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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Sustainability Call to Action with Company Benefits

  • 7 min read

In today’s rapidly changing world, technology companies hold immense power and influence. Their products and services have transformed the way we live, work, and connect with each other. With this power comes great responsibility and one of the most pressing responsibilities facing technology companies today is sustainability.

By Simon Harrison
Analyst and Client Executive Partner

Simon is an industry analyst who has authored over 30 Gartner Magic Quadrant notes as lead and with colleagues. He’s written important research as the Chief of Research advisor for Gartner. He continues to provide deep research and insights as an Executive Partner for Actionary clients and the industry.

As society becomes increasingly aware of the environmental challenges we face, the role of technology companies in promoting sustainability has never been more critical. Sustainability is not just a buzzword; it’s a fundamental necessity for the future of our planet. And, there’s some important benefits for companies’, too.

It’s More Than Just a Carbon Footprint Problem

Sir David Attenborough’s 2020 Netflix documentary, “A Life on Our Planet,” paints a sobering picture of the current state of our environment. While reducing the carbon footprint is a crucial aspect of addressing environmental challenges, David provides a comprehensive view of the interconnected problems facing the Earth and it’s pretty scary to consider:

  1. 68% Decline in Global Wildlife Populations: In just over 50 years, there has been a shocking 68% decline in global wildlife populations. This statistic underscores the severe impact of habitat loss, pollution, and overexploitation of resources on the planet’s biodiversity.
  2. 40% Reduction in Earth’s Forests: Over the same period, there has been a 40% reduction in the Earth’s forests. Deforestation contributes significantly to climate change, loss of habitat, and disruption of ecosystems.
  3. 50% Loss of Coral Reefs: Coral reefs, crucial marine ecosystems, have experienced a devastating 50% loss. Factors such as rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification pose grave threats to these vital ecosystems.
  4. 1/6th of the World’s Species at Risk of Extinction: Approximately one-sixth of the world’s species are at risk of extinction due to various human activities, including habitat destruction and climate change.
  5. 85% of Wetlands Lost: Wetlands play a crucial role in regulating water quality, providing habitat for wildlife, and mitigating flooding. Sadly, 85% of wetlands have been lost due to urbanization and agriculture.
  6. 70% of Earth’s Surface Altered by Humans: Human activities have altered nearly 70% of the Earth’s surface, affecting ecosystems, landscapes, and natural habitats.

Climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, and resource depletion are all taking a toll on the planet. It is not just an ecological concern; it’s a matter of survival for future generations. But what can do companies do to help and, perhaps, realise some value themselves?

It’s the Little Things and Maybe Some Big Ones

Technology companies have a unique role to play in addressing these challenges. They have the resources, innovation, and global reach to drive meaningful change. Here are some ways in which technology companies can fulfill their sustainability responsibilities:

  1. Reduce Carbon Footprint: Technology companies can transition to renewable energy sources for their data centers and operations. This includes investing in solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, as well as improving energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Promote Sustainable Product Design: Developing products with longevity, repairability, and recyclability in mind can reduce electronic waste. Technology companies can also explore the use of sustainable materials and manufacturing processes.
  3. Circular Economy: Embrace the principles of the circular economy, where products and materials are reused, refurbished, or recycled. This reduces waste and promotes responsible consumption.
  4. Energy-Efficient Technologies: Innovate and provide energy-efficient technologies and solutions that help other industries reduce their carbon footprint, such as smart grids, energy management systems, and efficient transportation options.
  5. Eco-Friendly Operations: Implement sustainable supply chain practices, reduce waste in manufacturing processes, and minimize water usage. This can significantly reduce the environmental impact of a company’s operations.
  6. Green Data Centers: Invest in green data centers that use innovative cooling techniques, energy-efficient servers, and renewable energy sources to power servers and storage systems.
  7. IoT for Sustainability: Develop and deploy Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that monitor and optimize resource use in various sectors, such as agriculture, transportation, and utilities, to reduce waste and improve efficiency.
  8. AI for Sustainability: Use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze and optimize complex environmental data, enabling more effective resource management, waste reduction, and emissions monitoring.
  9. Environmental Transparency: Practice transparency by providing detailed information about a company’s environmental impact and sustainability efforts. This helps build trust with customers and stakeholders.
  10. Collaboration and Advocacy: Collaborate with other companies, NGOs, and governments to advocate for policies and initiatives that promote sustainability at a global level.
  11. Environmental Education: Educate employees, customers, and the general public about the importance of sustainability and how technology can be a part of the solution.
  12. Invest in Green Startups: Support and invest in startups that develop innovative green technologies and solutions.
  13. Carbon Offset Programs: Implement carbon offset programs to compensate for unavoidable emissions, such as supporting reforestation projects or renewable energy initiatives.
  14. E-Waste Management: Take responsibility for the end-of-life disposal of electronic products by establishing e-waste recycling programs and encouraging responsible recycling among consumers.
  15. Innovate for Conservation: Develop technologies that aid in environmental conservation and research, such as remote sensing, monitoring devices, and wildlife tracking solutions.

Becoming a Good Citizen Has Its Rewards

Apart from being morally imperative, embracing sustainability also makes good business sense. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions. Studies show that a growing number of consumers prefer to support companies that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. This shift in consumer behavior creates a significant market opportunity for technology companies that prioritize sustainability.

When companies invest in sustainable practices and communicate their efforts transparently, they can build trust with their customers, attract environmentally conscious investors, and foster a positive corporate image. Additionally, reducing waste and energy consumption leads to cost savings over time.

It’s Not Easy but Still Worth It

The challenges we face are daunting, but they are not insurmountable. If technology companies worldwide commit to sustainability and reduce their carbon footprints, it can have a profound and positive impact on the environment. The changes needed are substantial, but the benefits are immeasurable.

Imagine a world where every technology company actively works to minimize its environmental impact, where renewable energy powers data centers, where electronic waste is minimized, and where sustainable practices are the norm. This vision is not only achievable but its good for business, too.

By embracing sustainability, technology companies can not only do good in the world but also create a unique competitive advantage in a market increasingly driven by environmentally conscious consumers. The statistics highlighted in David Attenborough’s “A Life on Our Planet” serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for action. However, in a world that wants to get better, being good corporate citizens has its reward, too.

The Author

Simon is a thought leading analyst and $multi-billion global company c suite executive, who’s a geek at heart. He thrives on inspiring audiences and helping companies to succeed.