In recent years, sustainability has become a greater priority for businesses, both for ethical and regulatory compliance reasons. According to Statista, 59 percent of companies around the world reported using more sustainable materials in 2022, and an equal number say they’ve increased the efficiency of their energy use. Additionally, 54 percent use energy efficient machinery and equipment, including sustainable IT.
“Sustainable IT” is a term for technology that’s developed, manufactured, used, and disposed of with minimal impact on the environment. Industry thought leaders agree sustainable IT will be an even higher priority for businesses in 2024 than in the past as they look deeper into their partnerships and the solutions they deploy to minimize their impact on the environment.
Russ Ernst, CTO of Blancco, points out, “Last year was the hottest year on record, increasing the urgency to address the climate change emergency. The rise in new global ESG and sustainability-related regulations and Scope 3 emissions reporting requirements also force companies to take a closer look at their carbon footprint and impact on the environment,” he says.
Leah Goldfarb, environmental impact officer at Platform.sh, adds, “Companies will need to measure their IT footprint to understand where they need to act to reduce emissions to meet their net-zero commitments,” she says. “Andfollowing the guidance of the GHG protocol, the reporting on emissions will become standardized.”
Ernst says, “New laws like California’s Climate Corporate Accountability Act are putting pressure on both public and private companies to get their sustainability reporting processes in order. Sustainability is reported in two ways: greenhouse gas emissions, whether it happens to be carbon, methane, or other anthropogenic pollutants, as well as energy usage.”
“While this may sound simple, understanding the entire carbon footprint, and the accounting required to determine it, is an enormous and time-consuming task that has a direct correlation to the amount of data that organizations are storing, and their sustainability footprint related to energy use,” he says.
How an Emphasis on Sustainability Will Impact IT
While sustainable IT is only a part of a company’s overall sustainability or green strategy, it is consequential in the digital age. Much of the focus appears to be on the data center.
Goldfarb says demand will shift to data centers that run on low-carbon energy. “Resource-conscious computing and observability will also become imperative,” she says. “Organizations that have not already made the switch to high-density cloud computing (e.g., PaaS: Platform-as-a-Service) will need to do so to meet KPIs and sustainability goals.”
Steve Santamaria, CEO of Folio Photonics, adds that sustainable IT will also drive improved data management practices. He says, “2024 is poised to bring significant strides in eco-friendly data handling. We can expect to see companies putting a greater emphasis on making data storage more efficient. This could involve streamlining how data is stored, embracing server virtualization, and moving towards advanced yet less power-hungry cooling systems.”
“The goal here is twofold: to trim down data centers’ environmental impact and to shave off some of their operating expenses. There’s also going to be a tilt towards long-lasting, energy-smart storage options, such as optical storage, for a more sustainable data management approach,” Santamaria says.
Ernst agrees:“As companies come to the realization that they’re spending money to store data they don’t need, including redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT) data and records older than seven years, they can prioritize and performdata sanitization on what’s no longer needed, decreasing costs and the energy required to store it.”
Look for New Attitudes Toward Refurbishing and Reuse
A sustainable IT trends to watch is the shift away from replacement. Shash Anand, SVP of Product Strategy at SOTI, cites SOTI’s report that found 69 percent of IT professionals say mobile devices are the most common unnecessarily discarded devices.
“Unfortunately, organizations commonly make the mistake of replacing a device once the lifetime of a battery has ended. In many cases with devices like handhelds, scanners, and barcode readers, batteries are changeable and the hardware can live on,” he says.
“Practicing green IT can save businesses a ton of money,” he says. Instead of replacing all batteries at once, organizations only need to replace batteries when needed, not when a device warranty expires or because the device isn’t performing as it should.
“This will help companies stop spending unnecessary money and reduce the production of e-waste,” he says.
Expand Messaging and Education to Include Sustainable IT
As your clients look for ways to advance their green initiatives, you’ll find that remaining competitive will be easier if you include information about your commitment to sustainability. Formalize your sustainability strategy, be prepared to articulate it, share it in marketing messages, and offer to educate your clients on how to minimize the environmental impact from using your solutions.
Companies are facing pressures from rising costs, regulations, and their principles to deploy sustainable IT. Show how using your technology helps them achieve their objectives.