It’s no surprise that sustainability is a top priority for the board of directors. Partners, customers, shareholders and other stakeholders demand carbon footprint information from the data sourcing and investment business sectors – companies want to see growth in this key area.
It makes good business sense. According to a new study by Genpact, 58% of senior executives who strongly agree that their company practices environmentally sustainable business practices have better business performance compared to 40% of other respondents.
The board often looks to CIOs to drive these sustainability efforts. CIOs should see this as an opportunity – to stop reacting to events and instead embrace proactive planning based on long-term thinking.
From recent conversations with many CIOs from the F500 organizations we serve, we know that technology leaders believe they can have a significant impact on sustainability. However, most have a long way to go: Today, less than 10 percent of companies measure their carbon footprint, and more than 30 percent of these measurements are inaccurate.
[ Also read 4 reasons IT leaders should champion sustainability. ]
CIOs and technology leaders are in an important position to drive the sustainability agenda for the organization. This is because they have a multi-faceted view of the many impacts that support an environmental sustainability agenda, from measuring the carbon footprint of an enterprise’s extended technology stack to identifying opportunities to reduce costs and waste by reducing the number of assets in the organization.
Additionally, they understand the importance of change management in developing cross-organizational sustainability programs. CIOs’ experience in addressing technology evolution—from mainframe options to cloud-native and mobile-first—gives them the ability to lead large-scale project management across the enterprise.
CIOs’ experience in addressing technology evolution gives them the skills to drive large-scale project management across the organization.
And above all, CIOs are the masters of data, which is the essential resource – data fabrics, data engineering, data analytics and reporting for sustainability initiatives and of course all of ESG.
[ Related read 6 ways CIOs can drive change through ESG ]
3 steps to building sustainable business practices on your IT team
The most innovative CIOs are already on the move, and the details of the new approach are taking shape. The following three steps enable technology leaders in purpose-driven companies to build more sustainable business practices.
1. Build a corporate framework around sustainability
Leading companies have a specific pattern of corporate-level agreed carbon emission reductions. And they communicate this goal throughout the organization. Both steps are critical to driving change. The CIO’s role in setting targets requires aligning multiple initiatives, many of which are highly fragmented and necessarily siled business environments. The CIO can provide an enterprise-wide view of the initiative, establish a common goal, and ensure that sustainability objectives are appropriate for the business and the company’s industry context.
2. Measure, manage and measure again
Data is key. To establish a baseline, the CIO must measure the impact of the enterprise’s entire technology stack, including external partners and suppliers. This requires querying, extracting and reconciling data across external parties – and remembering to aggregate data beyond carbonisation. Cloud and resource choices and asset placement after cloud migration contribute to carbon footprint.
The CIO must guide employees to make good sustainability choices. One example: According to Cisco, 27.1 billion devices are connected to the Internet—that’s more than three devices for every person on the planet. Many corporate employees carry two mobile phones, but they don’t need to – existing technology allows them to charge two different environments on one device. Also, organizations with service contacts can exclude hardware upgrades from contracts, allowing employees to decide whether they just need a new device or a new battery.
3. Combine human and machine intelligence
CIOs can use machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to solve old problems in new ways. For example, predictive intelligence can predict the impact of different choices so that users can be more deliberate about their decisions.
These new capabilities empower CIOs in other ways as well. Critical information is often hidden in unstructured documents, flat files, and manual reports. AI accelerates data ingestion, extraction and classification. At the same time, it helps to change behavior – it provides thoughtful and timely forks, most of which we have completed with digital business. Where machine intelligence is concerned, a human-in-the-loop approach yields the best results.
Taking these three steps can help CIOs drive their organizations’ sustainability agendas, transform enterprise culture, build strong loyalty, and attract purpose-driven talent.
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