6 sustainability strategies that help reduce costs

Implementing sustainability practices doesn’t have to be expensive. These options can boost efficiency while reducing your organization’s carbon footprint
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Companies across all industries have embarked on sustainability initiatives to help reduce their carbon footprint, resource utilization, and overall environmental impact. While many CIOs recognize the urgency of climate change and the need to protect and preserve our planet, they’re also rightfully concerned about the cost of implementing sustainability programs and the impact they might have on operational efficiency.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of sustainability strategies that can not only help your company save the planet but also save money. As a bonus, the money you save can provide additional resources to invest in further efficiency upgrades, allowing you to build momentum on an Environmental, Sustainability & Governance (ESG) program, which is attractive to customers, investors, and employees.

Ready to save the planet and your budget? Here are some options to consider:

1. Automate lighting and environmental controls

Electricity consumption can have significant environmental implications and is costly, so reducing energy use is a smart move. Consider installing occupancy sensors – high-efficiency LED lighting that turns off when it’s not being used. Adjust lighting and HVAC when no one’s around or daylight harvesting equipment that dims the lights to leverage natural daylight whenever possible. This can reduce energy consumption and environmental impact by up to 75 percent and significantly cut electricity costs.

[ Also read 4 reasons IT leaders should champion sustainability. ]

2. Use touchless interfaces to eliminate paper

COVID gave the fledgling QR code exactly the boost it needed to become mainstream. Now we scan these codes with our phones to access everything from restaurant menus to the Wi-Fi network when we check into a hotel. It prevents the spread of germs while reducing paper consumption to save trees and money.

The hospitality industry has truly embraced contactless technology, replacing posters, cards, and guest room information booklets with digital guest room assistants to save resources and reduce sanitizing needs.

3. Use cloud-based infrastructure vs. on-premises

Using cloud-based storage and applications can be much better for the environment than on-premises solutions. It not only allows you to share space on existing servers and reduces the need to purchase (and manufacture) the hardware for on-premises use, but it can also lower your energy consumption and costs compared to running your equipment in-house.

However, it’s essential to be mindful of the providers you use. Data centers contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, so you’ll want to choose environmentally conscious data hosts committed to sustainability. For example, Red Hat is committed to reaching net-zero operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

4. Manage your cloud estate efficiently

During the software development process, it’s not uncommon for teams to spin up new server instances for experimentation and testing. And they often forget to take them down, which creates a sprawling digital estate that contributes unnecessarily to your carbon footprint and operational expenses.

Be conscious of the number of server instances and test environments you need and implement good housekeeping and audit processes around decommissioning assets when projects wind down.

5. Tighten asset management for physical equipment

Being judicious with your physical equipment is important, too. All those devices – servers, networking equipment, laptops, etc. – carry an environmental cost, both in terms of the precious metals, manufacturing, and transportation required to put them in service, as well as disposal.

Using remote device management engines to centralize the management and security of employees’ laptops can reduce shipping needs and make sure devices that are issued are returned, reused, and repurposed to the extent possible.

Our company has even sold used hardware to maximize utilization and recoup costs. There are great programs that accept donations of used equipment to charities, which allows the donor to claim tax deductions. For assets that have reached the end of their useful life, make sure your disposal policies are environmentally friendly and assets are recycled rather than landfilled.

[ Read next Is your old computer 'obsolete', or is it a Linux opportunity? ]

6. Revisit data retention and disposal policies

In the move toward digitization and cloud-based data storage, have you forgotten about tons of paper records still sitting in storage? Are you paying for mountains of boxes collecting dust in climate-controlled facilities, consuming large amounts of electricity? Or perhaps your organization is a digital packrat, consuming copious server space with outdated records that could be archived or deleted?

Implementing environmentally responsible retention and disposal policies can help lighten the load on data centers, HVAC systems, and your budget. For outdated records that contain sensitive or personal information, minimizing data retention periods to the basic minimum requirement can also reduce your security risk and potentially lower cybersecurity insurance premiums.

In addition to some of these new initiatives, there could be several things your organization is already doing that contribute to sustainability efforts. Perhaps you haven’t found a way to quantify and report on them. Organizations like GRI have developed global standards that can help organizations measure and report on their sustainability impact and strive for continuous improvement.

Since you can’t fix what you can’t measure, the only way to improve is to implement clear metrics to help guide your sustainability strategy and maximize impact.

[ New research from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services identifies four focus areas for CIOs as they seek more flexibility, resilience, and momentum for digital transformation. Download the report now. ]

Linda Kahangi is the Chief Information and Operations Officer (CIOO) at Nomadix Inc., a technology provider in hospitality and multi-tenant industries. In her role, Kahangi ensures the business continues to deliver operational efficiencies, product reliability and security, and top-notch customer and partner experiences.

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