The growing demand for adopting ESG criteria is redefining priorities in companies. The issue is monopolizing the corporate agenda and encouraging greater participation by organizations in promoting actions that reduce their environmental footprint — including the active participation of technology sectors through the so-called green IT.
These new values — which are guided by sustainability, social, and governance practices — are usually seen as a hindrance to company profitability. In reality, though, the case is different: experts say that having a consolidated sustainable pillar is a differential in attracting investors.
Maybe you remember the old saying that in the twenty-first century, every company will be a technology company. Being one of the major drivers of innovation, Information Technology —that is, IT— could not fail to contribute to this new trend.
In this article, you will understand what exactly green IT is, why you should invest in it, and how to take the first steps toward reducing your technological impact on the environment.
What is green IT?
Green IT refers to a global movement in Information Technology to reduce the effects of technology consumption on productive chains and ecosystems. Curiously, it is almost as old as IT itself. It was first introduced in the 1950s and formally coalesced in June 1972 when the United Nations approved the Declaration of the UN Conference on the Human Environment.
The concept involves a set of more ecological practices, including cloud storage, improved energy consumption, modernization of equipment to increase its useful life, and efficient disposal policies.
In a broader context, green IT is part of a movement to raise awareness about the seriousness of climate change and the need to restructure production chains, from the extraction of raw materials to disposal, contributing to a circular and regenerative economy. The main task of the concept is to contribute to the reduction of the negative impacts of technological tools, improving their lifecycle, and introducing more awareness to the responsibility industries have with the design, manufacture, use, and recycling of IT materials.
According to researcher Saida Helali (Systems and Network Infrastructure Integration, 2020), there are two kinds of Green IT: Green IT 1.0, which “targets the ICT industry’s eco-responsibility to reduce the ecological footprint of infrastructures, IT hardware, and software,” and Green IT 2.0, “which targets usages for other sectors. This includes the use of ICTs in other sectors in order to achieve the same goal of reducing the carbon footprint, as well as its associated costs.”
How do I turn my IT green?
Implementation does not automatically guarantee its green stamp: it is necessary to obtain international certification in a judicial process that demands frequent measurements.
To achieve green IT status, it must comply with ISO 14001, which determines an environmental management system’s requirements. The standard is responsible for measuring the impact of several businesses on the environment.
Why you should pay attention to this
Technological advances have always demanded a lot from Earth’s ecosystems. That was the case in the age of big industrial machines to the digital age with our computers, peripherals, and electronic gadgets.
Needless to say that the impact on the environment in each of these ages has been different. But the impact still exists. A 2019 report by Paris-based think tank The Shift Data revealed that IT-related industries are responsible for 3.7 percent of global GHG emissions. Furthermore, the energy footprint of IT is increasing by 9 percent per annum.
However, we shouldn’t see IT or digital advances as villains. Technological progress helps us to discover solutions that also preserve the environment.
In the business world’s movement towards ESG criteria, adopting good sustainability practices in IT has become a strategic commitment for the entire organization. They provide an exit plan.
What are the benefits of Green IT?
In addition to environmental ethics, there is an economic return from having sustainable management, making the strategy interesting for organizations of all types and sizes.
It is natural for companies with a more modest budget to have difficulty implementing green initiatives; after all, an initial investment is necessary. But as the actions are carried out, the gains in efficiency, productivity, and cost reduction are evident. This saving generates cash flow for new improvements.
That said, for smaller companies, consolidating these sustainable practices, even on a small and micro-scale, sets the stage for significant changes as your company grows. Any movement toward sustainability provides a solid foundation for the future.
Besides, having green IT gives companies strategic positioning, which shows the industry its ability to understand society’s values. The “seal” also improves the reputation of the organization, which is always helpful in attracting investors.
In summary, some of the advantages of Green IT are:
- Reduced and more intelligent energy consumption
- Increased space in the cloud
- Reduced cost of local server equipment
- Modernization of equipment and more extended maintenance periods
- Increase in performance and productivity
- Valuing the brand, image, and reputation
Four steps to start transforming your IT
At this point, you already understand the concept and the opportunities involved in adopting green IT. Now, it’s time to understand what practices you should adopt in your department to move in a more sustainable direction.
We have selected 4 points of attention to implementing exemplary practices in your IT department to help you. Check it out!
1. Reduce energy consumption
Does your company use its own physical server? When planning your IT infrastructure, ensure an adequate location so that you can save physical space and energy—especially with air conditioning.
It is not news to anyone that a healthy work environment requires temperature control. For that reason, in several companies, the air conditioning systems’ management is a responsibility of Information Technology. Having obsolete servers/data centers often overwhelms the cooling system to maintain productivity.
Whenever possible, replace old equipment with more modern versions that use less energy. This measure increases the service life and reduces maintenance costs with the machines.
There is a reason for this to be the first point of attack: the reduction in energy consumption has immediate consequences and is easily observable.
2. Appropriate disposal
Try to reuse materials that are still in good condition. In case of a total loss, ensure the proper disposal of equipment, peripherals, and other outdated electronic components at specialized collection points.
As a milestone of MJV compromise to a more sustainable relationship between companies and the environment, we created Circoola, a reverse logistics startup for electronics, which performs free home collection of electronics—and in partnership with schools, companies and other entities.
Through the correct disposal and reuse policies, Circoola has already processed more than 70 tons of electronic waste in less than 2 years.
The initiative is part of MJV’s ESG commitment to reducing waste and our environmental footprint.
3. Scan and dematerialize
This topic’s title could easily be “migrate to the cloud,” but that’s not all, because we are talking about the transition from physical to digital through data storage in the cloud. This could promote a reflection on even making changes in the business model, from hardware to software (why not?).
4. Privilege partners with the “green seal.”
We mentioned before that green IT can collaborate to improve your organization’s reputation, right? Why not move toward the creation of a sustainable and productive system?
When closing deals, take a careful look at your production and supply chain. Choose suppliers and partners aligned with your company’s positioning, those who follow good environmental practices.
Strategic IT goes through greener IT.
A flood of data has invaded organizations in the last decade. The rise of new technologies and the evolution of techniques to deal with this volume of information demanded that Information Technology departments have a more significant role.
IT departments had to go through a transformation. Teams that were previously reactive and focused only on execution gained strategic importance, fostering innovation and actively participating in important decisions within the organization.
With the whole world’s attention finally turned to sustainable development, IT gains a new task: to develop more eco-friendly ways to carry out day-to-day activities. Yes, having strategic IT also involves greener IT.
To acquire an increasingly relevant role in companies, it is necessary to set an example. For this reason, IT managers must be willing to provide their departments with the inputs required to promote the adoption of good sustainability practices.Green IT is good business for Information Technology departments, companies, investors, and, of course, for our little blue dot in space: the Earth.