Information technology is forecast to cut global greenhouse emissions by 20% by 2030 by helping companies, and consumers use and save energy. But there’s a paradox. The IT ecosystem consumes 10% of global electricity in 2022 and could reach as much as 20% by 2030. These energy demands will only grow as more sustainable technologies come online, and it will take more data processing power to manage it.

Suffice it to say that the IT industry cannot forget about its considerable carbon footprint, which is only growing with increasing digitalisation.

Sustainability in a data-hungry world 

While IT operations have seen fantastic efficiency gains in the last two decades, powering up data centres, networks, and computers eats lots of energy.

Studies show that gains in computing power today are accompanied by a modest increase in energy use – but when you consider digitalisation’s scale, “modest” is by no means small. A 20% share in electricity use by 2030 is on the cards.

Making sustainable IT choices requires consideration across the technology stack. Vendors, hardware, energy, governance, data management, and employees have a role to play in the rollout of sustainable IT that reduces energy use.

Here are steps IT leaders can take to reduce energy use:

  • Monitor power consumption
  • Identify idle and underutilised equipment
  • Power down machines with low utilisation
  • Embrace virtualisation to cut server numbers
  • Train employees to use equipment efficiently
  • Switch to energy-efficient fans
  • Replace ageing infrastructure
  • Choose eco-friendly vendors
  • Maintain machines correctly
  • Optimise cooling and power distribution
  • Reduce data centre cooling requirements
  • Switch to cloud computing to shift operations to more efficient operators
  • Invest in renewable energy technologies like solar panels and turbines – these can power computers when sized correctly.

Making your IT sustainable is an expensive endeavour because it requires the replacement of older machines and new processes to manage equipment. You might also have to sacrifice a preferred vendor because they have no environmental policy.

However, reducing your carbon footprint is good for business because environmental and social responsibility are reputational drivers. You can bottle and sell your sustainable IT measures in your policies, clawing your investment back.