In this guest post, Carmen Ene, CEO of IT asset disposal experts 3StepIT, sets out why there is more to running a sustainable business than simply embracing the use of renewable energy
The term “sustainability” rose to prominence in the 1990s, and until recently, its use has been unfettered by the need for proof and unconstrained by its definition.
Just a few years earlier, in 1987, the UN Brundtland Report attempted to limit its scope, defining sustainable development as “meet(ing) the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Ahead of its time, we are now seeing the impact of failing to heed this advice.
Thirty years on, fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, are still our primary source of energy generation, despite being the largest contributor to climate change, accounting for over 75% of greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Energy prices have soared due to geopolitical instability, resource scarcity threatens the energy supply, and the impact of burning fossil fuels is creating catastrophic climate events.
As we attempt to grapple with the crisis, renewables have taken centre stage in the transition to a less carbon-intensive and more sustainable energy system.
But there is a risk, as renewables are not a panacea and should not be treated as such. Instead, they must be used wisely as one important tenant of the wholesale system change that is required.
Strategic sustainable innovation
Energy efficiency is essential, and it is crucial to consider green energy tariffs to fuel power-intensive tech like datacentres, enable products with a lower scope 2 impact and smart solutions that perform upgrades at the optimal time.
However, a sole focus on renewables and efficiency ignores tailwinds from regulators, which are pushing businesses to account for not just their own emissions but those along the entire value chain.
It also leaves companies at the behest of the global energy market, a complex network of suppliers, and government policy, which can abandon commitments to greening the grid on a dime – adding to an already volatile operating environment.
Moreover, switching to renewables only accounts for 55% of global emissions, with the remaining 45% created by the way we make and use products.
It’s clear that like electric cars reduce pollution but won’t reduce congestion, harnessing the power of renewables needs to be accompanied by a comprehensive change in attitude towards resource use to maximise the positive impact.
Future fit today, successful tomorrow
What does this mean for tech leaders?
With return on investment in both technology and ESG increasing simultaneously despite the challenging global operating environment, it’s paramount today to look beyond tactical actions to focus on strategic sustainable innovation.
Transitioning away from ownership of tech assets to a model that prioritises access to digital tools can be an important step in this direction.
With traditional device ownership, a company only has an asset in its possession and control during the use phase – a blink of an eye compared to its entire lifecycle. This means reducing energy consumption or switching to renewables is one of the only sustainable actions they can take.
But with tech hardware, the usage phase accounts for such a small percentage of the total footprint that the device’s “owner’s” ability to be sustainable is limited to small-scale activity– crucial but not impactful enough considering the challenge we face.
From efficiency to optimisation
By investing in the circular economy, tech leaders gain greater control and influence over the tech hardware they use.
Instead of owning the device, they are effectively caretakers and can have a much broader impact across the asset lifecycle, including not just how a device is used – and powered during use – but how it is disposed of and reused.
When applied to digital devices, circular economy principles allow organisations to shift from efficiency – using technology to achieve its aims – to optimisation. In the use phase, asset management software tracks the device end-to-end, ensuring it delivers optimal results for the business. And at the end of the first cycle, devices are kept in circulation through refurbishment and given second (and even third) life before being recycled and made into new products.
Through this holistic approach, an organisation increases resilience and lowers its risk profile by proactively tackling issues like data security, GDPR, and audit compliance.
Today’s tech leaders must deliver better outcomes for their organisations, people, and the planet. Green energy combined with a circular approach to technology management provides the blueprint for more sustainable operations that don’t require compromises on performance or profitability.