Five suggested steps to becoming a sustainable technology company

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Technology, digitalization, and sustainability are terms which are currently more united than ever.

The rapid digital transformation which took place for many companies through the pandemic highlighted to many business leaders the importance of having a good digital transformation strategy.

Now that digital transformation has now become part of regular daily business for many business leaders, they have another mountain to tackle; sustainability. The world is taking steps towards driving real change when it comes to sustainability, with the topic being discussed on the world stage at DAVOS and COP27.

Cities are no longer just cities, but Smart Cities – interconnected and favoring citizen participation, as well as the creation of what are known as Low Emission Zones (traffic pollution charge schemes with the aim of reducing the exhaust emissions of diesel-powered vehicles). The automotive sector is focusing on electric vehicles, while local and international governments are legislating against highly polluting vehicles. Companies from a wide range of sectors are beginning to create real and effective strategies to reduce their carbon footprint. However, what are the technology companies doing?

It is estimated that the ICT sector will consume 8% of the world's electricity by 2030, compared with 2% in 2020. Likewise, if we talk specifically about data storage, it is responsible for 10-15% of the energy consumption of datacentres. On a positive note, by 2025, 49% of data will be stored in public cloud environments, as a solution to digital waste and energy consumption. But this is not enough. Technology companies will need to do more to fight climate change and reduce our emissions and carbon footprint.

Piero Gallucci

Piero Gallucci, Vice President, NetApp UK&I.

So, what can we do about it? In this piece, I’ll discuss the five key steps that companies, particularly technology companies, could take to start their sustainability journey.

1. Decarbonisation strategy

For a decarbonization strategy to work effectively, companies must monitor their own carbon footprint and the amount of greenhouse gases they emit each year, with the aim of setting a goal and being able to achieve it.

When it comes to a decarbonization strategy for our customers, we must encourage them to think about data. Data storage – whether it’s in the cloud or on-prem – can drive significant carbon emissions. This is why it’s essential for companies to understand their data, know what data they need and what data they don’t. Once they have this understanding, knowing where best to store this data, comes next. Cloud storage is designed to store data efficiently, consume less energy, and reduce your carbon footprint. It is also very important to collaborate with cloud providers to further reduce the carbon footprint directly associated with their products and services.

2. Energy

In the technology sector, it is important that the facilities and offices that are being used are efficient and environmentally sustainable, using renewable energy, advanced lighting technologies and by reducing the total footprint of the buildings. It is important to consider how to improve or update the design of buildings, laboratories, data centers, offices, etc., to achieve our objectives in terms of energy efficiency.

3. Waste Management

From a manufacturing standpoint across technology companies, the main goal should be to minimize the amount of material we send to landfills and recycling centers, rather opting for reusable containers. A longer-term goal should be to eliminate the use of non-recyclable materials from our packaging. It is also essential to consider electronic waste. Technology companies need to take a proactive approach to managing this type of waste, both for in-house operations and for customers and partners.

4. Water Consumption

To reduce water consumption, for example in regard to HVAC systems, instead of using water chillers, cooling units can be installed on the roofs of buildings powered by wind energy.

5. Design of sustainable products and services:

Finally, it is essential to incorporate a sustainable transformation strategy within a company's own business model, ensuring all products and services now include sustainable components.

In the specific sector of data storage, it is very simple. Everything we do online emits carbon dioxide. For example, 68% of the data that companies store will never be used, and storing it is only producing more carbon emissions. In our case, we are increasing working with our customers to identify what data to use and what to throw away, as well as where to store it: public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud or data center.

These are just some of the elements that any technology company could implement. If we all make small changes, we can meet the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. If not, we may witness the failure of a brilliant generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals. The solution is very clear: technology and sustainability.

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Piero Gallucci, Vice President, NetApp UK&I.