How the C-Suite Can Champion Sustainability Across the Enterprise

By CIO September 27, 2022
How the C-Suite Can Champion Sustainability Across the Enterprise

Becoming a sustainable enterprise is no longer a "nice to have" priority – reducing a company's carbon footprint and fighting climate change is now mainstream. In fact, more than 3,200 companies have set science-based carbon targets, and thousands of companies from around the world are pledging to reach net-zero emissions by either 2040 or 2050. While CIOs and CTOs play critical roles in a company's digital transformation efforts, only about half of them are part of their organization's sustainability goal leadership team, and even fewer are assessed on a company's achievement of its sustainability goals. 

"Worldwide IT leaders are adopting and integrating a sustainable approach to their business models," says Sanjay Singh, executive vice president and head, Alphabet and HCL Google Ecosystem, HCL. "A sustainable model is built on an entrepreneurial approach to collaboration and building together, while making sure that the impact on the ecosystem is reduced steadily. Adopting sustainable innovation practices demands a change in the outlook and the organizational culture of the company, including the current services and practices." Adopting a sustainable model mindset across the enterprise fosters an environment for collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship. 

It will be key for leaders to understand how technology can help in their sustainability transformation. In a recent survey of 1,500 global executives, about three in four executives (78%) cite technology as critical for their future sustainability efforts, attesting that it helps transform operations, socialize their initiatives more broadly, and measure and report on the impact of their efforts. It's imperative that sustainability teams, tech experts and executives come together to make the authentic, impactful progress we need to make. 

"We're entering a new era of sustainability-driven business transformation – where organizations that embrace sustainability as core to their business will be the ones that succeed. Cloud is key to enabling and accelerating that transformation," said Justin Keeble, managing director of global sustainability at Google Cloud. "As the cleanest cloud in the industry, every one of our customers immediately transforms their IT carbon footprint the moment they operate on Google Cloud. But, we know that's not enough. Embedding sustainability across every part of the organization will result in not just better business practices, it will transform many industries, and create entirely new businesses." 

Here are seven key ways that IT leaders can contribute to sustainability efforts that go beyond just "turning the data center green":  

  • Technology: Improve software efficiency to reduce hardware energy costs, including the use of cloud software; adopting Internet of Things sensors to improve efficiency; exploring artificial intelligence and machine learning to better predict ways to become more sustainable; and utilizing Big Data analytics to monitor energy usage – you can't change what you can't measure. 
  • Natural resources: In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, companies need to address water usage and improve waste management practices. As a first step, companies can adopt data analytics to help reduce food or product waste.       
  • Circular economy: Re-use infrastructure for new technology initiatives instead of retiring equipment. This involves moving from a "cradle-to-grave" strategy to more of a "cradle-to-cradle" approach, which intelligently recycles and reuses IT assets into the next generation of products to create a closed loop. 
  • Supply chain: Work with IT vendors and suppliers to ensure they have sustainability practices and build visibility across the supply chain. If a supplier is not working on their own sustainability goals, find one who is more in line with your company's goals. 
  • Data centers: When considering a move to the cloud, choose a green cloud provider that has a sustainability strategy that reduces the environmental impact of their data centers. 
  • Data: Use data to share information around sustainability efforts. For example, the Carbon Footprint tool from Google Cloud lets companies accurately measure, track, and report on the gross carbon emissions associated with the electricity of their cloud usage. 
  • Financial reporting: Assist the finance groups within the enterprise around sustainable finance and Environmental, Social, and Governance for banking, financial services, and insurance partners.  

As you can see, the list of ideas goes beyond just adding recycling bins in the data center. These initiatives can help CIOs and CTOs take a strong leadership role in their enterprise's sustainability initiatives and help validate their place in a digital and sustainable transformation effort.

 

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