Sustainability and IT: The elephant in the (server) room? 

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What is the carbon footprint of our company’s IT infrastructure and operations? As a CIO or digital decision maker, you may have heard this question before. If not, it is just a matter of time before you do. Today, only 43% of CEOs, investors, company owners, and top management are aware that in an increasingly digitized world, IT must also help reduce the carbon footprint of their company as part of a comprehensive Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy.   

The paradox of digital sustainability 

Every major business in the world talks about driving digital acceleration by adopting new technologies. However, this can imply a growth of their businesses’ carbon footprint because of the increased energy consumption of IT resources, devices, tools, and platforms. But how does this translate into figures? The number of connected devices is expected to reach 55.7 billion by 2025. The 75% of them will be connected to an IoT platform. The data generated by those devices is expected to be 73.1 zettabytes in just two years’ time. This growth in data volumes will lead to growing adoption of technologies. AI, the key to drawing value from massive stores of data, is one of them.

Digital transformation and sustainability go hand in hand. Digitization and technology play an essential role in decarbonization – in fact they are the key to success. But at the same time digital technologies are often part of the problem. This paradox seems obvious, however promoting IT-led sustainability initiatives is not an imperative for CIOs or tech leaders yet. According to Capgemini, only 18% of companies have a mature and comprehensive sustainable IT strategy with well-defined goals and target timelines.  

Now is the time to act 

The need to tackle CO2 emissions in IT with a comprehensive approach has been on my radar for some years. In 2018 we began our sustainable IT-led journey at Schneider Electric. Even today, IT sustainability is a relatively young discipline, and there is not an abundance of published use cases with directions on how to approach it. Where to start? How to adapt our enterprise IT initiative to the objective of climate neutrality? How to embark on intelligent decarbonization pathways? These questions posed a significant challenge.

Today, we can say we have successfully adopted a deep understanding of our technological stack in terms of IT sustainability – and a clear vision of where we are going. Our efforts have recently been recognized with several awards for our maturity in this domain. The SustainableIT.org Award, Globee Awards for Information Technology, and the DocuSign Award prove that sustainability is a business imperative and should be shaping IT decisions now and for the years to come. 

Green IT as part of a sustainable business strategy 

As a global impact company, we have placed ESG values at the core of our company. For 15 years we have been raising the bar across all dimensions of sustainability, and Green IT is also at the forefront of our agenda.  

A carbon footprint avoidance and reduction of 3,171 T Co2 emissions (equivalent to 12.5 million kilometers or 7.8 million miles driven by car) was our 2022 results. But how did we achieve this?

The answer is our comprehensive Green IT program based in four pillars:

  1. IT end user devices and best practices, such as promoting an IT circularity economy of reusing, refurbishing, and recycling strategies 
  1. IT Infrastructure assets, including our EcoStruxure IT solutions deployed in Schneider Electric’s sites around the world  
  1. Business collaboration strategies in line with the business comprehensive approach to efficiency and sustainability 
  1. Green adoption practices available to all employees via internal communication and training 

I am excited about the results we have accomplished so far in our sustainable IT journey ꟷ and for those to come. It is my pleasure to deep dive into our Green IT program in the coming months to provide some food for thought on this exciting journey in pursuing your sustainability vision. Stay tuned.  

For the time being, one recommendation from me: if you are a CIO and beginning your IT sustainability journey, start with measuring the total energy consumption. Check the following guide with a simple 3-step framework. 

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