Abhijit Sunil, Analyst and Jan Sythoff, Senior Consultant
When it comes to the climate crisis, is technology the cause or the cure? In this episode, Analyst Abhijit Sunil and Senior Consultant Jan Sythoff discuss the increasing pressure felt by technology providers, what efforts are being made to address climate change, and how firms should position the returns.
It’s no secret that the growth of digital transformation is expanding the industry’s carbon footprint, with the energy requirements of cryptocurrency and blockchain being recent examples. Early in this episode, Sunil discusses four major drivers for the tech industry to change that: investors, employees, governments/regulatory authorities, and, lastly, customers. “Sustainability is not just a matter of survival, but also a matter of differentiation for many organizations,” says Sunil.
But while technology is contributing to climate change, it can also help reduce carbon emissions in various ways. Sythoff runs down some of the sustainability benefits of technology, including digital transformation’s reduction of paper, “smart” energy management systems, and the role of AI and machine learning in optimizing the cooling of data centers for reduced energy consumption.
So how can firms continue to push technology-driven innovation without adding to the climate crisis? “We observed that organizations that innovate with sustainability as their North Star also become more optimized in their functioning,” Sunil says. He adds that one of the mistakes organizations make around sustainability is underestimating the impact of long-term efforts (electrification, retrofitting buildings) and overestimating the benefits of short-term efforts (green energy procurement, carbon offsets). The key, he says, is to make sustainability sustainable within an organization, and a good first step is to benchmark where you’re at now by doing some carbon accounting.
Later in the episode, Sunil provides some examples of innovative things technology firms are doing to reduce their carbon footprint (including underwater data centers), and Sythoff discusses the benefits and drawbacks of using carbon offsets in a sustainability strategy and the role procurement can play in reducing an organization’s carbon footprint.