Monday, 28th September 2020

Sustainable IT is low on the corporate agenda

Budget constraints and a lack of time and board support cited as barriers to building more sustainable IT models.

According to figures released by Citrix, only a quarter (28%) of managerial knowledge workers in large UK businesses consider information technology (IT) sustainability to be a top priority for their business beyond mandatory reporting and regulatory requirements.

Measuring IT sustainability across large UK businesses

Encouragingly, the majority of large UK businesses (60%) have a specific corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability strategy in place for IT, which include strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite this, only one third (37%) of companies currently measure greenhouse gas emissions created by employee computing. The majority of respondents working in the telecoms sector (70%) confirmed that this is currently measured by their organisation. Yet only 15% of those in utilities, 19% of those in healthcare, 40% of those in local government, and 43% of those in technology could say the same.

The data also suggests there is division amongst large UK businesses in regards to the measurement of IT end user device electricity consumption, with 55% currently measuring the consumption of devices such as desktops, laptops, notebooks and tablets. A further 59% currently measure IT data centre electricity consumption.

Breaking down the barriers to change

Almost a third (31%) of managerial knowledge workers – those in management roles up to CxO level in companies of 250+ employees – believe that IT departments have more of an impact than any other department when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, improving sustainability and driving widespread and crucial change across the whole business. This is reflected in the fact that the majority of Chief Technology Officers (93%) and Chief Information Officers (83%) are responsible for reporting on IT electricity consumption across the business.

Interestingly, a large proportion of Chief Financial Officers (88%) are now responsible for reporting to the board on IT use related to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, 78% of CFOs are subject to performance measurements such as goals or KPIs related to IT sustainability, which suggests that organisations across the UK understand the potential financial implications of not shifting towards more sustainable IT practices.

However, 48% of respondents cited budget constraints as the biggest barrier holding back their organisation from building a more sustainable IT model. A lack of time (33%) and board support (21%), as well as employee pushback to changes made to IT (20%), were also cited as significant barriers.

Michelle Senecal de Fonseca, area vice president, Northern Europe, Citrix:

“Anthropogenic interference has already caused
a 1° C rise in global temperature. With no time to lose, every business in every industry must think about how they can reduce carbon emissions, improve sustainability and embrace greener practices by default.

With digital technologies having an unprecedented impact on the workplace, organisations should review their existing IT infrastructure and evaluate its efficiency. They will soon realise they can cut their impact on the environment by transitioning workloads from less efficient on-premises data centres and migrating to hyperscale hosted cloud services.

However, embracing a more flexible working culture — underpinned by the cloud — will likely have the most far-reaching consequences. The ability to work anywhere and from any device means lower commuting emissions and the freedom to work from devices that consume up to 90% less energy than a standard PC, such as a Google Chromebook or Apple laptop. By embracing this kind of approach UK businesses can reduce their carbon footprint, while benefiting from happier staff and improved productivity.”

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