Resolutions, yoga and Green IT: The top 5 pitfalls of sustainability

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Every time I attend an IT industry event, it seems like everyone wants to chat about Green IT and sustainability. They’re eager, sometimes even excited, to get their company on the right path immediately. But they have no idea how to start.

It reminds me of when people make New Year’s resolutions. They’re eager, sometimes even excited, to get going. But taking that initial leap can be daunting and it might spell disaster even for those with the best intentions.

So, I asked my brilliant friend, ChatGPT, why we crash and burn when it comes to resolutions. For example, I was supposed to be proficient in Ashtanga yoga by now, but my 2023 New Year’s resolution met an untimely death in March when I overdid it. My back spasmed and left me rolling around the floor unable to stand. Who knew yoga could be so dangerous?

ChatGPT burped up some answers, saying that people struggle with resolutions for various reasons and listed five common factors. They include unrealistic goals, lack of specific planning, poor accountability, no adaptability and a lack of intrinsic motivation. While these factors aren’t surprising, I believe they’re also reasons why companies may falter when they embark on sustainability efforts. Maybe by understanding why we fail at resolutions; we can not only avoid the pitfalls but turn those pitfalls into ways to succeed.

So, here’s a roadmap of sorts for getting and staying on a sustainability journey.

Focus on accountability

The CIO organization is responsible for the IT footprint and projects and goals associated with it. Green IT takes a data-driven approach to baselining and measuring an enterprise’s IT footprint and taking effective actions to reduce it. The IT footprint of an organization covers cloud management, colocations, on-site environments and end-user devices. I’ve followed the progress of a CIO who has prioritized sustainability and made bold decisions to be successful. The CIO assigned a team that was focused on problem-solving and approached sustainability as a complex puzzle it needed to solve. The CIO assigned a specific person to lead the team, empowering that leader to create a plan of what could be accomplished. The leader had clear accountability from the CIO—they were tasked with waking up every day and thinking about the challenges and what is needed for success.

Possess intrinsic motivation

This part is crucial. The person in charge of this effort must be passionate about it. They may want to boost energy efficiency and eliminate waste. Perhaps they want to conserve resources, solve a complex problem or save money. The truth is their intrinsic motivation belongs to them. But it’s their passion that will propel them to work hard and drive them to succeed.

Set realistic goals

If I hadn’t tried to do a year’s worth of yoga exercises in two months, I may not have hurt my back and given up my resolution. I had unrealistic goals. Picking realistic and ambitious sustainability goals is a well-known key to success—not an easy combo but it is do-able. A common challenge with Green IT and starting to manage an organization’s IT footprint is where to start if a company doesn’t know how many and what kind of assets it has on its network. If your company doesn’t have a current baseline for its IT footprint, that’s a goal it can set and attain.

The team the CIO established—with clear accountability and an intrinsically motivated leader—decided to set a 5% reduction as a goal. The thought process behind it was, if we reduce by 5% each year, we will be better off than if we try to reduce massively in a short amount of time and fail, or worse, disrupt business processes in operation for the sake of emissions reductions. It’s also helpful to align your goals with your company’s overarching sustainability targets, as well as reputable third parties. For example, the International Telecommunication of the UN encourages the ICT (Information Communication Technology) sector to reduce emissions at least 4.2% annually to be aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Achieving realistic goals builds positive momentum and lays the foundation for long-term success.

Embrace specific planning

A key element in sustainability planning for the CIO’s team was breaking the challenges of Green IT into pieces to be solved. The team tackled its sustainability mission with specific planning. It focused on four main pillars and created a plan for each pillar: IT End User Devices, IT Infrastructure Assets, Business Collaboration and Green IT Adoption. Team members understood each pillar had an environmental impact with its own specific differences, all of which needed to be understood and managed.

Adapt and then adapt some more

When plotting a sustainability path, the team learned unanticipated challenges would arise and the ability to pivot was critical to success. For example, the team had set a reasonable goal: identify the carbon footprint of network switches the company had using an automated scanning tool. Throughout the year, the scanning technology improved and, it turned out, there were more switches than had been originally inventoried. Of course, this meant a shift in the baseline and the need to explain the change. The team pivoted to meet an unexpected challenge.

Here’s to success

Based on what I witnessed with the CIO’s approach, efforts should be led by a specific person or team that is not only accountable but intrinsically motivated. There should be realistic goals, specific plans and an ability to adapt and be flexible, which I would be if I’d stuck with realistic goals for my yoga resolution and not overdone it!

By turning around potential pitfalls and learning from them, a team can set itself up for sustainability success and it may far exceed its initial objective. The CIO team I referenced had set a 5% reduction goal but ended up experiencing a 30% reduction in energy consumption and a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions. Here’s to success for your resolutions and Green IT plans.

This article was previously published in Forbes.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Add a comment

All fields are required.