IT sustainability spending to rise by one-fifth

07 February 2022 4 min. read
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As businesses around the world look to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment, sustainable IT practices can no longer be ignored. With firms looking to tackle the issue quickly, as much as one-fifth of all IT budgets are set to be invested in sustainability over the next three years.

When discussing how businesses and governments can address the mounting climate crisis, it is usually not long before the magic word “technology” is bandied about. While IT can support sustainability targets in a number of ways, however, it is important to note that technology has an impact on the environment in its own right. The number of connected devices worldwide is estimated to hit 55.7 billion by 2025, with three-quarters of those being connected to an IoT platform, posing a major environmental challenge. Data generated by connected IoT devices is expected to grow fourfold to 73.1 zettabytes by 2025, leading to the ramping up of technology such as AI and analytic systems.

As such, the data industry is becoming increasingly energy intensive due to this, with data centres already accounting for nearly 1% of the world’s energy demand in 2019, contributing to a notable emissions toll of enterprise IT – which accounts for 4% of the world’s carbon footprint. This is before also factoring in the disposal of out-dated hardware poses a significant threat to the environment; something which already generated some 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste in 2019.

What percentage of your overall IT budget is invested within IT sustainability across the following time frames?

Importantly, though, this threat is no longer flying under the radar. According to a new study from IT advisory firm Coeus Consulting, a majority of 85% of IT leaders told the company’s researchers that their organisation needed to do more, regarding IT sustainability.

Coeus polled 218 IT leaders predominantly in the UK and Germany in late 2021, and also found that 80% agreed that IT and sustainability were intrinsically linked, with IT having a large impact on sustainability at their organisation. What is more, it seems that these leaders are also committed to walking the talk on sustainability.

The report found that nine-in-ten IT leaders recognised sustainability as a key IT objective within their organisation, and 88% of their organisations already had an IT sustainability strategy in place. With regards to the large number who agreed that their organisation needed to be doing more when it comes to IT sustainability, meanwhile, almost 70% of surveyed IT leaders expected IT budgets being invested within IT sustainability to increase, by between 10% and 20% in the next three years.

More leadership needed

Despite this, Ben Barry, a Director with Coeus, cautioned the IT function against complacency. In particular, he noted that as IT changes can help facilitate sustainability goals of companies, IT leaders should be playing a leading role in wider ESG shifts.

Who in your organisation has overall responsibility for IT sustainability?

Barry added, “While organisations are taking the right steps towards IT sustainability by building strategies and investing in technologies like cloud, CIOs and IT leaders have the potential to facilitate an organisation-wide shift to sustainability. They should be taking a leading role in defining key performance indicators, targets and frameworks to be adopted at the organisational level, monitor progress and hold the organisation accountable.”

At present, this is far too rarely the case. Often, responsibility for IT sustainability does not lie with IT, but elsewhere in the organisation – as just 60% of respondents told Coeus that their CIO had overall responsibility for IT sustainability. Instead, one-third of companies said that the firm’s Chief Sustainability Officer was responsible for IT sustainability.

Coeus further heard that IT leaders were also pushed into the role of bystanders in sustainability drives – despite being best positioned to identify sustainability opportunities in their line of work – as around half said their formal strategies were not defined in IT, but defined elsewhere in the organisation, or by the board.

Kerry Osborne, Sustainability Lead, Coeus Consulting, concluded, “Organisations are missing a trick by relegating technology’s contribution to sustainability to a ‘support’ role. They need to recognise that incorporating leaner IT processes, adding sustainability measures within IT procurement, and reducing IT energy consumption can go a long way towards meeting these sustainability goals.”