IT Sustainability Think Tank: Collaboration key to achieving ESG goals faster

It takes a village to build a credible and robust IT sustainability strategy, so who should enterprises be collaborating with to make their green IT goals a reality?

An IT sustainability action plan cannot be successful in its execution without cross-business collaboration and the input of external stakeholders. The exchange of ideas, technologies and knowledge that this allows can be used to support and reinforce a company’s wider environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

It was precisely to emphasise this important message of cooperation that the UN defined the Sustainable Development Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals “to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development”.

Sustainability credentials are also the key to staying competitive in today’s business world. As a result, many businesses are introducing sustainable practices into their strategies. However, integrating these practices into operations can sometimes be difficult, especially for those organisations not investing realistically to support their sustainability programme. Businesses are then faced with two options: 

  1. To respond sincerely to the call of action to be sustainable and green.
  2. To give the appearance of an environmentally friendly and sustainable organisation without making any investments and progressing sustainability internally, which is known as greenwashing. 

Examples of greenwashing include claims that a product or service has no impact on the environment or a positive impact is the same as another product or service that is less damaging to the environment.

To avoid greenwashing, businesses need to do two things:  

  1. Make sure they are comparing apples with apples. Only compare the same products to avoid misleading stakeholders.
  2. Baseline all activities and support claims with data. Keeping data current is important. It is also possible to work with third-party organisations such as Energy Star, Science Based Targets Initiatives and CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) to verify this data.
  3. To walk the talk, sustainability should be embedded in operations and driven from the top and through members.

Also, a culture of collaboration can help businesses reach their sustainability goals faster. Building and nurturing effective partnerships internally with other functions, departments, suppliers and other stakeholders can get sustainability on the ground in day-to-day operations, regardless of any business silos.

Developing the strategy is the easy part; implementing is harder because successful businesses need to embed core values of commitment to sustainability into their mission and vision. However, when priorities are championed and led by an organisation's board and executive team, with clear messaging from the top, it simplifies the efforts of IT departments and CIOs. 

There are, of course, areas that CIOs could drive through internal collaboration. For example, when enhancing material effectiveness through technology’s prevention, reuse and recycling. CIOs can also develop better policies for the end of life of ICT equipment by collaborating with HR and procurement while harnessing the many benefits of following the waste hierarchy and circular economy.

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