Step 4: Develop governance and competence structures to drive cross-organization buy-in
The success of green IT programs depends on building the right organization to create sustainability-related capabilities. An IT sustainability center of excellence (COE) model helps coordinate this effort with various departments under the IT umbrella. This includes IT-specific procurement and supplier management, infrastructure and operations, and corporate functions such as finance and HR (for example, providing employee commute data).
Ideally sponsored by the CIO or CTO, the COE helps establish goals and objectives by driving ownership for emission goals and the associated interdependencies and trade-offs into these departments. For example, using blockchain in the supply chain for product and supplier provenance is generally expected to increase emissions but will provide business benefits by driving responsible sourcing and better visibility.
Step 5: Communicate progress to stakeholders
As in any critical IT project, change management and communication are essential for creating general awareness of sustainability initiatives. Stakeholders must be shown that they can generate results that will support their key responsibility areas by thinking outside the box. For example, when powering your company’s data center, do not reflexively turn to non-renewable energy sources. Instead, seek out and evaluate a renewable source like solar energy, which may be more cost-effective in the long run. Another example: Extending the end of life for devices where possible can defer additional spending, which generates savings and frees up funds for new initiatives, such as sustainability.
Our work for the previously mentioned global food and beverage company delivered the following results:
- A scientific calculation of its emission baseline. We helped the company move from a simple but less accurate emission calculation method based on IT spend (average emission per dollar of IT spend) to a more scientific approach defined by GHG Protocol, in line with climate science standards generated from the Paris Agreement.
- An actionable plan to accelerate IT emission reduction. We created a database to support the client’s first IT sustainability dashboard. Its IT function now monitors emission sources like the data center, technology assets, cloud activities, energy usage, and business travel to calculate emission reduction opportunities. We identified metrics that include natural gas burned for heating, refrigerant leakage, procured electricity, and share of renewables. Business travel (total miles and emissions) and the number of decommissioned, re-used, or recycled devices are all now measured.
- Progress toward achieving net-zero emissions five years before corporate goals. Our suggested initiatives and roadmap called for moving from fossil-fuel-powered generators to a backup battery, migrating the data center to an efficient cloud platform, and sourcing from suppliers that already meet sustainability criteria. All told, this effort helped IT meet its net-zero emission goal by 2025 — five years ahead of the organization as a whole. We advised the company to phase out renewable energy credits to procure wind-based and solar-based energy from suppliers, directly leading to savings and positive change on sustainability.
Companies have a choice: They can utilize IT in the old way, expanding the carbon footprint, or IT can be positioned to lead the effort to meet sustainability goals. Indeed, technology will be critical to help transform processes, build new products and services, and provide IoT-enabled real-time monitoring of environmental conditions.
But to be credible, IT needs to show the path of emission reduction from its own footprint, which, as demonstrated, can be achieved sooner rather than later. These efforts will elevate IT leaders as they help other departments pursue net-zero emissions.
This article was written by Durgesh Narayan Patel, a director within Cognizant’s IoT, Engineering and Sustainability Practice.
For more insight, visit the Cognizant Sustainability Services section of our website, or contact us.