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Saving the planet with sustainable tech
It’s a bold mission. But we’re confident it’s achievable and that our brilliant profession holds the key. BCS is uniquely placed to convene the bright minds and progressive organisations who are committed to meeting our carbon-busting pledge. Together we’re exploring the challenges and solutions that line the path to net zero.
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Here are some of the ways you and your business can get on track:
The government’s recent Net Zero Review emphasised the need to develop skilled tech professionals to power the low-carbon economy. Jobs like:
- data and sustainability analysts who identify how to improve efficiency and reduce waste and environmental impact
- renewable energy specialists who design and implement solar and wind power systems
- sustainable software developers who create applications to minimise energy consumption and reduce the environmental impact of tech systems
- green building designers who can use building information modelling (BIM) and other technology tools to design energy-efficient and sustainable buildings and homes — a key ask in the report
The government report states: official statistics show there are already around 400,000 jobs in low carbon businesses and their supply chains across the UK, with turnover estimated at £41.2 billion in 2020. Both the British Energy Security Strategy and Net Zero Strategy aim to leverage an additional and unprecedented £100 billion of private investment, while supporting an additional 480,000 British jobs by 2030.
Technology plays a crucial role in enabling you to accurately measure, report and analyse greenhouse gas emissions for the entire lifecycle of any process or product — from its initial conception to material sourcing, production, consumption, and disposal/recycling.
Tracking and reporting is the first step in identifying areas where your business can cut emissions and set targets to keep them lower. Technology allows you to collect data more efficiently and effectively, which itself reduces the cost and time associated with reporting. It all helps you improve your sustainability performance and demonstrate your commitment to environmental responsibility.
Scopes 1 to 3 are commonly used in sustainability reporting to classify greenhouse gas emission sources. They’re based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD):
- Scope 1 relates to the direct emissions from your company's operations, such as burning fossil fuels in boilers or vehicles.
- Scope 2 refers to indirect emissions associated with the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating or cooling that your company consumes.
- Scope 3 covers all the indirect emissions that occur in your value chain — both upstream and downstream — including emissions from suppliers, customers, transportation, waste disposal and use of products and services.
Scopes 1 and 2 are sometimes known as "operational emissions" and are typically easier to measure and report since they’re within your direct control.
Your scope 3 emissions can be more challenging to understand, but they’re often the most significant contributor to your carbon footprint so measuring them is essential as it provides insight into key opportunities for reductions across the value chain.
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) are factors that evaluate your company’s sustainability and ethical impact. ESG factors are increasingly important to investors, customers and stakeholders who are concerned about their indirect impact on society and the planet.
The value of ESG lies in its ability to provide a comprehensive view of your company's sustainability and ethical performance, beyond financial metrics. It helps you to identify risks and opportunities, and to strengthen your reputation and stakeholder trust.
Technology allows businesses nowadays to collect and analyse vast amounts of data and automate their reporting processes. This has improved the accuracy and reliability of today’s ESG disclosures. It means you can identify and manage ESG risks more effectively — such as in your supply chain and/or environmental impacts — and monitor your organisation’s progress towards your ESG goals.
Embedding sustainable practices into your IT architecture design and build will significantly reduce energy consumption, minimise waste and mitigate your organisation’s environmental effect.
There are various methods you can combine to cut down your organisation’s energy consumption and impact on the environment:
- invest in energy-efficient hardware such as low-power servers, and software designed to minimise energy usage
- consolidate resources and reduce the need for physical infrastructure by creating systems that support virtualisation and cloud computing
- design computer systems that will be easy to upgrade to extend their lifespan and reduce the amount of electronic waste generated by your business
- implement systems that monitor and reduce carbon emissions, use renewable energy sources, and are designed for efficient end-of-life disposal
Building sustainability into your business requires your IT architects to take a holistic approach by considering the entire lifecycle of the system from design and build to end-of-life disposal — and prioritising energy efficiency, waste reduction and environmental impact at every step.
A sustainable cloud is designed to minimise energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions. Areas to consider when building your workload in a sustainable cloud include:
- ensuring the private cloud infrastructure uses energy-efficient hardware and software — this might include virtualisation and consolidation to reduce the number of physical servers needed and choosing hardware that’s energy efficient by design
- monitoring and managing energy usage by investigating how consumption can be reduced — for example, using automated shutdowns to turn off unused resources or adjusting power settings to reduce energy usage during non-peak hours
- choosing a cloud provider that uses renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power — this means the workload is powered by clean energy, reducing carbon footprint
- promoting sustainable practices within the organisation such as reducing data generation, eliminating redundant apps, and thinking about energy usage before creating applications for the cloud
- prioritising efficiency by optimising applications and databases to reduce the compute and storage resources needed — this can help reduce energy consumption and costs while also improving performance!
To minimising your organisation’s environmental impact while maximising your technology investment, each stage of your IT equipment’s lifecycle requires careful consideration:
When looking at your technology spec and the feasibility of your IT project, assess whether it's better to refurbish or buy new.
Consider what the equipment's environmental impact will be — look for energy-efficient equipment and evaluate the environmental practices of vendors. Also consider the total cost of ownership, including maintenance, repair and replacement costs.
Take good care of your tech equipment to maximise its lifespan through regular maintenance and upgrades and by training your employees to use it properly.
Always consider the environmental impact of disposal and take action to minimise it — this could include recycling or donating equipment that’s able to be refurbished, and ensuring equipment that can’t be reused is disposed of correctly.
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