There’s no doubt that sustainability has become a business imperative for every organization. This is led from the very top, with 60 percent of leading Fortune Global 200 firms having created a position for a director, VP or executive to lead their sustainability programs. However, in many instances, IT is not part of the picture. In its recent report ‘Sustainable IT: Why it’s time for a Green Revolution for your organization’s IT’, the Capgemini Research Institute notes that 50 percent of firms say they have defined an enterprise-wide sustainability strategy, but only 18 percent have a comprehensive sustainable IT strategy.
My predictions for sustainability in 2022 are predicated on this situation changing rapidly as enterprise IT transforms into sustainable IT. Here we will see decisions being made with sustainability at their core, for example eco-designing applications to minimize resource utilization, optimizing application redundancy, developing sustainable solutions through analytics, effective storage of data with lower resource utilization, and greater utilization of cloud services.
Prediction 1: A growing focus on carbon offsetting in procurement
Organizations in diverse sectors are considering carbon offsetting as a criterion when procuring IT service partners. We are part of the Capgemini Group, which is committed to becoming a net zero business and positions carbon offsetting as part of this journey. Importantly, our resolve to use carbon offsetting sees us focusing on high-quality offsets with the best long-term impact, rather than taking just the cheapest option. We’re making ambitious carbon offset commitments, such as reforestation, although we believe this should always follow the physical reduction of our carbon footprint (and that of our clients) at every opportunity. I predict that demand for carbon offsetting as part of solution definition will quickly grow in the coming year as it becomes more core to every business.
Prediction 2: Renewable energy as the backbone for delivery of IT services
While renewable energy (‘renewables’) has been a focus for many enterprises in the past few years, I foresee a growing uptake with a bigger push by governments as renewables become cheaper. Alongside the net zero commitment, Capgemini will be carbon neutral by 2025. Companies like ours that have made this commitment now need to find ways to grow the adoption of renewables both within own organizations and by clients. For example, we have been developing on-site generating capacity for renewable energy across some of our campuses in India, with surplus energy exported to the state electric grid. We aim both to convert all our offices into green offices through the use of such renewable energy sources and to reduce our carbon footprint by encouraging digital collaboration to replace business travel. In a sense, this plays to the evolving story we are hearing across all industries relating to the circular economy. We must all ramp up the focus on how to preserve our planet’s resources, re-using, re-purposing, and re-generating them. And that can be everything from energy (renewables) to the clothes we wear and materials used in manufacturing processes.
Prediction 3: Transparency of climate risks will be central to sustainability strategies
Climate risk models will be part of sustainable business going forward as companies are required by government to disclose their climate risks. This will see climate-related ecological and financial information being made transparent to better inform investments and strategic planning. All manner of risks will need to be out in the open, from the bottom-line impact of investing in sustainable packaging to the potential for disruption in food supply chains due to climate-related crop failures. How might IT contribute to this transparency? We can build solutions to ascertain the carbon footprint of applications through carbon calculators. We can also make business processes transparent and assess their impact on the environment through the implementation of predictive AI models.
Prediction 4: Data will play a growing role in sustainability
Data already plays a key role in carbon mitigation measures and every organization wants to get a handle on the data they capture from across their IT and business landscape. For example, what does the data tell us about the carbon footprint of applications, infrastructure, network usage (bandwidth), etc.? I predict that data will be utilized in all forms for measurement, tracking, and reporting to enable a reduced carbon footprint and increase the accuracy of business predictions based on historical data patterns. Data itself (or rather its use and storage) can also be made more sustainable with cloud migrations of data for optimized scalable solutions with lower carbon footprint.
Prediction 5: Cloud transformation is key to sustainable IT
That latter point brings me neatly to my fifth prediction — that of IT and cloud transformation. Of course, IT transformation and the journey to cloud have been ongoing for several years but I predict a faster adoption of cloud native to achieve highly optimized cloud solutions. We work with our clients to identify opportunities for application optimization, infrastructure rationalization and ‘cloudification’ so that we can help them compute their predictive impact in terms of CO2e emissions reduction and make the sustainability business case. Improvement through performance engineering and continuous testing (identifying optimal performance) ensures cloud transformation is highly sustainable in the long run.
Get your foundations right
In all of this, the important starting point for transforming your IT in pursuit of ambitious climate targets is to set the foundations with a qualitative and quantitative diagnostic assessment and a sustainable IT strategy that aligns with the organizational sustainability strategy. Our own roadmap also includes creating a robust governance approach with a dedicated sustainable IT team and the ability to operationalize IT initiatives, with sustainability a key pillar of the software architecture.