According to the World Economic Forum, the top five risks for businesses as of 2020 were all associated with environmental challenges. Sustainability practices are in the best interest of every organization regardless of size, including small businesses to reduce our carbon footprint.
Climate events are increasingly impacting the SMB's operating costs and creating issues with procurement and supply chain delays, hikes in insurance coverages, productivity losses due to disruptive natural events, and financial consequences for preventative or corrective actions.
Across sectors, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) reporting is on the rise as businesses join the climate conversation seeking to signal transparency in their operating practices. However, the central theme for climate sustainability has become an environmental imperative to shift from discussions to more sustaining actions.
While the biggest corporations produce the largest carbon footprints, most small businesses rely on the technology products and services that these companies provide to stay connected and competitive in the marketplace. Every business decision we make has a direct link to our collective carbon footprint that we can manage with the right sustainability strategy.
Recommended Reading: Top 3 Notable Tech Vendors Committed to Carbon Neutrality
What is Sustainable IT?
The clean tech driver for more sustainable IT involves designing, manufacturing, operating, and disposing of technology in an environmentally-conscious manner. In 2020, the international market for green data centers was valued at $49.2 billion and is projected to increase beyond $140 billion by 2026. As more companies embrace green IT practices, businesses are discovering how sustainable IT is not only preserving the environment, but also generating cost savings for their operation. Let's explore five actionable pathways to cleaner technology and starting your company's sustainability journey:
5 Ways to Invest in Green IT
1. Create An Energy-Efficient IT Environment
There are many sustainability solutions that can improve resource and energy efficiency within your IT infrastructure. Select technologies that support optimal energy consumption for your organization. According to Reuters, at the end of 2021, American power consumption increased by 2%, and natural gas sales to commercial and industrial consumers will increase to 9.25 and 23.25 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd), respectively. These figures do not bode well for the environment. Therefore, you should work with your IT department or IT company to:
- Update workstations and related accessories to energy-efficient devices
- Recycle or re-purpose your technology assets
- Sensitize staff to energy conservation
- Shutdown and unplug computers when not in use
- Go paperless and only print documents when necessary
- Turn off fax machines, printers, and copiers each day
- Encourage the use of natural light as much as possible
- Perform regular energy audits and make the required adjustments
- Select technology vendors with a commitment to carbon reduction and clean tech
- Ask customers if they want printed receipts/billing documents, rather than automatically printing them
- Share meeting agendas via email, rather than printing and distributing them
2. Prioritize E-Waste Recycling
Green IT practices include sustainably managing your asset lifecycle from procurement through to utilization until disposal. Electronic waste (e-waste) represents approximately 2% of trash in American landfills but 70% of its overall toxic waste. Some of the hazardous IT materials include computer monitors containing cathode ray tubes and LCD desktop monitors. Repurpose your technology assets when possible. It's not necessary to provision every new hire with a brand new computer if you have a functional workstation and peripheral accessories in your inventory.
As part of your business strategy, we recommend that you practice e-waste recycling by:
- Establishing a Media Disposal Policy to guide best practices
- Educating your staff on the importance of recycling e-waste
- Cleaning all devices of personal and company data before recycling
- Establishing e-waste recycling drop-off locations in-house
- Partnering with upcycling programs to upgrade and refurbish items
- Using refurbished assets in-house to reduce the IT costs
- Donating any unwanted refurbished items to charitable organizations
Net Friends Security Tip
Before you donate refurbished laptops to a charitable organization, such as local non-profits, schools, or public libraries, ensure that your IT team has securely erased all sensitive data from the devices.
3. Invest in Renewable Energy Sources
The world is gradually moving toward cleaner, renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biogas, and geothermal. Although the initial investment to install a renewable energy solution may be high, it pays for itself in lower utility bills in the future. Explore the renewable energy solutions available in your state to find the most suitable option for your building. We recommend contacting a professional installer to determine the materials and costs for this energy upgrade.
In 2021, we partnered with Eagle Solar & Light to outfit our 10,000+ square foot Durham headquarters with grid-tied solar paneling technology. In our first months going live with solar panels, we saw a steep decline in our electricity usage. In March 2022, we reached beyond 100% actual solar production compared to the modeled projection.
4. Leverage Cloud Computing
The increasing popularity of cloud computing coincides very well with green IT requirements and sustainability goals. Using physical, onsite servers increases maintenance and replacement costs, and they tend to be less efficient. However, cloud computing offers significant benefits such as:
- Greener Utilization Results: On-prem systems are often idle or underutilized >75% of any given week. Green cloud data centers optimize your capacity and utilization to deliver better cost-savings and energy-efficiencies.
- Fast Setup: It is relatively easy to implement cloud technology in your business with the help of expert IT professionals. An added advantage? You no longer have to pay for servers, appliances, and associated software licenses for physical hardware.
- Easy to Scale: You can scale your cloud capacity upwards and downwards as needed. This flexibility allows you to pay less for cloud computing when usage is low.
- Outsourced IT Support: Relieve your IT department by outsourcing daily administration and maintenance to a Managed Services Provider. Your in-house tech team will then be free to focus on your core business projects.
- Facilitates Remote Work: Cloud computing allows your employees to work remotely and serve your customers anywhere in the world.
- Supports Cybersecurity & Compliance: The cloud infrastructure can have robust protection measures against cyber threats. It also helps companies meet their compliance requirements.
- Business Continuity: The cloud experiences little downtime. It promotes productivity and builds resilience in your IT infrastructure.
5. Lean into Anywhere Operations
The Anywhere Operations model is also becoming a popular way to work as your workforce can be located anywhere, while serving clients everywhere. Greenhouse gas emissions fell by over 10% in 2020 due to the steep decline in employee commutes to the physical office, making Anywhere Operations an excellent sustainability initiative.
In addition to decreasing carbon emissions, Anywhere Operations help businesses save on overhead costs, such as building maintenance and utilities with a distributed workforce and infrastructure. A company can save as much as $11,000 per year per worker who telecommutes at least half of the time. Several versions of remote work (such as a hybrid remote office) will still reduce your business costs, while reducing our impact on the environment & carbon footprints.