Sustainability is no mere buzzword; it is an essential element of today’s economy and an area growing year-on-year.
Awareness of sustainability, especially in the IT sector is at an all-time high, with many companies adopting a carbon neutral policy for their ICT provision.
There are also companies with this philosophy at their core. We will examine these and explore the why as well as the how of sustainability and why so many CIO/CTOs are drawn to it as a good business model based on ethical as well as sound economic principles.
Legislation and sustainability: the necessary evil?
When legislation, such as the Climate Change Act, came into being, companies were compelled to consider the alternatives to their previous working practices.
June 2019 saw the government pass into law requirements to reduce new greenhouse gas emissions by 100%, (relative to 1990 levels), by 2050. This forms the basis for the UK’s current ‘net zero’ target.
This is a huge challenge to be met, as well as a fertile opportunity to investigate the massive benefits of IT sustainability.
With a plethora of options on offer, companies can thrive as well as comply with legislation.
Sustainability is an economic strategy
Building in a carbon-neutral strategy is more than just environmental common sense, it is also fiscally prudent.
When purchasing IT as new, the impact on the environment is immense, from Scope 3 emissions released through the supply chain production to the sheer volume of emissions when making just one laptop: in this case an astonishing 316kgs of equivalent CO2.
This can all be offset by considering who is supplying your company’s IT.
There are companies, like us, who specialise in this area of IT that are able to reduce carbon production, if not totally eliminate it, during the manufacturing process.
Just as cloud storage saves energy, specifically E-waste and frees company budgets from data centre management and the like, remanufacturing is one of the key components of sustainable IT provision.
The rewards of sustainability
Approaching sustainability need not be a wholly environmental concern, the reduction in IT costs also feeds into other areas where companies can gain from promoting a sustainable business template.
Employing smart technology to cut electricity costs, for example, which leads to a greener and indeed leaner company economy. It is part of a mindset that also aligns with business CSR.
CIO and CTOs are more and more employing a holistic approach to IT that complies with environmental obligations and what employees expect (i.e., IT that doesn’t have a negative impact on the planet).
Remanufacturing IT means spending less on the product and the environment.
These considerations are the twin parts of an emerging consciousness-raising era in IT. It is eminently possible to be commercially successful and be carbon neutral.
It is no longer a simple binary choice, nor one that requires any sacrifice.
Sustainability is a process which requires vision and a bit of illumination.
Other areas of sustainability: the circular economy
Waste is a major part of the sustainability model.
Waste, or the lack thereof; mainly owing to components from re-purposed laptops being recycled, removes the need for discarding IT and thus the circular economy works for the environment.
The circular economy promotes sustainability by its very model.
Repurpose, reuse, avoid waste (and accrued carbon emissions) could easily be its mantra.
The continual dwindling resources used in the traditional linear economy are thus preserved and the ‘take-make-waste’ of the past is replaced with a positive and financially beneficial paradigm.
And this is where CIOs and CTOs can come into their own, by studying the available data and acting on it, they can become the leading standard bearers.
Sustainability as a sensible stratagem
There has been a steady rise in taking up sustainability measures.
From smaller steps, like cloud storage to IT supply chain alternative (e.g. remanufacturing), it is now far less daunting and achievable to be part of both the circular economy and have sustainable IT.
Looking at examples of energy management goals, most companies are working towards them by taking incremental measures.
Sustainable IT is not just achievable but desirable.
Remanufactured laptop provision will usually lead to studying other areas that can be improved, and remanufactured laptops have been proven to save 85% of energy consumption than buying new. This is not just worth noting, but seismic.
This is also where the commercial and environmental concerns have a simpatico. The upsurge in sustainable purchasing behaviour is easy to comprehend in this context.
PR pay-offs from sustainability
Taking all of this into consideration, there is a sensible evolution in approach to IT sustainability.
Efforts to reduce the amount of energy that IT consumes can generate tangible cost savings in addition to helping to reduce a company’s carbon footprint, which is essential.
The knock-on effects of good PR that often emerges from this type of responsible corporate activity is worth noting, because this can be an invaluable unintended boon to companies.
This often goes unmentioned. When a company joins with an environmental partner, (one example being tree-planting to offset carbon emissions), good PR as well as goodwill can be unexpected advantages.
The Halo Effect
There are many gains in advancing sustainability, gains which filter into areas of business which are often overlooked.
There is nothing cynical in generating positive PR from the ‘halo effect’ of active sustainability. That halo effect not only places the company in an advantageous marketing position, but its benefits are also spread throughout the business itself, as employees see the positive aspects radiated within the company.
Surprising results: some practical steps for your business
It is quite amazing to think that Google, Avis and Sky have either achieved, or are working towards being carbon neutral.
This raising of consciousness at the highest corporate levels should set the prerequisite bar for all businesses.
Carbon neutrality certification has become the environmental gold standard for companies and there are 32 cities worldwide who have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050 in line with the Climate Change Act (2019).
The four essential elements of sustainability
There are four underlying principles to achieving this goal:
1. Take stock, (i.e. calculate your current carbon footprint);
2. Take aim (set annual targets and goals for improvement);
3. Take action (reduce and offset carbon emissions);
4. Take credit (communicating your successes to staff, customers and the wider world).
The data for fuel consumption (vehicles and buildings); energy consumption data for all your sites (if you have more than one) and air-con and refrigeration data is then collated.
Online calculators can help with the daunting first step and help drastically simplify the process.
Carbon neutrality may be the final target and switching to 100% renewable energy sources are realistic and more importantly achievable. This provides the second goal: the aim.
Taking action, the third goal, to reduce and offset carbon emissions, could be carried out in smaller increments, such as utilising energy generated by wind turbines or using electric fleet vehicles.
Great PR and a clear conscience
Finally, as aforementioned earlier, the PR benefits are myriad and invaluable.
Telling your sustainability story is a huge part of the journey.
It may prove to be the most surprising to your customers.
Success stories provide a boost to company morale as well as have an innate feel-good factor.
Credit can be shared company-wide and that can be just as important as the steps taken towards certification.
Conclusions: A worthwhile journey to consider
There is much to consider on your road to sustainability.
Evolution rather than revolution appears to be the most constructive approach. It is a voyage as opposed to a short trip. Results require effort, research and in the case of remanufactured IT products, collaborating with companies who provide this service.
It is a positive, measured and considerate choice for you, your employees, your customers and ultimately, the planet.
The practical steps outlined above, allied with the integration of renewable energy and repurposed IT could reduce your company outgoings dramatically.
Sustainability is a vibrant, positive objective and one within your reach. Ignorance is not a feasible option; sustainability is very much in the mainstream of business activity.
Sustainability is achievable. Taking those first steps is both courageous and highly practical for both your business and the environment. It represents an exciting synergy.
Written by Sean Urquhart – Lead Copywriter at Circular Computing™
Where to next? Try our business IT solutions page to see how you can become more sustainable with carbon neutral, remanufactured laptops.