Finding a path to sustainability is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Governments, businesses and individuals around the world are all concerned by threat of climate change. According to one study, UK citizens view global warming as the third biggest concern, after physical and mental health.
Our individual choices – such as cycling to work choosing a green energy supplier – can go some way toward tackling climate change. However, if we are to succeed in reaching zero carbon emissions and establishing a sustainable economy, larger organisations must take the lead.
Most organisations now recognise that a commitment to sustainability makes business sense because it resonates with customers, and many recognise that it is simply the right thing to do. Their acknowledgement is reflected by many ambitious emissions targets and ‘net carbon zero’ pledges among FTSE100 companies.
To meet their net zero commitments, businesses must examine all of their activities – including those of the IT department. Measures such as renewable energy, paperless offices, and systems that support flexible working strategies will all play a role in reducing footprints. Meanwhile, the greater use of data will enable greater automation that will make operations and facilities more environmentally friendly.
However, identifying internal efficiencies is only part of the equation. Supply chain optimisation is just as important. Businesses that truly want to make a difference should make sustainability a core pillar of their technology and procurement strategies.
50 million tonnes of e-Waste is generated each year globally.
The shift to cloud
Cloud computing provides business of all sizes with the flexibility, scalability, and capability necessary for digital transformation, but it can be energy efficient. According to IDC, the continued adoption of cloud could prevent the emission of more than 1 billion metric tons of CO2 between 2021 and 2024.
The reason is simple: economies of scale. Public cloud platforms aggregate compute and storage resources that were previously deployed on-site or in private data centres, dynamically allocating capacity to improve utilisation rates and reduce waste. These data centres often have more advanced hardware and access to more efficient cooling.
For example, one mobile operator regulates the temperature of equipment with fresh air and uses sensors to monitor how much cooling is needed at each site. This reduces energy consumption and decreases reliance on polluting refrigerant gases.
Many cloud platforms are also powered by renewable energy sources, which means businesses can choose suppliers based on their environmental credentials or ensure their workloads are running on servers using sustainable power.
Edge computing will further these gains by allowing data to be processed and filtered closer to the point of collection, reducing the energy costs associated with transmitting this traffic across the network.
Not all workloads can be moved to the public cloud. On-premise equipment will play a part in hybrid cloud solutions, and employees will still need laptops and mobile devices to access data and applications. The shift to a eco-friendlier infrastructure must be complemented by a more sustainable procurement strategy if businesses are to meet their climate targets.
For example, many smartphones are designed to be replaced rather than repaired, while software updates can often render the device unusable because of performance or battery life issues. Even worse, support can be withdrawn after a set period of time, exposing the device to security risks.
Only 20% of all e-waste is recycled responsibly.
If equipment isn’t disposed of responsibly and ends up in landfill, useful material is wasted and hazardous chemicals are released into the environment. According to the UN, the world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of e-Waste each year but only 20% is recycled.
Replacing used equipment also generates additional environmental costs. Manufacturing and transporting new equipment generate more technology and also involves mining precious, rare metals.
The threat to the environment is real, but so is the threat to business. Irresponsibly disposed hardware could still contain sensitive data that could cause a breach. And of course, purchasing new equipment eats into IT budgets.
When it comes to hardware procurement, environmentally conscious businesses should therefore adopt technologies that are long-lasting, repairable, recyclable, and can be disposed of responsibly. Greenpeace regularly reports on the green credentials of major technology companies, offering procurement departments valuable insight, while several major mobile operators have teamed up on a new ‘Eco-Rating’ system that assesses devices on their impact to the environment.
An effective asset lifecycle management solution takes the considered approach to vendor selection a step further, ensuring staff have right tools to do their job, extending and overseeing the lifespan of equipment, and providing safe and responsible disposal.
As the world becomes more advanced and more connected, the influence of technology on the environment will become even greater. But there is also no denying that technology can be a powerful force for good.
Cloud technologies can stop 1 billion metric tonnes of CO2 by 2024.
The Internet of Things (IoT) can provide valuable environmental data that can help cloud-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) to solve climate challenges. The IoT can also make factories and buildings smarter and more efficient by regulating power and lighting systems, while connected car applications and electric fleets can optimise routes and reduce emissions across a variety of industries.
But these benefits should not give technology exemption from scrutiny. The path to a more sustainable future will take all of us and every action helps.
Climate change is one of the most important societal issues of our time and many organisations have set ambitious environmental targets. A more sustainable approach to procurement can help businesses achieve these goals.
Find out how Insight can help your organisation achieve its digital transformation and sustainability goals with supply chain optimisation.