Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Sheila Patel, VP, sustainability & business technology at Capgemini Invent.
As organizations around the world explore a sustainable future, there’s an increasing fear and indecisiveness among leaders in determining what the best first step is to ensure their company is heading in the right direction.
The real answer is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
CIOs contend with the growing responsibility of creating and implementing a comprehensive, sustainable IT strategy for their companies. A sustainable IT transformation strategy involves refocusing people, technology, and processes towards sustainable goals, and CIOs are uniquely positioned to align those components.
What is sustainable IT and why does it matter?
Sustainable IT is an umbrella term that describes an environment-focused approach to the design, use, and disposal of computer hardware and software applications and the design of accompanying business processes.
The term also extends to activities such as responsible mining of rare metals used to develop IT hardware, water conservation and the application of circular economy principles across the technology lifecycle.
Sustainable IT brings value and tangible benefits to organizations, such as reducing energy expenses or diminishing the negative environmental impact, and more and more businesses are embedding this initiative into their core company culture.
Following a sustainability approach is a forward-looking decision, which brings numerous opportunities to position companies for long-term success.
By 2025, half of CIOs will have performance metrics tied to IT sustainability, according to Gartner research. CIOs should consider taking three actions to get ahead on sustainability efforts:
1. Actively engage other business leaders.
To establish a strategic approach and deliver positive outcomes, CIOs should consider actively engaging with other executives to review existing commitments, key performance indicators, and forward-looking perspectives.
In addition, the strategic component of sustainable IT needs to be aligned with the entire organization – beyond just IT – to calibrate existing commitments and approach this new strategy as a unified front with technology at the center.
Companies should also benchmark their sustainability initiatives against the market and competitors to keep up with progress and stay at the forefront of their industry.
2. Prioritize data aggregation and provide companywide KPIs and performance benchmarks.
Measuring a company’s progress in sustainability requires data from inside and outside.
Scope 1 and 2 emissions reporting focuses on how the internal departments will create a common understanding to collect the data. Scope 3 emissions requires inputs from outside the company.
The KPIs and performance benchmarks should also be very detailed and specific. Big ideas are important to guide strategy, but CIOs need a defined roadmap to succeed.
This action helps ensure the business is equipped with the right technology, people, and processes to achieve their goals. Moreover, these environmental goals should also be tied to real business goals, so the rest of the enterprise is aligned, and real synergies exist between seeking efficiency and sustainability.
3. Drive sustainability through cultural change.
CIOs have to pick their battles carefully, but also build a cross-functional team that engages “doubters” to address their concerns.
In addition, their role should be to educate and equip their talent with the right toolset, inspire innovation, and provide the IT investment and budget to undergo the transformation.
Simply changing the narrative will backfire if it is not backed up by a meaningful change in leaders’ actions, behaviors, and decisions in relation to their employees, customers, suppliers, and local communities.
CIOs are the linchpin of a sustainable IT transformation. Technology has the potential to be both helpful and harmful to the environment, so it’s crucial that CIOs use their influence wisely to understand the ramifications and introduce strategic sustainable initiatives across the business.
Once they master this, the options will be limitless.