How sustainable is your technology and operations?
- Posted on May 25, 2023
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Awareness of sustainability has never been higher. 96% of S&P 500 companies now publish an ESG report, which indicates that sustainability actions have long passed the threshold of being a nice to have to a much-needed necessity. If 480 of the largest 500 publicly traded companies in the U.S. individually enact sustainability measures held in those ESG reports, then our concerns about carbon emissions and resource availability will be mitigated, right? Not quite.
Sustainability is not a solo endeavour. For meaningful results to be achieved, organizations must all work together towards sustainability actions – those that can’t embrace the notion of an ecosystem approach will be left behind.
The challenge hides in often-overlooked causes of carbon emissions
The reason an ecosystem approach to addressing sustainability challenges is required is because we live in a world of finite resources. We no longer operate in a world where we can expand and find more resources in different places - we're globally reaching a limit. An approach is needed to prevent resources from being overused and used as efficiently as possible. To maintain trust in and through technology, organizations need to rethink how they optimize resource usage and internal IT, operations, and their partners, and build resource awareness into their products and services. We are moving toward a resource-aware ecosystem where partners, suppliers and vendors share information with each other in a privatized way to make better use of Earth’s limited resources. This shift is already happening, as evidenced by technology leaders like Microsoft building carbon-awareness into products.
When it comes to sustainability most people's thoughts go to the things you can physically see and touch. For a manufacturing organization sustainability is more tangible, but for other organizations, their sustainability opportunities often lie beneath the surface in their technology.
We have a heavy reliance on data and the information that data can give us. The problem is with an accumulation of data, our data centres are becoming increasingly carbon impactful. So much so, that according to the World Economic Forum, data centers (2.5%) have a have a greater carbon footprint than the aviation industry (2.1%). It begs the question, are we using data in a responsible way? Data centers are littered with dark data, which like single-use plastics is data that’s put in the cloud used once and then never accessed again. An opportunity exists to use only the information that we need and become efficient in the way that we're using technology.
Effective ways to measure your information technology’s carbon impact now
In response to this technology sustainability challenge we are launching, Avanade Green IT Enabler, which enables organizations to monitor the carbon impacts of their IT infrastructure and operations. This allows organizations to continually take practical actions to embed sustainability in the development and optimization of technologies, devices, and processes to use fewer resources. Embedding sustainability in all that you do is particularly important; aligning sustainability ambitions directly with your organizational ambitions leads to greater business value and operational efficiencies, rather than a mutually exclusive cost centre.
Organizations looking to be more sustainable with their technology first need to know what their sustainability impact is. To help achieve this we've created a carbon accounting tool to track the carbon that your organization is generating. The tool is used to track an organization’s journey from A to B and get an immediate assessment of how sustainable that journey is. The carbon accounting tool sits between all the various IT systems and as they communicate together, they identify systems that are carbon inefficient and aim to optimize them. Optimizing could include rewriting code to be more efficient through training software developers in green software engineering practices or determining offsetting carbon actions.
Become resource-aware now to prevent being left behind
Historically we have not been thinking about where resources are coming from and where those resources are going, but that’s changed. Increasingly, your ecosystem partners and other stakeholders will be expecting your organization to show it is limiting the use of resources across its IT infrastructure and operations. With organizations striving for Scope 3 carbon emissions, which includes all indirect emissions that occur in the organization’s value chain. Meeting sustainability reporting standards will be imperative with the alternative being opted out of value chains.