Earth Day 2023: Let’s Talk Sustainability

In 2023, sustainability is a topic on everyone’s mind. Temperatures are rising, the ice caps are melting and ocean levels are increasing - it’s a dire situation. While dwelling on the facts can be unhelpful and, quite frankly, disheartening, it’s important to not play down the seriousness of the current circumstances.

Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla states: “We all remember the 40-degree heatwave that the UK experienced in the summer of 2022, where record-high temperatures were reached. This could well become our reality if we don’t all act now. Just a few weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its study, revealing that the earth’s temperature is already 1.1C above pre-industrial levels and is likely to breach 1.5C in the 2030s. Their message was loud and clear: act now, or it will be too late. Earth Day is a great reminder of this, just as it may have started to slip out of people’s minds”.

So, as the situation is quickly becoming more alarming, what can we do to act now?

The rise of data

In the world of tech, one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions is data centres. In fact, “data centres are currently responsible for approximately 1% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions”, explains Eric Bassier, Senior Director of Products at Quantum. “This is significant when you consider the aviation industry is responsible for 1.9%. With more than double the amount of data due to be created in the next five years than was in the previous ten, it is positive to see an increase in organisations with ESG targets for their data storage solutions. It can however be a minefield for data centre managers and other IT professionals, who are already required to achieve more with less, when looking for the right solution - especially as many solutions now label themselves as sustainable without offering the proof points to back it up”.

Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK furthers: “Data centre operators and IT service providers need to urgently invest in this global effort, but the responsibility falls wider than this. This Earth Day, one action that every organisation can prioritise is to review IT infrastructure choices to ensure these are optimised for business needs, have the flexibility to support current, and future technologies - and step up environmental performance at the same time.

“ESG goals are also one of the many reasons behind the rapid adoption of cloud technologies. Not only does this technology offer energy efficient alternatives to traditional on-premise equipment, but cloud services offer versatility, agility, and cost effectiveness. One study found that the energy footprint of moving applications to the cloud could be reduced by nearly 90%. Although there is still a long, complex path ahead, cloud is enabling a complete rethink of IT infrastructure design and the power requirements behind these that will make a measurable difference”.

The UK’s biggest emitter: transportation

Another sector that needs serious attention when it comes to sustainability is transportation. The UK government recently reported that transport produced 24% of the UK's total emissions in 2020 and it remains the largest emitting sector in the UK. Consequently, reducing vehicle emissions is a top priority for many in the technology sector.

For this, Oleksandr Maidaniuk, VP of Technology at Intellias suggests applying AI and IoT: “Some cities have already started taking advantage of AI to manage traffic lights and better control traffic flows. For instance, Surtrac smart traffic light software has helped to reduce travel times by 25%, braking by 30%, and idling by 40%.

“Technological innovation within IoT, AI, and data have become valuable tools when investing in organisational success. However, this Earth Day, businesses should question how the technology they are using today could be used differently to lessen its carbon footprint or adapted to help with overall sustainability efforts - investing in our planet in whatever way they can, big or small”.

Additionally, Krishna Desai, Senior Global Marketing Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems suggests a new approach to public transportation is needed. She states that “top of the priority list should be making public transport more accessible and easy to use. A recent report from the TUC argues that radical investment in public transport would help cut car use by 20%, unlock a £50bn annual boost to the economy, and generate 140,000 direct jobs in public transport. Benefitting from this requires investing in the right technology and infrastructure. Account-based ticketing (ABT), for example, enables transit users to know if they’ll be charged the best fare for that day, week and month, making payments more equitable and easy to use. ABT can be flexibly used across different modes of transport without requiring set days for travel, streamlining how users can get from Point A to Point B. Investing in technology like ABT means investing in the UK’s sustainable future”.

Finally, with the right planning and technology in place, the widespread introduction of electric vehicles is positioned to make a great improvement in the sector. Chris Hornung, Managing Director of Public Sector at Totalmobile summarises: “Marginally improving old methods will do little to achieve new ESG goals; the only way to radically improve is to radically rethink. For example, when it comes to the widespread introduction of e-vehicles, organisations that rely on large fleets of vans will have to reinvent their operating model in order to adopt new technologies that can drive the necessary transformation. A good start here would be utilising scheduling software that can help plan routes more efficiently while factoring in charging points and charging times”.

Sustainability for every sector

While data centres and transportation are facing arguably the biggest pressure to ‘go green’, sustainability efforts affect every industry. For example, “the environment remains important to UK consumers, with 65% still prioritising sustainability when shopping”, highlights Rob Shaw, SVP Global Sales at Fluent Commerce. “Businesses must find a way to provide convenient and fast shopping experiences whilst keeping costs low - and achieve that in a sustainable way.

“Technology offers some of the obvious solutions. Investing in the latest order management software for example allows retailers to ensure they have an accurate forecast of demand, and can buy or

manufacture the correct amount of stock in order to avoid waste. It will also enable them to ensure the delivery process is as efficient as possible. For example, it can make it easy to group products together to avoid multiple trips, or to ensure that products are sent from the closest distribution centre reducing miles in transit”.

Securing a green future

Finally, if businesses want to meet their ESG targets in a sustainable way, they need to focus on the people behind the technology. Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, Chief Sustainability Officer, Skillsoft explains: “Digital learning is key to raising awareness about climate change and equipping workforces with the skills needed to be “greener” in their operations. With this in mind, business leaders should ensure that employees can continually build upon sustainability skills throughout their careers through the latest training programmes and ever-evolving learning technology. Doing so creates an effective — and sustainable — workforce designed to keep up with new green-related roles. At Skillsoft, we’ve seen the number of new learners acquiring green skills increase by 60% year-over-year (YoY); and learners have collectively spent 115% more hours on sustainability skilling over just the past year.

“The good news is that more and more organisations are ‘investing in our planet’ by building and prioritising a learning culture that includes skilling, upskilling, and reskilling for sustainability. Because, the truth is, the green economy cannot happen without green talent”.

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