The pandemic has forced companies to re-evaluate their business model and be more imaginative in their business approach. Optimization, flexibility and resilience were at the heart of their concerns, and brought back to life this desire to make a greater commitment to the environment and sustainable development.
Over the last decade, this subject has taken on an increasingly important place within companies: it is now at the heart of concerns in all sectors of activity. This trend has also been encouraged by media coverage around climate change and numerous commitments, such as the Paris agreement, which have raised awareness among companies and the general public.
In this post-lockdown economy, companies are taking advantage of embedding sustainability within their infrastructure, and presenting it as both a business and environmental benefit.
Sustainable development is not just about taking steps to reduce carbon emissions and waste creation. It is a state of mind. Regardless of the size of the company, IT departments must think about and implement solutions that have a positive impact on employees, society and the environment, while ensuring prosperous development.
Leaders must find a balance between a growing demand for IT and a responsible approach. Here are five tips that can help balance the two priorities.
Reduce the impact of data on resources
Data is growing at an exponential rate. If they represent a powerful asset, a lack of strategy around their accumulation can quickly turn them into a liability. Currently, around 10% of the world’s electricity is used to power IT (computers, data centers, networks, etc.) and, as we move towards a world where the volume of data generated globally is expected to exceed 180 zettabytes by 2025, electricity consumption could multiply rapidly.
The energy impact goes beyond the simple electrical aspect. Indeed, data management can have consequences on another key resource: water. According to a report by the US Department of Energy, an average data center would need about 1.8 liters of water for each kWh consumed, mainly for air conditioning. This is a huge amount that only increases with increasing volumes of data. Companies must therefore start adopting processes to drastically reduce their water consumption.
To do this, they must analyze the operational management of their data within their infrastructure. Moving away from inefficient traditional computing models in favor of more efficient and energy-conscious infrastructure is a positive first step, and liquid cooling technology in data centers to reduce energy consumption by up to 40% is a solution.
Create a circular product lifecycle
For any company involved in IT management, the notion of circular economy has taken a considerable place. This aims to reduce the use of materials and energy in the manufacture of products, and then to recover as much of the finished products as possible for reuse and recycling.
According to the managing director of St Augustine Dumpster Rental HQ, the effects of the linear economy are particularly alarming in the IT sector. Toxic electronic waste would constitute a waste stream representing more than 57.4 million tons annually. To reduce the risk of environmentally harmful waste, the industry must raise the bar for recycling, reusing or repairing 100% of equipment, to prevent it from ending up in landfills.
There are models like Design-Use-Return which cover all aspects and reduce dumpster rental use: from packaging, to product take-back and recovery, to manufacturing and operations. It includes services, ensuring responsible asset recovery and data disposal.
This practice must extend to the packaging we use, striving to favor recycled materials and to eliminate plastic, for example by adopting more sustainable materials such as sugar cane and bamboo. It is also about discovering new manufacturing methods to increase the sustainability of packaging, companies must seek to create a circular way of life for products.
Have bold goals
To become a sustainable company, you have to be responsible. To do this, you must put your reputation on the line, hold yourself to high standards and make that commitment to various partners. Once you’ve publicly set your goals, there’s no turning back.
Another way to do this is to engage in industry-recognized sustainability initiatives. These initiatives encourage those who commit to review and adapt their operations according to their obligations. The Science Based Targets (SBTi) initiative, the first-ever science-based net emissions reduction standard, is one such approach that enables a consistent assessment of a company’s emissions reduction.
Put measures in place to track progress
Now, the ecosystem around technology alone represents nearly 10% of electricity consumption in France. It is therefore crucial for companies to demand less energy-intensive power in this sector and that they learn to control and measure it.
The range of metrics that can be tracked, such as water use, power consumption, and renewable energy use, offers vast opportunities for energy savings. Understanding how you measure your environmental efforts and what metrics you need to see change will help you see if you are actually making progress.
Optimize the supply chain
The supply chain has been the focus of global attention lately, and data centers for example, like any other complex IT structure, depend on strong supply chains. Equipment breakdowns depend on robust supply chain management to replenish inventory.
These considerations are not only important from a business continuity perspective, but also to ensure energy-efficient logistics and reduce the risk of wasted energy due to unplanned downtime. Companies are looking to their supply chains to drive sustainability to reduce costs, strengthen operations and mitigate environmental risks. These include integrating transportation methods like rail instead of air and reducing the distance products travel along the supply chain. By distributing production to more local facilities, companies can reduce the number of steps required to get product from the factory to the customer and thus reduce fuel consumption.
Having an approach based on sustainable development in all its activities is essential. Our common goal is to build a better future where smarter technology will continue to empower everyone, and that goal cannot be achieved without positively impacting society and our planet.
By taking a holistic view of sustainability, companies recognize that there is no single area or strategy to reduce carbon emissions at scale as everyone would like. It is a constant process of improvement and the responsibility of everyone – both the company and the employees.