IT Sustainability Think Tank: Helping enterprises close the sustainability gap

There is mounting anecdotal evidence that enterprises are struggling to ensure their statements of intent on sustainability are matching their actions, so what steps can they take to bridge the gap?

Over the past 12 months, the sustainability landscape has strengthened and accelerated due to changing macroeconomic factors such as energy markets, upcoming legislation, and sustainability commitments. Companies are under greater scrutiny than ever before to be societal forces for good.

Unfortunately, many enterprises have found sustainability integration challenging after setting bold green ambitions for 2030, but their commitment to doing the right thing should be celebrated.

Organisations with good intentions can get stalled at the planning stage due to the complexity that implementing sustainable practices brings, but they need to push through to ensure the transition to a sustainable future happens at pace. Meaning we must focus on turning bold ambitions into a reality rather than scaling back.

So, what actionable steps can organisations take to ensure their statements of intent on IT sustainability match their actions? Well, there are four critical actions organisations of any size can and should undertake:

  1. Review what can be done in the short term. For example, identify, collect, and share data, and use this information to set meaningful goals, refine existing targets, and/or measure progress.
  2. Assess with stakeholders what actions and interventions need to occur and agree which will make the most difference. This is an opportunity to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of different internal stakeholders, ensuring they understand the objectives. By focusing on a handful of critical metrics you can then refine and build on them over time.
  3. Think ahead. It’s essential to make decisions that benefit stakeholders over the long-term rather than the short. Sometimes the relevant approach to take is not always clear, and it takes collaboration, innovation, and determination.
  4. Balance the approach so it’s both internal and external facing. For example, CGI launched the Sustainability Exploration and Environmental Data Science (SEEDS) programme with the United Nations to develop and deliver innovations for governments, businesses, individuals, and the natural environment. 

However, if enterprises have done all this and are still concerned their targets are too ambitious and unachievable, it’s important to review how they have been set.

Objectives should be set with background evidence and not pulled from thin air. Meaning enterprises should be basing their goals and objectives on science-based targets, following validated methodologies and approaches to ensure they do not commit to objectives that are impossible to achieve.  

If enterprises have followed the correct processes and realise their baseline data needs to be corrected, there are ways it can be changed through normalisation. This is a practical step to combine multiple sustainability indicators, especially when there are stakeholder interests. 

There is one final factor and step organisations should also consider, which is to set up a central sustainability team that acts to coordinate the businesses sustainability work, messaging, and goals.

Not all decisions need to be made by the central team, but cross-functional decisions and those highly material to the full company are best suited to their oversight. This way enterprises can avoid decisions being made by teams without the right knowledge or understanding.

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