Technology needs to become more sustainable – and fast

Green Tech
Image: Shutterstock via Dennis Publishing

Progress means a shift in priorities to put the planet first, says Billy MacInnes

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12 November 2021 | 0

Many IT vendors are quite happy to blow their own trumpet when it comes to what they are doing about sustainability, climate change and the environment and pledges made about their future efforts in those areas, but are they doing enough on the ground to back up their lofty pronouncements?

It wouldn’t appear so according to a survey of 105 IT leaders in Ireland for DataSolutions (conducted by TechCentral.ie) which found 62% of IT leaders think the technology industry is not sustainable enough and needs to change quickly. That’s not completely damning but it’s hardly a ringing endorsement either.

Still, perhaps vendors can take some comfort from the finding that 71% of respondents think technology will play a positive role in the battle against global warming.

 

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The situation for Irish companies in general was mixed with 43% of respondents saying their businesses had “firm plans to be carbon-neutral or achieve net zero”. That’s quite encouraging and, if my maths is right, 28% of all Irish companies expect to achieve this target by 2030.

On the flip side, 38% of organisations do not have a sustainability or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy. They might want to get a move on.

In terms of the biggest obstacles to achieving carbon neutrality, nearly half (47%) cited a lack of green alternatives, 42% were more focused on near-term issues and 40% said it was too expensive.

Counter-balancing these obstacles is the fear among businesses that if they don’t address sustainability and climate change issues, they will suffer damage to their reputation (54%), face higher costs for climate change mitigation (48%) and be excluded from customer or tender opportunities (34%).

This suggests that companies might be well-advised, in turn, to put pressure on IT suppliers to provide more green alternatives at a more amenable price.

The good news from a channel perspective – 77 channel companies replied separately to the survey – is partners and service providers took a far less cynical approach to the issues of sustainability and climate change. When they were asked about the benefits of being a sustainable business, the top response was that it was better for the planet.

Now, it should also be acknowledged that channel partners recognised being a sustainable business would improve brand reputation and recognition, customer satisfaction and reduce operational costs. In addition, just over a third of them (34%) viewed sustainability as a growth driver for their organisation in the next 12 months (to some or a great extent).

But I think it’s still worth stressing that they put the planet first. Could they be accused of being idealistic? Probably. But if everyone else in the supply chain took the same view, there wouldn’t be any idealists, just realists.

And while there’s something to be said for the effectiveness of business factors as a motivator for organisations to make changes to how they conduct themselves, including in areas such as sustainability and climate, they are a much slower process – which is why they can often be referred to as nudge factors – than a wholesale conversion to the cause.

It’s amazing how quickly things can shift when everyone gets behind something. Progress is often measured in how technology and innovation can make things better for people and businesses but if it doesn’t make things better for the planet, the progress of the planet will make things worse for us all.

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