A good sustainability strategy balances technology and use cases

A good sustainability strategy balances technology and use cases

Technology isn’t always the answer when it comes to reducing a company’s carbon footprint, which is why IT leaders need to use new and emerging technologies wisely as part of sustainability strategies.

That’s according to Abhijit Sunil, principal analyst at Forrester Research, who said the contribution of information and communications technology to an organization’s carbon footprint is “substantial and growing”. Sunil spoke on a panel at Forrester Research’s Technology and Innovation Forum on September 30.

Emerging technologies such as blockchain, edge computing and data centers consume large amounts of energy, Sunil said. He noted that data centers consumed 1% of total global electricity demand in 2020.

That’s why it’s crucial for IT leaders to consider specific use cases for emerging technologies when it comes to a company’s plan to reduce carbon emissions, he said.

“Using emerging technologies for sustainability really borders on the right use case and scale,” Sunil said. “Thinking about this is the true power of the technology leader and how emerging technologies will either benefit or risk an organization’s sustainability journey.

Focus on a sustainable development strategy

Internal actions on the sustainability roadmap begin with procurement, including green energy and energy-efficient hardware. Companies can then optimize internal operations, including data centers and the value chain, which Sunil says is often where emerging technologies come into play.

Blockchain technologies can help measure and monitor supply chain emissions, ensuring data accuracy through smart contracts that authenticate real-time carbon emissions data. Additionally, IoT technologies and advanced computing are optimizing transportation and logistics operations.

Still, companies need to tread carefully because technologies such as IoT and blockchain generate their own carbon footprint, he said. Blockchain consumed 0.3% of global electricity demand in 2020, he noted.

Using emerging technologies for sustainability really borders on the right use case and scale.

Abhijit SunilPrincipal Analyst, Forrester Research

Sukumaran Nair, associate provost for research at Southern Methodist University, said using blockchain to manage sustainability efforts can often eliminate the benefits achieved due to its high power consumption. Nair spoke on the panel with Sunil.

Yet technologies such as data centers, blockchain and edge computing, which Nair called “complementary”, should not be discounted due to their potential to create an additional carbon footprint. He said it’s up to business leaders to balance the use of technology as part of the company’s effort to reduce carbon emissions.

“That’s where the innovation has to come in,” Nair said.

Addressing carbon footprints with technology

It’s about being able to measure the negative and positive impacts of information and communications technology and minimizing the negative impacts, said panelist Bhushan Joshi, head of sustainability and corporate responsibility at Ericsson North America. . Ericsson is a multinational telecommunications technology provider.

Joshi said Ericsson has set targets to achieve net zero carbon emissions for its 5G technology portfolio by 2040. He said the company also plans to assess individual sites to see which areas can be transformed into “intelligent sites” to improve energy consumption.

Additionally, the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning helps the company find patterns to improve energy efficiency as networks become “increasingly complex”, it said. -he declares.

“To make them work effectively will require these technologies,” Joshi said.

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Before joining TechTarget, she was a generalist journalist for the Wilmington StarNews and crime and education reporter Wabash Plain Dealer.

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