Technology and sustainable development for 21st-century CIOs

May 31, 2022

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are currently focused on balancing client needs and technological advances with maintaining and preserving our ecosystem.

Sustainable development is the solution to this problem. It’s a phenomenon that seeks to modify the relationship between society and the environment, offering long-term solutions and fostering a sense of responsibility towards future generations.

This concept has been around for the last 50 years. However, the current environmental situation and the ever-growing global warming have driven c-level executives to create strategies centered around sustainable development.

Technology and CIOs: two critical elements of sustainable development

According to the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide CIO Agenda 2022 Predictions report, the role of CIOs in businesses’ journey toward full sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint will be vital in the coming years.

The biggest challenge that future CIOs face is implementing technology while prioritizing development over growth. This will improve the life quality of workers and society as a whole.

One of the main goals of CIOs should be implementing technology to create more digitalized, and competitive organizations focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. As companies decide to adopt strategic models centered on sustainable development, technological systems allow for the more efficient use and management of energy.

In this context, the role of CIOs in sustainability initiatives becomes crucial. They should pursue energy-saving models in every process and understand the life cycles of their systems. By doing so, they will guide their company toward dematerialization to reduce harmful factors in production processes, boost productivity, and preserve the environment. This strategy minimizes the use of natural resources and the release of waste and toxic substances.

CIOs should also be acquainted with the best sustainable solutions, such as cloud computing, smart software, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

The role of CIOs in sustainability

According to the SMART2020: Enabling the low-carbon economy in the information age report, IT departments are responsible for around 2% of global carbon emissions. Therefore, sustainability has become one of the top priorities for CIOs.

It’s necessary to develop models that reduce the consumption of energy and natural resources within companies. To that end, CIOs should be familiar with the data regarding the company’s facilities, their associated energy costs, and the company’s energy consumption.

By combining a proper energy strategy with clean technology, companies can reduce the environmental impact and energy costs that result from IT infrastructures.

There are different ways in which CIOs can improve sustainability across an entire organization, like establishing a set of initiatives to measure and manage the environmental impact of information technology within each department and the company. This way, every department can assess their processes’ social and environmental effects.

Adding sustainability to business processes allows for the development of practices that provide insight into the necessary data to assess the environmental impact of the value chain.

What can CIOs do to improve sustainability?

CIOs should analyze if the organization is complying with sustainability metrics and if it’s being efficient. To that end, they should consider both the legal regulations and policies and the company’s sustainability approach.

Then, they should adopt a series of practices to improve sustainability, such as:

  • Choosing effective systems (like servers or routers) and identifying which should be kept permanently on and which should not. If the existing ones don’t reach optimal efficiency, CIOs should consider how to replace them with new ones progressively. CIOs should also analyze the useful life of these systems to encourage dematerialization and reduce purchasing needs.
  • Virtualizing servers and procedures that are harmful to the environment and ecologically digitalizing processes through thin client systems or cloud computing. Virtualization and cloud computing make servers more efficient since they enable easier, scalable access to IT resources, complying with sustainability requirements.
  • Encouraging the efficient use of big data is another favorable option for organizations and discarding applications that are not strictly necessary.
  • Choosing renewable energies and supplying data centers with solar, wind, or hydraulic power. Free cooling can also be implemented. This system uses filtered ambient air to cool the heat from data centers and then re-purposes the residual heat to supply offices with energy.

Some companies have already implemented technologies such as virtual reality (VR), the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and the new cloud systems. Using applications like Zoom or Meet to replace business trips and streaming to replace books and DVDs is also essential.

All these measures aim at achieving net zero-emission data centers and full sustainable development. On the one hand, this would reduce the environmental impact by driving economic growth without affecting nature or reducing adverse effects to a minimum, thanks to the drop in carbon dioxide emissions and the replacement of non-renewable sources of energy with renewable ones. On the other hand, it enables the application of technologies that solve sustainability issues innovatively and efficiently.

CIOs’ sustainability plan

These actions and strategies will help CIOs implement successful sustainability plans, meeting the organization’s goals and its carbon footprint threshold.

When designing a plan, it’s essential to determine a time frame and include initiatives already in place, setting priorities and assessing the time to complete them.

To implement the plan, it’s key to cooperate with expert organizations in the field of sustainability, as they can offer new insights or provide resources that allow the company to boost its efficiency. Lastly, all strategies should include reducing paper consumption to avoid generating waste and printing.

The road to full sustainable development may be long, but companies need to continue adopting new trends of environmental responsibility and innovating to ensure the preservation of the ecosystem.

To find out more about how to define your sustainable development strategy, check out our Sustainable Business Studio. 

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To be ready and stay relevant in the new green economy, companies need different rules, processes and expertise. The Sustainable Business Studio provides organizations and stakeholders with the tools and know-how to build their climate roadmap in favour of just transitions and climate actions. We support organizations embracing a problem-solving approach based on Agenda 2030 to achieve responsible business.