Businesses are becoming increasingly switched-on to the importance of sustainability as part of their overall business strategy. While sustainability is far from a new concept, the wider operational, commercial and reputational benefits are becoming more apparent. The secret is finding the best way to realise those benefits as part of your strategy.
This is perhaps where the biggest shift in sustainability has occurred. Being environmentally conscious is no longer a nice to have – it’s become a priority focus and is seen as a genuine enabler.
For any business, especially those small or medium-sized organisations with modest IT environments, it can be easy to feel like your environmental impact is minimal. But when enough businesses embrace more environmentally conscious principles, the aggregated impacts will make a difference. And with the UK government announcing a target of achieving net zero for UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, businesses of all sizes will see their environmental efforts come under increased scrutiny. By getting your approach right, and taking a proactive stance with your sustainability agenda, you can create a genuine differentiator for your business.
While 90% of executives believe sustainability is important, only 60% of organizations have truly established a sustainability strategy. The key takeaway here is that while many organisations aspire to be more sustainable, they’re unsure of the best place to start.
This is where your IT strategy comes into focus. Looking at your IT environment is a good first step towards a more sustainable approach.
Your IT environment is a core part of your business, but also an area where some positive impacts can be achieved without the need for significant investments.
So where can businesses start to make headway towards a more environmentally conscious business IT strategy?
Covid and the subsequent adoption of new working practices amplified the operational benefits of flexible working and effective collaboration, but there are some important environmental advantages too.
Deploying solutions that help your people work effectively from anywhere reduces the need for them to meet physically, which helps to lower the amount of travelling and the subsequent environmental impact that creates. This can extend beyond the effective use of collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or other platforms, to the implementation of smart meeting room technology.
Embracing flexible working can also have some other environmental and commercial benefits. The reduced frequency of physical office visits might help to reduce the energy consumption at your current premise or may even help you reduce the size of your office space.
Your business relies on the user devices (laptops, desktops, tablets, etc) in place across your team. They’re a core part of your business, but also an area where reduced environmental impact can be realised. One of the biggest opportunities focuses on device refresh.
Firstly, consider whether you truly need a device refresh – can you utilise what you already have and extend the life of your assets? One way that you can do this is through the deployment of virtual desktop solutions.
A virtual desktop provides your users with secure access to all of the applications and data they need, but crucially, shifts the compute power away from the device. This helps to preserve the lifespan of user devices by allowing you to run the latest applications and operating systems using older hardware, helping you maximise your investments without compromising security or experience.
And when the time comes for you to consider a device refresh, think carefully about how you both dispose of existing technology, and source appropriate replacements. We generate around 40 million tons of e-waste globally every year – the equivalent of throwing away around 800 laptops per second. This harmful e-waste contributes 70% of the world’s overall toxic waste, dispersing harmful emissions and waste products that damage the environment. Reducing the volume of e-waste is a global challenge, and any steps you can take to prevent your old devices going to landfill will make a vital contribution.
As a first step, remember that what no longer has use to you could be of use for another. Find new life for old devices through donations or buy back schemes, or dispose of your outdated tech with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling. When sourcing replacements, looking at refurbished or refreshed technology is one of the best ways to embrace circular IT. Many of the major vendors have schemes that support the remanufacturing and refurbishment of older technology, delivering good-as-new devices with full warranties at a reduced price point.
Whether businesses use their own datacentre or operate with a co-location, all of the underlying infrastructure will have an environmental impact. More specifically, this relates to areas such as power consumption, as well as heating and cooling requirements. Datacentres are generally considered to be one of the most environmentally impactful areas of an IT environment, with various estimates stating that data centres account for 2% of the world’s energy consumption – roughly equivalent to the aviation industry.
Like your user devices, your infrastructure forms a key part of your IT estate, but there are still changes that can be made to help reduce your impact on the environment. With co-locations, consider the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of your current facility. This is a rating that reflects the energy efficiency of that environment. While you can’t influence the actions of your supplier, choosing a co-location with a better PUE rating will help to evidence your own environmental credentials.
For those with their own datacentre, it’s worth reviewing your existing environment to see where any optimisations can be made. Can any of your data be cleansed and consolidated to help you remove unnecessary capacity? Can any of your older hardware be upgraded with more energy-efficient alternatives? Can you make better provisions for the power and cooling arrangements, perhaps with the introduction of natural cooling methods, or the use of renewable energy sources? While a complete root and branch review may not be possible, taking some time to regularly reflect on your environment, and identifying any opportunities for immediate actions will still go a long way.
Although still delivered from an underlying datacentre, embracing the cloud, and the principles of consumption-based IT can help your business reduce its environmental impact. Within your own datacentre, adding additional capacity often leads to overprovisioning. This is not only expensive, but also means you’re paying to power and cool more hardware than you need to.
By embracing the cloud, you can scale capacity up and down as required, and remove the need to purchase, install and run additional physical hardware under your own roof. It can also be a platform that supports more flexible working models, which we’ve already highlighted as a potential environmental win.
There are many ways that businesses can incorporate sustainability into their IT strategy, and taking a proactive approach can help set a new path for your overall business strategy that supports the pursuit of broader goals.
If you’d like to discuss any of the topics in this blog, or want to understand where your business could make some more sustainable choices, get in contact with a member of the team.