Keeping Sustainability at the Center of Digital Enterprises

Now is the time to prioritize sustainability as a core business initiative and capitalize on how sustainable technology can reduce costs while driving innovation to future-proof your organization.

Rajesh Ganesan, President, ManageEngine

February 28, 2024

4 Min Read
green tree with deep roots
Vladimir Razguliaev via Alamy Stock

Although digital transformation impacts organizations across all industries, sustainability has fallen to the wayside as companies prioritize technology adoption, customer experiences, and keeping up with the latest AI trends.

Nevertheless, information and communications technologies alone account for over 2.8% of global greenhouse emissions, according to a recent report from Lancaster University. Another study predicts smartphones and data centers will be among the most environmentally harmful technologies by 2040.

These statistics should serve as a wake-up call to a huge opportunity for technology companies everywhere. Now is the time to prioritize sustainability as a core business initiative and capitalize on how sustainable technology can reduce costs while driving innovation to future-proof your organization.

Going Beyond Ethics to Business ROI

Environmental impact aside, there are many reasons tech organizations should prioritize sustainability. First, heightened sustainability regulations are expected to hit the US in the next few years as the UK recently shifted focus to sustainability, enforcing compliance with higher standards. In addition, consumer behaviors are changing, and younger generations want to support businesses whose values align with their own. As a result, stakeholders and consumers are demanding a focus on sustainable practices.

Related:Crashing the Greenwashing Wave

Prioritizing sustainability can also drive cost savings, innovation, and long-term business viability. For these reasons, it should live at the top of every boardroom agenda, influencing IT practices, company workspaces, and technology workloads.

Although this task can appear daunting at first, the truth is your organization may already have sustainable practices and not realize it. For example, remote work options cut down on commuting emissions. For in-office companies, going paperless, installing water-saving fixtures, recycling, and adopting energy-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling can contribute to a smaller carbon footprint.

Larger initiatives, such as sustainability pledges, implementing regular system updates to prolong the longevity of tech devices, redesigning physical office spaces, and migrating to the cloud should also factor into boardroom agendas as organizations examine ESG goals for the new year. 

Adopting a Sustainability Pledge

Enterprises can, and should, make pledges to cut down on energy expenditures to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within a certain timeframe. These publicly declared pledges hold organizations accountable to internal and external stakeholders, helping maintain accountability. Moreover, all sustainability goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. For example, at our company, we have committed to specific carbon reduction, water conservation, zero-waste strategies, and sustainable procurement measures. We created this goal with our experience in mind and an eye toward what we can realistically achieve in the future.

Related:Reusing Waste Heat from Data Centers to Make Things Grow

If goals aren’t reasonable or achievable, your company risks garnering a reputation of greenwashing; advertising sustainability but not actually committing to it. This can set up your organization for failure with stakeholders as it’s often equated to being disingenuous.

Use Device Monitoring Solutions

The exorbitant purchasing of devices, such as laptops, desktops, smartphones, and printers -- coupled with employees not following energy-efficient practices -- amounts to alarming levels of power drain. In fact, the US Department of Energy estimates that 30% of the energy used in commercial office buildings is wasted. This energy waste can be curbed through endpoint management tools, which limit excessive usage by automatically putting devices into sleep mode when idle. Such tools, especially when incorporated with AI, can help organizations regulate energy consumption.

Related:How to Submit a Column to InformationWeek

By adopting thoughtful IT practices when it comes to purchasing, using, and disposing of devices, the modern digital workforce can inch towards sustainability. Employees should also implement regular system updates, as these extend the lifetime of devices. Moreover, employees should only work with the equipment necessary for their roles, and they should recycle equipment efficiently, which your IT department can handle.

Monitor Data Centers

To remain compliant with regional data privacy laws, many enterprises opt to utilize their own data centers; however, these facilities are extremely power-intensive, and require complex cooling systems. In fact, the cooling process for a small data center uses up to 25.5 million liters of water each year. It is important to measure and optimize your data centers' energy consumption, and whenever possible, consider utilizing renewable alternatives, such as solar and wind power. Building and running green data centers should be a key objective, while aspiring to achieve the highest standards and certifications, like ISO 50001:2018, LEED, and Energy Star. By doing so, enterprises can minimize energy dependence.

Promoting Innovation & Longevity via Sustainability

Sustainability drives resource efficiency, long-term planning, collaboration, technological advancements, circular economy practices, employee engagement, and more. This can help boost productivity and innovation in the workplace. Because prioritizing sustainability requires a certain level of problem solving, innovation follows suit.

By centering your IT-aligned processes around sustainability and environmental stewardship, not only do you fulfill your pledge to offset your climate impact, but you also improve your bottom line. For that reason, sustainable initiatives like making SMART sustainability pledges, practicing thoughtful IT practices when purchasing, using, and disposing of devices, and migrating to the cloud will all pay dividends. If you embrace several, or all, of these initiatives, you will be saving more than the environment; you'll also be saving time and money during an uncertain economic moment.

About the Author(s)

Rajesh Ganesan

President, ManageEngine, ManageEngine

Rajesh Ganesan is the President at ManageEngine, the IT management division of Zoho Corporation. Rajesh has been with Zoho Corp for over two decades, developing software products in various domains, including telecommunications, network management, and enterprise IT security.

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