Research: Making IT more sustainable a top priority for CIOs

21 February 2022 4 min. read

With companies looking to reduce their IT function’s impact on the environment, as many as one-fifth of all IT sustainability budgets are set to grow over the next three years. However, companies are missing out by not tying green IT spend to their broader sustainability efforts, according to a new report by Coeus Consulting.

With technology increasingly at the forefront of business operations and strategies, the carbon footprint of the function is on a rapid rise. Data is one of the most energy intensive domains, contributing to a notable emissions toll of enterprise IT – which now accounts for 4% of the world’s carbon footprint. Factoring in the disposal of out-dated hardware, IT therefore poses a significant threat to the environment.

Encouragingly, according to a new study from IT advisory firm Coeus Consulting, the majority of businesses are trying to take this bull by the horns.

Is sustainability considered to be a core IT objective in your organisation

Of 200+ CIOs and IT leaders polled by the consultancy, 85% told the researchers that their organisation needed to improve its IT sustainability. Respondents predominantly came from the UK and Germany, and 80% also agreed that IT and sustainability were intrinsically linked, with IT having a large impact on sustainability at their organisation.

Further, nine-in-ten IT leaders recognised sustainability was a key IT objective within their organisation, with 88% of their organisations already having an IT sustainability strategy in place. At the same time, over the next three years, almost 70% of surveyed IT leaders expected IT budgets being invested within IT sustainability to increase – with spending spiking between 10% and 20% in that time.

In which of the following areas has your organisation already taken the most action

More leadership needed

While this represents progress, however, firms are holding back their sustainability efforts by limiting the IT function to only thinking about sustainability within its own silo. As IT changes can help facilitate sustainability goals of companies, IT leaders should be playing a leading role in wider ESG shifts.

Kerry Osborne, Sustainability Lead, Coeus Consulting, argued, “Organisations are missing a trick by relegating technology’s contribution to sustainability to a ‘support’ role. They need to recognise that incorporating leaner IT processes, adding sustainability measures within IT procurement, and reducing IT energy consumption can go a long way towards meeting these sustainability goals.”

What percentage of your overall IT budget is invested within IT sustainability across the following time frames

Often, researchers heard that responsibility for IT sustainability does not lie with IT, but elsewhere in the organisation – as just 60% of respondents told Coeus Consulting that their CIO had overall responsibility for IT sustainability. Instead, one-third of companies said that the firm’s Chief Sustainability Officer was responsible for the technology aspect.

There are many ways how IT experts can drive sustainability efforts, including identifying opportunities to reduce environmental impact across the organisation by providing IT solutions, greener IT operations and leveraging IT to support more sustainable ways of working (for example: replacing travel by telco’s).

What are the biggest challenges to devlivering on you organisations IT sustainability goals

Despite this, Coeus Consulting’s researchers were also told that IT leaders are being pushed into the role of bystanders in sustainability drives – as around half said their formal strategies were not defined in IT, but defined elsewhere in the organisation, or by the board.

Ben Barry, a Director with Coeus Consulting, cautioned against this, adding, “While organisations are taking the right steps towards IT sustainability by building strategies and investing in technologies like cloud, CIOs and IT leaders have the potential to facilitate an organisation-wide shift to sustainability. They should be taking a leading role in defining key performance indicators, targets and frameworks to be adopted at the organisational level, monitor progress and hold the organisation accountable.”