive significant change. But a note of caution is due here – there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing an issue and being unable to act. It’s key to empower for accountability, but critically, organizations must empower their people to act.

Some organizations will have a Chief Sustainability Officer, some will have sustainability as an additional executive responsibility, while others will not have determined who is responsible. Whatever the scenario in a business, the CIO will have a fundamental role in developing, enabling and driving the strategy. Whoever owns the strategy, it must cover Scope 1 -3 emissions (emissions from owned sources, emissions from purchased energy and all other emissions), and progress must be carefully tracked.

For long term success and to drive real change, sustainability needs to be embedded in the very fabric of the organization. A mantra of sustainable by design must be embraced, where anything new is designed to be sustainable, and every employee is a sustainability champion, questioning wastage and asking why dev machines or test instances are not automatically shut down when not in use. Operations must by default become sustainable, with decisions viewed through a new lens, this is not a one and done scenario. And you need KPIs, so start tracking your data points now. When it comes to measuring progress, you’ll be thankful you created a starting point early.

The time to act is now
With the recent announcement of the Microsoft cloud for sustainability, organizations will be able to discover and connect to real-time data sources to uncover actionable insights. By aggregating sustainability and enabling organizations to simply record, report, reduce and replace their emissions, now is the time to elevate the sustainability agenda.

With our unparalleled knowledge of the Microsoft ecosystem and our close connections to Microsoft, Avanade can help guide you along this journey to a sustainable future. And the CIO has the opportunity to be a sustainability superhero.

We’re helping numerous clients with their sustainability journeys, with great experience with the Microsoft sustainability calculator and unrivalled expertise around Azure. Look out for exciting developments in this space or contact us to find out how we can help you.

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