Future Enterprise

The Role of Technology in Achieving Sustainability Goals

Greater IT visibility will allow organizations to expand from compliance-driven strategies to strategies that are focused on leveraging sustainability to drive business value.
Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Over the past few years, a growing number of organizations around the world have made bold pledges – and set specific targets – to achieve environmental and social sustainability goals. However, many organizations continue to struggle to make progress toward achieving these goals. This is often due to a lack of a clear technology strategy that is aligned with corporate sustainability missions.

For most organizations, strategies for achieving these goals are typically driven by the Board of Director and/or C-suite. The challenge with this approach is:

  • Effectively communicating the importance of sustainability to the business
  • How the strategy will be executed
  • What role team and individuals must play in helping achieve goals

This is particularly true in IT, where lack of communication and guidance from executive management on the role IT, and IT technologies, can slow progress. While there are a variety of personas and functional leads who are responsible for contributing to corporate sustainability goals, IT must work cross-functionally to support its own objectives, while supporting the technology needs of departmental and corporate leads. When it comes to supporting corporate sustainability initiatives, IT has two primary responsibilities:

  • Reducing the sustainability impact of its own IT infrastructure
  • Leveraging technology solutions that allow the organization to visualize and improve performance

Sustainable IT Infrastructure

For many organizations, IT accounts for a sizable portion of an organization’s overall carbon emissions. For companies that have made aggressive commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, IT will be an obvious area of priority.

Over the past few years, digital transformation has been a recurring theme in IT as organizations increasingly rely on digital technologies to run their business. As organizations move beyond digital transformation initiatives and look for growth built on digital-first strategies, they will need to focus on purposeful long-term goals like sustainability.

More organizations are starting to view their IT strategy through the lens of sustainability. We are seeing an increasing number of request for proposals (RFPs) with specific sustainability requirements for areas such as energy efficiency and carbon emissions. Companies are also looking at the full lifecycle of their IT assets and embedding sustainability data into asset lifecycle management. This allows leadership to make informed decisions about asset utilization, asset maintenance and repair, and end-of-life/reuse/recycle.

For their part, IT vendors recognize the importance that customers are placing on sustainability and are incorporating it into their solutions portfolios. Across the IT landscape, IT vendors are developing more energy efficient infrastructure and designing and manufacturing equipment for recycle/reuse. Cloud service providers, meanwhile, are increasing their use of renewable energy sources, while data center operators are driving energy efficiency through better resource utilization and cooling solutions.

Driving Improvement Through IT Sustainability Solutions

IT will also play an important role in supporting corporate sustainability missions by leveraging existing technologies and investing in new solutions that can help organizations track, report, manage, and improve sustainability performance.

Gaining access to the data needed to effectively manage sustainability performance is essential for establishing performance baselines and devising strategies for achieving future goals and targets. However, this can be challenging as sustainability data typically resides in different repositories, These repositories can be scattered throughout the organization and fall under the control of different functional leads.

Without visibility into sustainability data, the ability to effectively report on milestones and metrics for compliance purposes and meet established goals is compromised. IT needs to aggregate internal data and provide platforms for sharing data across the organization.

In the software area alone, there has been an explosion of sustainability solutions that give organizations greater visibility and awareness of performance.

IDC’s ESG Perception Survey revealed that most organizations are using multiple tools to manage sustainability, with nearly three-quarters of survey respondents citing data and performance management as the key features they are using.

IDC expects to see increased spending in software solutions for sustainability performance management as organizations look for greater observability of their impact across the organization, as well as the partner/supplier ecosystem.

It should be noted that greater awareness of an organization’s sustainability footprint has led forward-looking organizations to use sustainability as a lever for driving innovations in areas such as supply chain, distribution/shipping, and manufacturing processes. IDC believes that the shift from compliance-driven to business value-driven sustainability initiatives is taking place. Technology will play an even greater role in helping organizations identify the opportunities for leveraging sustainability to drive business innovation.


Technology will play a critically important role in helping organizations meet their sustainability targets and goals. Developing an IT strategy that aligns with corporate sustainability strategy is critical to identifying these technologies. New technologies will be needed to track performance, report progress to internal and external stakeholder, meet compliance and regulatory demands, and integrate sustainability data into existing business operations. Ultimately, greater visibility will allow organizations to expand from compliance-driven strategies to strategies that are focused on leveraging sustainability to drive business value.

For more insight and information on trends and market dynamics driving technology purchases for sustainability, please see the IDC eBook entitled “Driving Business Value Through Sustainable Transformation“.

Program Vice President, Infrastructure Services