SUSTAINABILITY FOCUS 14

Recycle, Reduce and Reinvent: reworking the tech sustainability agenda. By Alex Louth, Managing Director at Logicalis UK&I

The pandemic has accelerated the need for a more sustainable corporate initiative, paving the way for a greener future. This is primarily due to customer behaviour shifting to a more ecological standpoint. Recent research found 81% of people now prefer to buy from sustainable companies. This shift in behaviour means organisations must rework their business operations to retain customers, maintain growth and increase overall profitability.

As companies work to be carbon neutral, they also present themselves as a brand their customers can relate to and align their beliefs. Additionally, with Microsoft being a principal partner at COP26, there is now a spotlight on the tech industry, specifically how key tech players can help all businesses adopt more sustainable practices. However, getting organisations to buy into a sustainable initiative is easier said than done. Despite increased pressure for organisations to be more sustainable, only 41% of UK companies say they are on track to meet net-zero targets by 2050, meaning that nearly 60% of organisations are expecting to miss this target.

More needs to be done, and key global tech players can provide organisations with the infrastructures, solutions, and networks to facilitate a cleaner, greener future. Whilst sustainability is important, the journey can be confusing. Here’s some advice to navigate becoming environmental and turn it into an opportunity for success.

Why has sustainability previously been neglected?

The technology industry has long discussed becoming more environmentally friendly, yet very little has been done to date. The UK, however, has been reported to be leading climate tech in Europe, with 519 companies now in this sector.

Ethics aside, profit drives business. That is the harsh reality, and companies have, wrongly or rightly, held the opinion that sustainability may be an obstacle. For example, the largest data centres can use the same energy needed to power 80,000 homes. Organisations may think their only way to make data centres more sustainable is by cutting energy consumption and reducing the quality of cloud services – but there are many initiatives organisations can implement to make a move to more sustainable practices. A notable potential change is that partnerships may begin to falter solely based on environmental attitudes – Microsoft announced they wouldn’t work with companies that do not have sustainable practices in place. As Microsoft works with over 64k partners, this bold move could affect thousands of organisations worldwide.

Sustainability should not be ignored, especially as markets become more competitive.

Failing to acknowledge their environmental impact could see companies accidentally vilifying themselves, pushing partners and customers away. This will result in a significant loss in money that organisations may not resolve.

The benefits of becoming more sustainable

Becoming more sustainable increases a tech business’ chance of enticing and retaining customers and employees, yet there are so many other benefits. Customer habits have evolved as they’ve become more environmentally conscious. This is especially reflected in a survey from Deloitte which found that nearly 1 in 3 customers has stopped purchasing from certain brands due to ethical or sustainability-related concerns about them. 50% of younger generation customers have also admitted they’re happy to pay more for sustainable products. This suggests that ecological behaviour may drive profitability in the long run.

Employees are increasingly attracted to companies that are conscious of their impact on the environment. Lloyds Bank found that 60% of UK job seekers research a company’s commitment to sustainability before accepting an offer. As the Great Resignation continues, businesses don’t have the luxury or resources to drive away prospective employees.

Similarly, investors are gradually leaning more towards companies with green credentials – sustainable investment now accounts for more than a third of global assets. Becoming an environmentally conscious organisation may help tech companies access finance. Furthermore, sustainability can also encourage cost savings. For example, instead of continuously buying and using the latest gadgets and software, businesses can recycle, refurbish and reuse older products. Time is saved on training staff on using new software, meaning that efforts can be focused on other areas.

Taking a holistic approach to sustainability.

Sustainability initiatives have put organisations in a unique position. Businesses need to rework or reinvent their operations to truly become sustainable. Whilst this may sound daunting, businesses are being offered the opportunity to create something brand new and exciting. Even when the pandemic first triggered the shift towards flexible working, organisations struggled with the concept of remote working.

However, this shift to remote work had an unconscious positive impact on the environment. This is because employees have naturally been commuting less, and therefore fewer carbon emissions are being emitted by cars, buses and trains. But can organisations do more to provide their employees with the tools and software needed to work remotely in an ecological way? In short, yes, we can. This can be done by prioritising, accelerating and continuously developing your digital transformation. However, businesses won’t be able to transform overnight. This is a process.

Being creative with this process will be an essential part of improving sustainability within the tech industry. Businesses should see this as an opportunity to build and design new innovative digital infrastructures to improve remote working productivity, increase profitability and implement sustainability initiatives.

Seeking external advice

Much like any new concept - how do you know where to start? It's doubtful that business leaders have previously studied climate change and sustainability. However, one-way leaders can relieve this pressure is by adopting a sustainability consultant. Like Cisco, many large tech corporations have consultants helping them to rework business strategies to become more environmentally friendly.

The UK environmental consultancy market is fast-growing and was predicted to reach £2 billion last year. Businesses should see this as an opportunity to incorporate new dynamic talent with the relevant knowledge and experience, whilst achieving goals quicker. For example, applying sustainable business models will help unlock economic opportunities worth $12 trillion a year by 2030. By adopting a sustainability consultant, you're actively showing customers you’re taking steps towards making your business more environmentally conscious.

Ultimately, sustainability is something companies have got to work towards – a lot of thought will need to be put into which processes can be adapted and improved operations in an ecological manner. Everything can always be reworked and improved. It is important to remember that sustainability isn't just another fast-paced trend, nor is it something that organisations can sit back and watch how others approach it before they do it themselves. It is a business initiative that is here to stay – and with new sustainability regulations being drafted every day, this truly is a sink or swim situation going forward.


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