5 Actions to Kick-Start Your Environmental Sustainability Agenda

A new Forrester report shows how and why to launch an active sustainability strategy.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

July 4, 2023

4 Min Read
windmills before a green earth
ZoonarGmbH via Alamy Stock

When it comes to creating an environmental sustainability agenda, many firms do little more than announcing vague plans and goals.

A recent Forrester report finds that as many enterprises dawdle, customers and other stakeholders are increasingly demanding authentic and effective environmental sustainability initiatives and strategies that demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to tomorrow amid growing economic and geopolitical uncertainties.

The report also notes that while many enterprise architects and their teams are well positioned to prepare their organizations for the next wave of optimization, transformation, and disruption -- having worked on sustainability initiatives for decades -- many more enterprises are just beginning their planning.

The challenge facing sustainability planners is that while most enterprises believe sustainability is a good idea, day-to-day operational issues, staffing challenges, and budget cuts can make it hard to prioritize goals. On the bright side, the most successful sustainability initiatives not only lower costs but also improve revenue and enhance margins.

To help tech leaders kick-start their sustainability planning, Forrester distilled hundreds of conversations with CIOs, enterprise architects, and teams, to identify five strategic areas of opportunity and key actions that can be taken to improve their sustainability maturity.

  1. Set goals and add environmental metrics to your strategic plans and budgets.

  2. Implement tools for environmental sustainability measurement and reporting.

  3. Integrate sustainability outcomes into your transformation initiatives.

  4. Evaluate the role of emerging technology in achieving your sustainability goals.

  5. Seize innovation and partnering opportunities to enhance sustainability.

Implementation Basics

Abhijit Sunil, a Forrester senior analyst, says the initiative that repeatedly came up in all conversations, across all regions, was the challenge of implementing the environmental monitoring tools and solutions required for carbon accounting. “In our research we found that the majority of organizations at this time are in a maturity level where they are automating their carbon accounting and trying to create workflows that will enable data collection from across the organization,” he says.

Sunil notes that the need for strong, reliable environmental monitoring tools is reflected in the arrival of solutions from an array of providers, including software specialists, product firms, and even consulting organizations. “We compared some of them in our report on environmental monitoring software tools,” he says.

Environmental technology tools are a prime medium for a wide range of enterprises, Sunil says. “The technology leader has a big role to play in understanding how these tools differ from each other and how they can be plugged into existing systems within an organization,” he states. “For example, how these tools can plug into ERP systems or HR management systems, and how some of these tools may be able to provide insights into data center management and cloud optimization as well.”

Getting Started With Sustainability

Embarking on a new sustainability journey requires a different approach from bringing an IT leader into a strategy that’s already at an advanced maturity level. “Our report emphasized how the tech leader can start playing a role or optimize their role in sustainability,” Sunil says.

The best way to start a sustainability mission is by understanding the contribution of IT to the overall sustainability or carbon footprint of the organization, Sunil says. The next step, he notes, is to identify the most feasible opportunities within the enterprise to make the biggest impact on sustainability.

Leadership Is Critical for Successful Sustainability

Top-down leadership buy-in is essential for a successful sustainability initiative, both within the overall organization as well as the IT stack. “The best way to counter opposition is to have a clear understanding of the ROI of investing into various sustainability levers,” Sunil says.

The report advises IT leaders to challenge their innovation teams to eliminate scope-1 emissions. “As your organization explores new materials and manufacturing processes, examine the data to find opportunities to collaborate with other ecosystem partners,” the report suggests. “Ask your existing innovation facilitators to run dedicated campaigns to collect ideas to improve your environmental sustainability and consider sharing the findings with your strategic partners and long-term suppliers.”

Sunil notes that an organization might monitor, for example, exactly how much money data center energy optimization is conserving along with carbon footprint savings. “This is also how initiatives can be funded -- sustainability is often synonymous with optimization and vice versa,” he says. “In many cases, green energy may be cheaper than conventional energy.”

Sunil adds that working directly with vendors and infrastructure suppliers can be extremely helpful for technology leaders planning a sustainability agenda. As the report notes: “Together, you can move faster, identify opportunities, and leverage their ecosystem of partners to help with projects, such as data center and network optimization, automation, and software platforms.”

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About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

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