Crisis is often the food of innovation. Six IT experts share their insights on how companies can innovate in order to minimise their environmental impact.
With countless news stories, documentaries, and high-profile protests flooding our media in recent times, there is certainly no escaping the catastrophic damage that we have inflicted on our planet.
This is not just the problem of the people, but of large companies too, including those in the tech sector. There is increasing pressure on the people in charge at the very peak of our technological landscape – namely companies that provide and support the core infrastructure – to action change from the top down.
Change starts at home
Rik Williams, head of data centre operations at Node4, explains the importance of seeing the bigger picture. “Climate change action can and should come from the top down, so while data centres continue to be essential hubs that power our ever-growing digital age, they too have a big responsibility to the planet.”
He continues, “With climate change front of mind in recent times, the IT industry is more aware than ever that it plays a big part in global emissions. Now, many data centre providers are taking the initiative in using greener technology to make a difference and fulfil the requirements of climate-conscious businesses.”
“We can all recognise the importance of looking a little closer to home when considering the challenge presented to our planet by climate change. However, it’s not just up to individuals alone,” agrees Christian Lang, VP of EMEA at Commvault.
“Alongside that we need to recognise the role that big business has to play in the movement towards more sustainable, greener, global commercial practices,” Lang adds. “All organisations, especially those in the technology sector, can (and should) be doing more to identify better ways to lower the carbon footprints of their daily business operations.”
Real advice for a real crisis
Williams points out some practical advice that data centres themselves can take. “The most obvious thing that data centres can do is deploy the latest energy-saving technologies. There are plenty of these available, such as cold aisle containment, free cooling chillers and adiabatic cooling systems.”
Eltjo Hofstee, managing director at Leaseweb UK, adds to this argument for companies across the technology sector, “Another solution to achieving sustainability is virtualisation. This enables IT teams to fully utilise the capacity of a physical server, which means in most cases that you can run the same environment on less physical servers, without performance decrease. As customers become increasingly aware of the cost and availability of power, data centres have some of the most advanced tools of any sector for improving energy efficiency – so why not use them?”
“Businesses across all sectors can commit to simple yet effective acts that go a long way in helping the world become more green, such as having no single-use plastic in the office, planting trees with local governments, or offering electric vehicles as company cars,” comments Graham Marcroft, operations and compliance director at Hyve Managed Hosting.
“But, what can the tech sector in particular be doing?” he asks. “At Hyve, our data centres have invested over 100 million dollars in energy efficiency upgrades, and in 2015 made an industry-first commitment to long term goals of using clean and renewable energy to power 100% of their global footprint.”
“Reducing energy consumption will not only ecologically benefit the environment, but also financially benefit the data centre operator – it truly is a win-win,” concludes Hofstee.
A more connected world could be the answer
In the modern digital landscape, connected devices are changing the way we live and work, and there are increasing suggestions that this new, flexible, technology-driven landscape could be the answer to some of our climate problems.
"As people, places and things become increasingly connected all around us, smart technology has an important role to play in homes, offices, commercial buildings and vehicles,” explains Jason Wells, VP and GM EMEA at Cradlepoint.
“Smart technology is already providing a variety of functions, from reporting a broken light bulb, to recording how much energy is being used and even alerting us to the fact that the garden may be in need of a drop of water,” he continues.
“For example, while LED technology has made lighting far more efficient in recent years, connected lighting is taking this one stage further. The ability to remotely manage street lighting via the Internet means local authorities can ensure street lights are dimmed when not in use during the night, only returning to full brightness when they sense a car or pedestrian approaching. This can reduce energy consumption significantly, while also improving living conditions and security for local residents.”
Steve Wainwright, managing director EMEA at Skillsoft, adds to this point, with the concept of eLearning for employees. “Have you ever considered the impact your L&D programme has on the environment? If your programme is entirely classroom-based and doesn’t utilise any digital learning tools, it is likely not the greenest option. For example, less fuel is used by employees travelling by car, train or air to take classes, and less paper is used because more courses and materials are online rather than physical.
“The US alone cuts down approximately 68 million trees every year just to make paper and associated products,” he adds. “Striving to create a paperless office is one of the best ways to reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint and help the environment.”
The time for greener IT is now
The overriding message from every angle is perfectly clear; there is no planet B. With carbon balancing making headline news, governments being pushed into action to align with the Paris agreement, and even children taking Fridays off around the world to stand up for our planet, there is no time to waste.
When it comes to improving our impact on the world, companies across all parts of our IT landscape are owning up to their responsibilities, and with practical advice and technological advancements available to all, there is no time like the present for the technology sector to stand up for change.