CIOs: Changemakers in enterprises' sustainability journey
By: Bhavya Kapoor, MD, Southeast Asia, Avanade
“The future will be green, or not at all”
This simple but grim quote by environmentalist and writer Jonathon Porritt is not only a sobering reminder of what is at stake but also a clarion call for individuals and organizations to play their part in stopping the destruction of our environment and restoring our ecological ecosystems.
The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report revealed that climate change has already led to irreversible changes, and the window of opportunity to secure a sustainable future is rapidly closing. Furthermore, Asia’s economy can lose more than 26% of its GDP by 2048 if we do not act to mitigate climate change.
CIOs are in the driver’s seat for sustainability
As a major stakeholder in the community, enterprises can and are expected to play a bigger, more active role in addressing environmental sustainability challenges and be more responsible in how they treat the environment and resources. Besides stronger employer positioning and brand loyalty with the expectations of increasingly environmentally conscious consumers, there are also many growth opportunities to be found in the pursuit of sustainability.
While enterprises, especially large ones, are increasingly hiring chief sustainability officers (CSOs) to champion and monitor their sustainability efforts, the role of the chief information officers (CIOs) should not be underestimated.
Research shows that75% of CEOs are investing in digital technologies to address sustainability challenges. CIOs have the potential to lead the change in enterprises’ green revolution. In fact, many have already helped their organization establish the technological foundation to propel their sustainability efforts, albeit unintentionally.
Digital technology as the enabler of sustainability
When the pandemic struck, many enterprises made significant investments in a broad spectrum of technologies, including analytics, cloud and the internet of things (IoT). While the key motivation was to support explicit business outcomes - such as improving operational efficiencies or enhancing customer experiences - these technologies have the potential to further their sustainability agenda.
This presents CIOs with an unprecedented opportunity to bolster their organization’s sustainability efforts and reduce their impact on the environment. For example, many enterprises migrated to the cloud en-masse during the pandemic to support the transformation of their operations and work environment. However, many enterprises might not realize their move to the cloud reduces their overall carbon footprint.
According to Microsoft, their cloud services are up to 93 percent more energy efficient than traditional enterprise data centers. As more technology companies pledge to be powered by renewable energy and carbon negative, the potential to reduce carbon emission via the cloud will be greater in the future. Furthermore, enterprises can leverage cloud technologies to reduce carbon emissions by monitoring the environmental impact of their technology estate.
For example, in the Netherlands, we are working with drinking water supplier PWN to use data on Microsoft Azure to rapidly learn from data and make informed decisions on innovations to provide water services more sustainably. We are also helping SSE Renewables use cloud, data and artificial intelligence (AI) to generate insights about its operations and develop renewables services that positively contribute to the United Kingdom’s net zero targets. Within Avanade, we have set ourselves goals to achieve net-zero emissions, as well as reuse or recycle 100 percent of our e-waste by 2025.
Enterprises need to recognise that now is the most opportune time to make that giant leap towards sustainability. Not only has the global disruption given them the chance to reflect on their business models and the momentum to transform themselves, but the burgeoning green economy is also presenting them with new and immense growth opportunities.
Enterprises need to leverage sustainability as an integral element of their business operations and model to position themselves for the future. By tapping on digital technology and empowering their CIOs to lead the sustainability charge, enterprises can participate in the future economy in a more sustainable, responsible manner while making a genuine positive impact on our environment.