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Green IT: Why the Next Era of Enterprise Technology Is Sustainable

4 Mins read

Just a few decades ago, sustainability was not a business priority. Today, most companies understand  the importance of sustainability, both from a business and social responsibility perspective.

So, what’s changed?

Today, companies are relying on technology to power their workforce’s efficiency and productivity more than ever. Carbon footprints have greatly increased in the process. According to researchers, information and communications technology alone will comprise almost 14% of the world’s total carbon emissions by 2040—up from just 1.5% in 2007.

Realizing that our devices improve productivity at the cost of the environment is a uniquely challenging double-edged sword. Businesses are eager to reduce that impact while leveraging the benefits of technology. The question is, how? That’s where the concept of green IT comes into play.

What is Green IT?

Green IT—otherwise known as green computing—is the practice of designing, manufacturing, or using technology in a way that limits its harmful effects on the climate. This includes everything from choosing environmentally friendly materials to reducing energy consumption and electronic waste.

Green IT is an enterprise-level commitment to lessen the environmental impact of technology as much as possible.

And, more businesses are taking on this commitment. According to a Gartner study, CEOs ranked sustainability in their top 10 strategic business priorities for the first time in 2022. Many respondents even place sustainability on the same level as brand trust in terms of its importance as a competitive differentiator.

Indeed, numerous forces are compelling enterprises to adopt greener business practices. A recent survey found that 98% of consumers believe brands have a responsibility to make the world better, and 40% say they prefer to buy sustainable products over others.

The survey also suggests three areas of opportunity where CIOs can take the lead when going green:

  1. Implementing a holistic insights program to measure and drive sustainability
  2. Leveraging an environmentally friendly tech strategy
  3. Driving transparency and accountability across the value chain

These areas fall neatly within the domain of green IT. By auditing your company’s technology stack and strategizing ways to implement eco-friendly initiatives, you can effectively support sustainability in both your own operations and those of your business partners.

Benefits of Green IT

Organizations with sustainability programs in place report a number of resulting advantages, including:

  • Cost savings: Reducing energy consumption and e-waste can translate into money saved. In fact, Gartner reports that 4 in 5 business leaders say sustainability helps them reduce operational costs.
  • Improved reputation: Consumers are looking for mindfully sourced products from organizations that value the environment. At least 60% are even willing to pay more for products with sustainable packaging. Implementing green IT strategies can underscore your commitment to sustainability and help drive positive business outcomes.
  • Compliance: Regulators are increasingly cracking down on ecologically damaging business practices. For instance, the European Union recently implemented restrictions on single-use plastics, prohibiting their sale across all member states. Adopting green practices can help you remain in compliance with changing regulations and avoid fines and legal repercussions.
  • Reduced carbon footprint: Perhaps the most impactful benefit of green IT is its ripple effect on the environment. By using technology more efficiently and reducing waste, organizations can drastically reduce carbon emissions overall.

Examples of Green IT strategies

Green IT has the potential to benefit both your business and the environment. But what does it look like in practice?

Let’s explore seven examples of green IT strategies you can implement to better support your sustainability goals.

1. Telecommuting and hybrid work

With fewer employees working on-site than ever before, travel to and from the office has reduced.

Implementing a hybrid or remote-first work policy can potentially reduce your employees’ vehicular carbon emissions. Of course, this also raises the question: How do you keep distributed workforces connected and collaborating?

To overcome the distance, many enterprises are leaning on cloud-based solutions, such as video conferencing and cloud calling platforms. These tools allow team members to communicate as if they were together in person without skipping a beat.

2. Cloud sustainability 

Gartner defines cloud sustainability as the use of cloud computing to achieve environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. By utilizing cloud services, companies can eliminate residual impacts associated with on-premises systems, such as cooling and compute power.

Take data centers, for example. It’s estimated that traditional data centers consume over 205 terawatt hours of electricity every year, which is more than the annual energy usage of Taiwan, Ireland, Denmark, or South Africa. Most enterprises replace them every few years, growing their carbon footprints in the process.

Cloud data centers are a more sustainable option. Many are run on renewable energy and serve multiple clients at a time, consolidating compute power and maximizing utilization rates. This reduces idle capacity, resulting in greater energy efficiency across the shared infrastructure.

3. Hot desking

Offices aren’t as busy as they used to be now that employees are working from home at least part time. Consequently, workspaces—and the resources used to power them—are going to waste.

Hot desking is an office setup where desks are not assigned permanently but booked as needed by employees. This approach to shared workspaces can help reduce the energy required to heat, cool, and light office spaces.

4. Sustainable hardware procurement

According to the World Economic Forum, 80% of a product’s environmental impacts are linked to decisions made during design. For this reason, many business leaders are looking for sustainably sourced hardware with energy-efficiency built in.

Sustainable procurement involves purchasing devices that are environmentally friendly and buying from vendors with sustainable practices. From low-power servers and notebooks to smart lights and video conferencing equipment built with a circular design approach, manufacturers are offering more eco-friendly products.

5. Centralized IT management

One of the best ways to further your ESG goal is to truly understand your technology stack top to bottom. The only problem? Many enterprises don’t have visibility into energy consumption, emissions, and other key performance metrics.

Business leaders should prioritize vendors that offer these insights inside a single pane of glass. With full visibility across the entire organization, you can monitor estimated energy consumption, track emissions over time, and report progress to customers and stakeholders alike.

Better yet, with data at your fingertips, you can jump into action and identify areas of improvement.

A greener, cleaner future

Sustainability is more than a buzzword. It’s a mission. As sustainable practices rise up the corporate agenda, it’s clear that the next era of enterprise technology will be greener.

By implementing environmentally friendly technologies and sustainable practices, businesses can not only reduce their own carbon footprint, but also be on the forefront of positive change.

Robyn Rawlings is a successful marketing leader with over 20 years of experience in enterprise software and software-as-a-service (SaaS). She is currently Director of Integrated Campaigns and Content Marketing at Webex by Cisco, a leader in cloud calling, collaboration, and customer experience
solutions.

Green IT stock image by PeachShutterStock/Shutterstock

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