How to Make Business Technology More Sustainable

How to Make Business Technology More Sustainable

By on Apr 11, 2024 in IT Consulting

Over the last two decades, businesses have rapidly adopted technology to compete in an increasingly digital economy. However, the rush to adopt new technologies has come with a high cost for the planet.

Today, information and communication technology (ICT) contributes to 4% of global GHG emissions. By 2040, this number is expected to grow to 14%. Digital technology not only causes carbon emissions through direct energy usage, but it also requires the mining and processing of rare earth metals to manufacture devices.

So far, only large organizations have taken their IT sustainability efforts seriously.

However, that doesn’t mean that small businesses are exempt from their impact on the environment. After tightening their grip on large organizations, regulators are broadening their focus to include organizations of all sizes, meaning that now is the time to start taking your environmental footprint seriously.

4 Ways to Make Your Business Technology More Sustainable


#1. Expand Your Cloud Computing Adoption

Traditional data storage and application hosting mechanisms like self-managed data centers are up to 98% less carbon efficient than cloud computing. The hyperscale cloud computing providers invest considerable expertise and resources into making their data centers more energy efficient, and it pays dividends. By purchasing renewable energy to power their data centers, ensuring efficient cooling, and integrating the most efficient new hardware, their operations are up to twice as energy efficient as traditional data centers.

Some cloud computing platforms and providers promise carbon-neutral infrastructure to their users, while others sell clean energy back to the grid. By migrating your IT infrastructure to a green cloud service, your small businesses can lower infrastructure-linked carbon emissions and do their part to become more sustainable.

The cloud can advance your sustainability goals in other ways as well, more subtle ways that you might not have thought about as well.

For example, cloud provides let you instantly expand your network capacity without the need to buy new hardware, frees businesses from the responsibility of purchasing new machines to meet higher capacity. When the need for those resources goes away, you can scale your cloud systems down, eliminating idling computers and reducing the hardware footprint of your business technology even further.

#2 Eliminate Dark Data and Shadow IT

Not all new IT results in meaningful business outcomes. A lot of the technology that a business buys—both hardware and software—gets wasted.

When users across your offices or teams store data outside of your IT management team’s view, that’s called dark data. A related concept is shadow IT, which refers to computers that you bought (in the cloud or in your office) that you’re no longer using but still draw power. Machines that are in use but simply outside the management of your IT team could also be called shadow IT.

Shadow IT and dark data contribute a significant amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Estimates suggest that dark data produced by businesses globally causes GHG emissions equivalent to over 3 million flights from London to New York, on a daily basis, if they chose to store all that data.

Reducing dark data and shadow IT can therefore drive a significant reduction in your carbon footprint. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Develop guardrails and approval mechanisms to guide how you deploy new IT resources
  2. Adopt software solutions to help discover unused resources or optimize your network
  3. Build centralized repositories for your data to eliminate duplication of data

#3. Monitor and Reduce Your Baseline Power Consumption

IT energy usage accounted for 4-6% of global energy consumption in 2020. Digital systems consume a significant chunk of an organization’s overall power consumption, especially as they expand to IoT networks, user-owned devices, and new forms of network equipment.

However, what is not measured cannot be improved. To move the needle in their favor, businesses need to start tracking their base energy usage. Smart meters can help track and segment energy consumption by device category. This data can be used to identify optimization opportunities. In conjunction with these measures, IoT devices can be implemented to enable the automated shutdown of unused devices.

Lastly, energy efficiency plays a key role in lowering technology-linked power consumption. This entails using energy-efficient devices (energy ratings for electronic devices are provided by institutions like Energy Star) and adopting energy-efficiency measures to govern technology usage.

#4. Address Sustainability Outcomes in Your IT Strategy

A meaningful IT strategy should involve a clear approach to making your business technology sustainable. By embedding sustainability considerations into your technology planning and buying decisions, it’ll help you identify the drivers and attain sustainability goals at your organization.

Here are some of the common sustainability outcomes that growing business can target within their broader business IT strategy:

  1. Right-sized IT: This entails eliminating wastage, such as shutting down servers that are required for only a few hours of the day, rationalizing data storage, or switching to a more energy-efficient enterprise architecture.
  2. Sustainable devices: Electronic devices have various effects on the environment throughout their lifecycle, from manufacturing to deployment and end-of-life. Buying Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) registered devices can help businesses minimize the impact of their IT from production to retirement. This is typically facilitated by manufacturers or 3rd parties that adhere to the practices prescribed within the EPEAT framework.
  3. Recycling and reuse: Lastly, an IT strategy can help address the recycling and reuse of devices that are no longer in use. Moreover, your IT teams can help identify ways to extend the life cycle of your devices, which can delay the procurement of new devices (thus lowering the materials footprint of your technology). Currently, only 1% of the demand for rare earth metals is met through recycling. This shows that recycling is a major sustainability lever that businesses are waiting to exploit.

As technology takes on a central role in making businesses more competitive and innovative in a digital-first economy, technology sustainability is becoming central to driving sustainable growth. Small businesses should not consider themselves outside of this new paradigm when they’re actually central to it!

Devise a Sustainable IT Strategy with Astute Technology Management

Most growing businesses lack the patience and expertise to get a firm grip on their sustainability initiatives, but partnering with a trusted IT consultant can help small businesses clarify their sustainability goals and embed those goals into their technology decisions and digital processes.

Want to learn more? Contact our friendly team at [email protected] or 614 389 4102 any time!