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Why is a green IT approach important for compliance-conscious organizations?

Without technology, it’s impossible for an organization operating in 2023 to navigate complex regulatory environments, manage vast amounts of personal and customer journey data, and connect cross-country supply chains – among many other day-to-day operations dependent on technology take place.

So, when the IT used to manage these complex requirements runs the risk of undermining newer regulatory requirements, there’s real potential to devastate a business. Green IT offers organizations the opportunity to get ahead of regulations, playing an important role in:

  • Reputation and stakeholder engagement: ESG performance and consistency are highlighted in good stakeholder engagement and reputation management. By showing commitment to sustainability through green IT practices, organizations can enhance their reputation and engage stakeholders transparently, building trust in their integrity.
  • Risk management: By enhancing energy efficiency, lowering carbon emissions and managing resources responsibly, organizations can improve operational risks around IT infrastructure, helping minimize equipment failure, downtime and data loss.
  • Cost savings: Energy-efficient computing can lead to significant cost savings for organizations, as well as reduce the need for additional IT infrastructure and related expenses.
  • Regulatory compliance: As ESG regulations become more stringent, organizations must comply and act honestly to avoid penalties and other legal consequences. Green IT practices can help organizations meet these regulatory requirements and maintain transparency over the measures monitored by regulations.

Regulatory change as a driver of green IT initiatives

Legislation around corporate sustainability continues to advance. The question is not whether a particular sector, organization size or market will be affected by future legislation, but when. In recent years, industries have already seen regulatory requirements around the world bringing green IT firmly into broader discussions around sustainability.

Just a few of these regulatory changes include:

In the European Union:

  1. Eco-design and Energy Labelling regulations (2019): Sets mandatory energy-efficient design requirements and enforces energy efficiency labeling for electronic products.
  2. Circular Economy Action Plan (2020): Part of the European Green Deal, the Plan promotes sustainable resource use, waste reduction, and improved design, durability and recyclability of electronic products.
  3. EU Taxonomy Regulation (2020): Establishes a classification system for environmentally sustainable economic activities, encouraging investment in green IT solutions.

In the United States:

  1. Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI): An ongoing effort to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency in federal data centers by optimizing, consolidating and transitioning to more energy-efficient platforms.
  2. State-level initiatives: States like New York have passed legislation, such as the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA, 2019), with the aim of achieving carbon-free electricity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and offering incentives related to energy efficiency and sustainable computing. Another example, while not directly related to green IT, is the California Consumer Privacy Act 2020 (CCPA), which has implications for data storage, processing, and appropriate data protection measures. More complex requirements could lead organizations to adopting more energy-efficient and sustainable IT practices, saving money while meeting these obligations.

In the APAC region:

  1. China’s Green Credit Policy (2012): Encourages banks to provide financial support to environmentally friendly industries and projects, including green IT solutions, to incentivize advancing sustainability efforts.
  2. India’s National E-Waste Policy (2016): Regulates the management and handling of electronic waste, promoting the recycling and environmentally sound disposal of electronic devices.
  3. Australia’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS): Provides households and small businesses with access to free recycling services for televisions and computers, promoting responsible e-waste disposal.

Committing to green IT: steps organizations can take

Large-scale initiatives have a significant impact, but even small actions can add up and contribute to a more sustainable future. Some easy-to-implement policies could include:

  1. Low power mode policies: Devices consume energy even when not in use, so encouraging employees to use low power mode or put their devices in sleep mode when not in use can reduce energy consumption and costs.
  2. Switch-off policies: Implementing switch-off policies requesting employees turn off equipment when not in use can reduce energy consumption and lower costs. Having set periods outside regular working hours where the office may not have power in certain areas is another way to limit wasteful use of energy.
  3. Energy-efficient tech: Energy Star-certified devices are designed to reduce energy consumption and costs, making them a good choice for businesses looking to boost sustainability while saving money.

Beyond these, fully embracing and implementing green IT and embedding these values in corporate culture will to be a long-term coordinated effort. When taking the leap into bedding green IT across operations, initiatives will span IT, facilities management, procurement and more.

Some important elements of a green IT implementation journey include:

Auditing IT infrastructure and practices

A full audit will help identify areas where improvements can be made. This involves evaluating energy consumption, carbon emissions and other environmental impacts or concerns. The audit should also collaborate with vendors and suppliers to ensure your entire supply chain has the same priorities.

Partner with cloud providers committed to green IT practice

Cloud providers like AWS, Azure and Salesforce Sustainability Cloud are continuously working on enhancing the energy efficiency of their data centers, employing renewable energy sources and minimizing the environmental impact of their operations. By choosing partners that prioritize green IT in the foundations of their operations, businesses can strengthen their commitment to sustainability.

Design for sustainability in new IT infrastructure

A sustainability assessment built into the procurement process can significantly reduce energy consumption and costs over time, as well as minimize the environmental impact of IT infrastructure. This might be as simple as comparing energy consumption between monitors for employees to the approximate lifespan of that asset – sometimes face-value eco-friendliness can be misleading. For heavy-use components, such as laptop batteries, this can be a useful step to gauge cost-effectiveness over time vs. relative lifespan vs. performance.

Responsible disposal of electronic waste

Whether through recycling, reuse or other methods, there must be a process for properly disposing of electronics, batteries, printer cartridges and other electronic components harmful to the environment. If assets are outdated but functional, a device refresh program for employees to reuse older devices is a good way to extend the usable lifespan of technology. Finally, consider partnering with organizations that are able to redistribute older electronics, such as laptops, to communities, schools or learning programs to benefit people who may not otherwise have access.

Where green IT leads us

In a world where the environment is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, green IT has emerged as a critical component of risk management and compliance for organizations worldwide. It’s no longer a mere option, but a vital necessity for businesses seeking to stay competitive, safeguard the planet and adhere to ever-evolving regulations.

Unlike the more visible forms of pollution and ecological damage in the news, technology is fairly covert, even as it is embedded in every area of every business. However, as the main tool for driving both individual businesses and global economies, technology and how to make it greener shouldn’t be left out of the sustainability conversation.

As governments across the globe ramp up the introduction of regulations and laws mandating that companies meet specific environmental standards, green IT initiatives will pave the way for a sustainable and more responsible future.  

Need support adapting your policies and processes to the evolving landscape of ESG issues – including green IT and sustainability? Learn how NAVEX could help you track your green IT goals across your organization.

No matter the stage you’re in in your ESG journey, the NAVEX ESG Definitive Guide provides valuable resources. For the complete guide:

Download Here