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“Responsibilities for sustainability are increasingly being passed down from CIOs to infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders to improve IT’s environmental performance, particularly around data centers,” said Autumn Stanish, Senior Principal Analyst at Gartner. “This has led many down the path of greater spend and investment in environmental solutions, but environmental impact shouldn’t be the only focus. Sustainability can also have a significant positive impact on non-environmental factors, such as brand, innovation, resilience and attracting talent.”
According to a Gartner survey of 221 respondents from North America, Europe and APAC conducted in the second half of 2022, environmental performance of IT infrastructure is only one facet of a strong I&O sustainability strategy, with most sustainability benefits being indirect (see Figure 1).
“Success in aligning the I&O strategy with critical business outcomes requires a more comprehensive approach that recognizes the indirect benefits that come with sustainable IT operations,” said Stanish. “This is true specifically for organizations in which IT is material to the business, such as financial services.”
According to the Gartner survey, the top three indirect benefits include:
1. Reduced Costs
The most effective action I&O leaders can take for the environment and their budget is to defer purchasing new equipment and better manage, optimize or redeploy what they already have. According to Gartner, organizations can experience up to 60% in cost savings by simply extending product life spans from three to five years. In addition, optimizing for better server utilization and storage capacity is another way to reduce waste and save money.
Organizations are using sustainable strategies to drive innovation and growth through new products and business models. Technology hardware vendors are rapidly releasing new products and services based on AI technology, analytics insights and circular business models that can be leveraged for innovation. For example, open telemetry platforms may be deployed to track and improve energy efficiency, while simultaneously offering critical insights for IT staff to understand usage patterns that can be optimized for greater, more consistent performance of systems.
“The core focus of many enterprises with a sustainability strategy is actually around how they can use it to drive innovation, differentiation and growth through new products and business models,” Stanish said. “However, fewer than half of I&O leaders we speak to are currently taking advantage of the business benefits beyond reduced energy costs.”
3. Better Risk Management and Mitigation
In a market disrupted by price fluctuations and supply constraints, organizations can achieve greater resilience and better risk management and mitigation by adopting sustainable recycling and resource utilization practices. This includes organizations using renewable energy, generating their own power, and reusing and redeploying equipment as much as possible.
According to the Gartner survey, more than 85% of business leaders agree that sustainability is an investment that protects the organization from disruption.