IT Sustainability Think Tank: Why IT and procurement teams must work together to go green

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?

There has been a boom of late in professional services and consultancy firms that have started building out their green transition capabilities to assist enterprises in achieving their IT sustainability goals.

A quick look at some of their websites may showcase new teams and propositions being pulled together that can help enterprises get started on their journey. Further analysis of what they have to offer may indicate their service offering is still under development, and it is to be accepted that a few of these firms will still be finding their feet.  

Fortunately, we are not starting from a completely blank page. The importance of energy efficiency and sustainability has been talked about for a while and there are a number of individuals and firms with experience in this space that can help firms get started on their journey to IT sustainability.

The big change over the past decade is the migration from on-premise to compute as a service – be that cloud or managed services – and this process has moved the energy-emitting computers away from the organisation and into third-party datacentres, which has made the process of measuring emissions for an individual company far more challenging.

This is why it is so important for IT leaders and procurement teams to work closely together to achieve their organisation’s IT sustainability goals. The credentials and ability of suppliers to report and reduce carbon emissions must be understood as part of the supplier selection process.

This is where it starts to become a little challenging. Clearly, tech firms like to market their sustainability credentials and sometimes they get a little carried away. Some of the capability being offered may still be theoretical and more of a notional idea, and some may be greenwashing without merit. A procurement team is well-equipped to probe the credentials of prospective suppliers.

To date, there are several supporting frameworks that may offer help. The UK government released The digital data and technology playbook, which includes sections on sustainable procurement. Standards bodies such as the ISO, BCS, CEEDA and EU Code of Conduct Data Centre are reliable accreditations that suppliers should be able to show prospective clients.

The large (and boutique specialist) consultancy firms are starting to include sustainability and procurement as part of their services portfolio. The BCS has a number of informative documents on the subject and is developing training to help companies with their energy-efficiency objectives.

At this moment in time, the BCS has a limited number of knowledgeable people within IT who understand the issues. A lot of the focus has been on compute rather than procurement, but this is now changing and the BCS is working with commercial organisations to define the pieces which will support the journey to net zero.

The BCS is able to service all firms, not just the large ones. Small and medium-sized enterprises and micro companies do not have large procurement functions and they will require support from UK government and organisations like the BCS to achieve their IT sustainability goals.

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