Over 90 wildfires ravaged Spain’s Asturias principality in March this year. Though not as cold and wet as northern Europe, March is still the tail end of winter in northwest Spain, a region not typically considered a tinder box. But the climate emergency is steadily changing that.

But Spain’s predicament isn’t unique. Across the world, climate change has bitten hard into the economies of tech-centric California, again due to wildfires. Australia and Pakistan have seen communities wrecked by large-scale flooding and continual rain, while in 2022, Europe had its hottest summer on record.

There is a need and realization by the business world to be more environmentally sustainable since organizations are seeing an impact on the bottom line as a direct result of climate change. So the CIO, the technologies they deploy, and the partnerships they form are essential to the future of a more environmentally sustainable way of doing business.

A question of time

Thomas Kiessling, CTO with Siemens Smart Infrastructure, part of the German engineering and technology conglomerate that makes trains, electrical equipment, traffic control systems, and more, understands that time is running out. His concerns are backed up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which on March 20, 2023, said it’s unlikely the world will keep to its Paris Climate Accord promises.

And if the world’s temperatures rise by or above 1.5 degrees Celsius, businesses will feel further impacts to their bottom line, including increased supply-chain issues on a network already overstretched and fragile. Food and water insecurity will increase, and energy systems, housing stock, insurance, and currency markets will all become more volatile—a worrying set of scenarios for business leaders and boards.

CIO enablement

Historically, CIOs have been vital enablers during times of major change, championing e-commerce, digital transformation or agile ways of working. Organizations responding to the climate emergency are, therefore, calling on those enablement skills to mitigate the environmental impact of the business.

Key to this is a greater understanding of business operations and their production of CO2, or use of unsustainable practices and resources. As with most business challenges, data is instrumental. “Like anything, the hard work is the initial assessment,” says CGI director of business consulting and CIO advisor Sean Sadler. “From a technology perspective, you need to look at the infrastructure, where it’s applied, how much energy it draws, and then how it fits into the overall sustainability scheme.” 

CIOs who create data cultures across organizations enable not only sustainable business processes but also reduce reliance on consultancies, according to IDC. “Organizations with the most mature environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies are increasingly turning to software platforms to meet their data management and reporting needs,” says Amy Cravens, IDC research manager, ESG Reporting and Management Technologies. “This represents an important transition toward independent ESG program management and away from dependence on ESG consultants and service providers. Software platforms will also play an essential role in an organization’s ESG maturity journey. These platforms will support organizations from early-stage data gathering and materiality assessments through sustainable business strategy enablement and every step in between.”

Sadler, who has led technology in healthcare, veterinary services, media firms, and technology suppliers, says consultancies and systems integrators should be considered as part of a CIO’s sustainability plans. Their deep connections to a variety of vendors, skills, experience and templates will be highly useful. “It can often help with the collaboration with other parts of the business, like finance and procurement as you have a more holistic approach,” he says.

The IDC survey further finds that the manufacturing sector is leading the maturity of ESG strategies, followed by the services sector, indicative, perhaps, of industries with the most challenging sustainability demands to get on the front foot.

CIOs in organizations already with ESG maturity adopt data management, ESG reporting, and risk tools. In the 2022 Digital Leadership Report by international staffing and CIO recruitment firm Nash Squared, 70% of business technology leaders said that technology plays a crucial part in sustainability.

“CIOs are in a great position to demonstrate their business acumen,” says Sadler. “They can cut costs and generate additional revenue streams.” And DXC Technology director and GM Carl Kinson says IT is now central to cost reduction, while high inflation and rising energy costs make CIOs and organizations assess their energy spending in a level of detail not seen for a long time. This will have a knock-on environmental benefit. Kinson says CIOs are looking to extract greater value from enterprise cloud computing estates, application workloads, system code, and even the use or return of on-premise technology in order to reduce energy costs.

“We’re working with clients to set carbon budgets for each stakeholder to make them accountable, which is a great way to make sure all areas of the business are doing their bit to be more sustainable,” says Sadler.

Great expectations

Falling short of corporate sustainability goals will not only upset the board but exacerbate the search for skills CIOs face, which, in turn, complicates strategies to digitize the business.

Becoming an environmentally sustainable business is core to the purpose of a modern organization and its ability to recruit and retain today’s technology talent.

Climate urgency also impacts CIOs themselves in their employment decisions, too. “I would need to understand the sustainability angles of an organization,” says James Holmes, CIO with The North of England P&I Association, a shipping insurance firm. Business advisory firm McKinsey also finds that 83% of C-suite executives and investment professionals believe that organizational ESG programs will contribute to an increase in shareholder value in the next five years. And the Nash Squared Digital Leadership Report adds that due to the urgent global move to integrate sustainability into core business operations and the customer proposition, it’s important that digital leaders have what it calls a dual lens on sustainability.

Part of that increased shareholder value will be to ensure the business is able to meet the evolving regulations surrounding environmental sustainability. For CIOs in Europe, the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation was adopted in April 2022, and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) secured a majority in the European Parliament in November 2022. California also introduced environmental regulations in September 2022, and other US states are likely to follow.

“Regulation can be pro-growth,” Chi Onwurah, shadow business minister in the UK Parliament and a former technologist, recently said at an open-source technology conference. “Good regulations create a virtuous circle as more people trust the system.”

CIOs and IT leadership, whether in the UK or not, are integral to make organizations more environmentally sustainable in order to help stave off environmental collapse. No vertical market can operate effectively during an ongoing environmental emergency unless a technological response based on collated data is enacted and supported across the organization.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, CIOs and IT leaders enabled new ways of adapting to change, and these need to continue as environmentally sustainable business processes become greater priorities.

CIO, Green IT, IT Leadership

Eindhoven-based Copaco is well-known for the cloud services and solutions it offers for managed service providers – including managed security service providers – independent software vendors and systems integrators throughout Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Delivered from the company’s highly advanced data centers, the Copaco Cloud, powered by VMware technologies, provides the core of the company’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service Offering (IaaS).

We recently connected with Pascal Saul, Senior Cloud Architect of Copaco, to learn why the company elected to embrace the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative. We also took the opportunity to learn how he sees a more sustainable approach to IT benefiting customers and the enterprises they serve.

“We offer a variety of cloud services, including those that address productivity, security, backup, disaster recovery, and IaaS-related needs,” said Saul. “We also offer online self-service portals managed service providers can in turn provide to their customers to perfect the user experience. This includes APIs that make it easy for providers to manage all of their subscriptions online within a Copaco platform that provisions and manages all billing processes with ease. We are essentially enabling providers of bespoke IT services to offer a best-in-class private cloud platform that can also be used for public cloud and multi-cloud deployments – all while relying on VMware technologies beloved by system and network engineers.”

Notably, Copaco also provides fast and easy access to hardware, including everything from servers to enterprise-grade mobile devices and professional services. This multi-faceted nature of the company’s business is reflected in its approach to sustainability.

“As part of our commitment and decision to join the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative, we are initially focusing on three key areas: incorporating sustainability into our purchasing policy, reducing energy usage while simultaneously increasing energy efficiency, and reducing the waste associated with packaging materials,” adds Saul. “Our data centers are powered with renewable energy and with our commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030, we are likewise committed to ensuring that sustainability is constantly top-of-mind not only among our own employees, but also our existing customers and prospective ones.”

It’s an endeavor he believes is not only the right thing to do for the planet, but is also good business.

“As a cloud services provider, distributor, and partner who manages the logistics required to ensure that enterprises’ IT needs are met, we believe sustainability and our company goals go hand-in-hand,” Saul says. “Increasingly your energy efficiency helps you reduce costs and CO2 emissions, and reducing packaging materials, combining orders as efficiently as possible has the same result. Every step forward helps the planet, contributes to our profits, and sends a positive message to our employees, customers, and vendors.”

He also notes that efforts to be more environmentally friendly help to attract new, young IT talent to the company. In addition, sustainability is increasingly more important for customers, both as a “soft ask” and as a formal requirement in requests for proposals.

“Awareness is increasing, and customers want the organizations they work with to be transparent about their sustainability policies, carbon emissions, purchasing standards, vendor selection, waste reduction, and management,” he adds. “There is so much to win, and we have to win.”

On this last point, Saul stresses that the outcomes extend far beyond the confines of the business landscape or even the IT ecosystem.

“We must all act for environment, for future generations, and for parts of the world that already face the negative efforts of global warming and climate change,” he says. “We need to raise awareness and fight the human tendency to lose sight of long-term effects, underestimate the scope of big problems, or fail to appreciate the urgency of the situation. That is why it is so important to combine efforts to increase sustainability and profits.”

Learn more about Copaco and its partnership with VMware here.

Cloud Computing, Green IT

Businesses are feeling growing pressure to act on climate change from all angles. However, despite data centres and transmission networks being responsible for nearly 1 per cent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, a new Deloitte study reports little over half (54 per cent) of businesses have converted to energy-efficient technologies.

This number is concerning given emerging digital technologies such as blockchain, IoT, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are increasing demand for data centre services further, as workloads are no longer confined to the core data centre and can run anywhere, including the edge. Australian businesses need to transition to sustainable IT solutions to support these emerging technologies while staying in line with Australia’s new commitment to an emissions reduction target of 43 per cent and net zero emissions by 2050.

New servers form the foundation of sustainable infrastructure, offering greater performance while taking up less space and consuming less energy – driving sustainability goals while enabling industry innovation.

Sustainable IT infrastructure is no longer just a nice-to-have

In the past, businesses sought IT systems that delivered the most ROI or the highest efficiency – however, with new local and global emissions reduction targets in place, this is no longer enough. IT infrastructure must run at the smallest possible carbon footprint with minimum environmental impact to meet Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals and comply with government demands for sustainable innovation.

It’s not just the public sector pushing companies to change. A Google Trends search reveals Australians and New Zealanders are 3rd and 4th most interested in sustainability worldwide, with eight out of ten Australian consumers now expecting businesses to operate sustainably. Four in ten say they’ll stop purchasing from brands that don’t. Consumers want more from companies than they have in the past – and the right IT infrastructure is essential to meeting these expectations. A recent research commissioned by Dell Technologies focused on Gen Z adults aged between 18 to 26 confirms this sentiment. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z adults in Australia believe technology will play an important role in overcoming the biggest societal challenges, such as the climate crisis.

Transitioning to newer servers can form the basis of a modern, sustainable IT set-up, appeasing customers and keeping pace with government legislation. For example, Dell’s edge servers can operate up to 55 degrees Celsius. This allows the technology to run at warmer temperatures, meaning there’s no need to cool the room down to keep the servers operational, which is true of older server models. The result is advanced power management control and reduced power consumption, which is not just a nice to have; it’s essential.

Enabling emerging tech at the edge

The infrastructure must also support emerging technologies. This is critical in Australia to meet the continuing growth in demand for data and connectivity from industries like agriculture and healthcare that are relying on new tech to operate efficiently over vast swaths of land in remote locations. These industries are embracing emerging technologies, with data processed at the edge, to overcome ongoing supply chain issues in the unique and often harsh Australian climate and landscape.

In rural locations, latency matters, and technology must be brought closer to improve efficiency. However, the most significant opportunity for edge computing in Australia is its ability to support AI and automation, which will support and grow these industries.

For example, TPG Telecom trialed AI-enabled image processing, computer vision and edge computing technologies to enable multiple high-quality 4K video streams to count sheep at a regional livestock exchange, automating the process and removing human error.

In Australian healthcare, individuals seeking services can travel hours to receive critical care. Reports in deeply remote locations say it can take up to 14 hours to reach a fully equipped hospital. Edge computing, together with emerging tech, enables rural access to digital health services and improves operations in major regional hospitals.

Townsville University Hospital in North Queensland is leading by example, harnessing low-latency and high-input/output operations per second (IOPS) storage at the edge to deliver better regional care. The new servers support emerging technologies, including AI, to improve ward management and patient flow reporting systems in a location cut off from cloud computing services available in metropolitan cities. Staff can now perform near real-time reporting, improving efficiency and access to current information to improve outcomes in the remote and indigenous communities it services. 

Innovative solutions like these are only possible with efficient servers that can handle high bandwidth and low latency workloads close to the data source. Next-generation technology architectures must support and accelerate modern workloads and serve the industries our economy relies on, whether on-premises in data centres or at the edge in remote locations – and they need to do it while being sustainable.

Supporting sustainable innovation

Dell Technologies’ latest generation of PowerEdge servers support sustainable innovation, providing the foundation for an energy-efficient IT system while enabling emerging tech.

Designed with a focus on environmental sustainability, they’re providing customers with triple the performance over the previous generations of servers. This means more powerful and efficient technology with less floor space required. They’re built with the Dell Smart Cooling suite, which increases airflow and reduces fan power by up to 52 per cent compared to previous generations, delivering performance with less power needed to cool the server.

To further reduce the carbon footprint, the servers use up to 35 per cent recycled plastic and are designed so components can be repaired, replaced, or easily recycled. Customers can also monitor carbon emissions and better manage their sustainability targets using the Dell OpenManage Enterprise Power Manager software.

The new PowerEdge servers are built to excel in demanding tasks, from AI and analytics to massive databases, supporting modern workloads and industry innovation – even in remote Australian locations. The servers can be used as a subscription via Dell APEX. Customers can adopt a flexible approach to avoid the expense of having more computing resources than they need, which is beneficial for increasingly tight budgets and sustainability efforts, reducing unnecessary energy consumption.

With new tech, we can have our cake and eat it too  

It seems like asking for a lot; powerful infrastructure that can enable the latest advancements in tech, improve efficiency and support Australian industries operating in remote locations over large geographic areas. We’re asking tech to deliver this while meeting ESG goals and aligning with Australia’s new carbon emissions targets. But the new reality is IT infrastructure must be sustainable while maintaining high performance.

It’s not just a wish list; the tech is available. Adopting next-generation servers that can handle it all will enable Australia to meet its carbon goals while driving the innovation our industries need to thrive.

Infrastructure Management

With the most advanced tier IV data center in Spain, and one of the most advanced in Europe, KIO Networks Spain provides a diverse array of private-sector and public-sector enterprises with Infrastructure-as-a-Service for mission-critical systems and applications. The company also offers a diverse array of cloud solutions and services.

Some of the many offerings in its growing portfolio include Disaster Recover-as-a-Service, Backup-as-a-Service, a fully dedicated private cloud based on VMware technology in a maximum-security data center, and Platform-as-a-Service offerings designed for Kubernetes-based environments. KIO Networks Spain even provides cloud services designed specifically for Software-as-a-Service companies.

On joining the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative, Javier Jarilla, director general of KIO Networks Spain, says he believes it has never been more important for sustainability efforts to be genuine.

Jarilla notes that high-performance is a hallmark of KIO Networks Spain, which includes a high-touch approach in which the company’s engineers are personally involved in all phases of a customer’s cloud deployment, from planning and design to data migration and post deployment support.

“The effectiveness of our approach can be seen in the number of clients who outsource 100% of their IT systems to us,” he explains.

He adds that the organization’s efforts now include a genuine and steadfast effort to do business in a sustainable way. One among many actions we are taking is operating data centers powered by renewable resources.

“It was important to all of us at KIO Networks Spain to join VMware’s Zero Carbon Committed initiative for a number of reasons,” says Jarilla. “We were one of the first data center companies in our region to achieve VMware Cloud Verified status. That was an important accomplishment not only because of our long relationship with VMware, but also because so many of our cloud offerings are based on VMware technology. The Zero Carbon Committed initiative is important to us because we believe that awareness of climate change and taking actionable steps to protect the environment and positively impact the future of the planet should be intrinsic in business.”

With this in mind, KIO’s engineers and data center experts are focused on five fundamental outputs in all data center projects, including the use of 100% renewable power as required in VMware Zero Carbon Committed. Additional goals include zero water input to combat water stress, the use of natural refrigerants in cooling systems, reuse of waste heat that is generated to supply local heating systems, and investment in environmental projects to offset any of the minimal carbon footprint that will be created through these efforts.

Jarilla stresses that these efforts have not gone unnoticed and that the intersection between sustainability efforts and business is increasingly visible, as evidenced by several long-term customers who have requested tangible sustainability targets they can apply to their own efforts.

“Our immediate goal is to be the most sustainable provider of cloud services and solutions on the Iberian Peninsula. More broadly, we want to provide enterprises in Spain with a partner who not only has made a genuine commitment to achieve zero carbon emissions in our data center operations, but who can also make those same measurable, auditable, and verifiable gains available to them. We all win when we create an ecosystem of companies intent to achieve real sustainability.”

It’s an effort Jarilla says will impact how vendors and providers are viewed. He believes that in the near future the commitment to doing what’s right for the environment will be another factor in the evaluation of vendors, their hiring, and renewals.

“In that sense,” he concludes, “the very definition of high-performance will increasingly include a commitment to be achieving zero carbon emissions.”

Learn more about KIO Networks Spain and its partnership with VMware here.

Cloud Management, Green IT, IT Leadership

The new year brings familiar problems for cities around the world. Many countries are still facing a multitude of crises: climate change continues to accelerate, economies are under pressure, and consumers are coping with inflation and skyrocketing energy bills.

But a new year also brings a renewed sense of optimism and fresh focus. Innovators are constantly discovering new ways in which IoT technology can help address difficulties and solve a number of problems both immediately and in the long term.

Here are the top 5 IoT sustainability trends to look out for in 2023:

1. LEDification of public lighting

Switching traditional lighting to LED is not a new concept, but the immense energy-saving benefits continue to be either misunderstood or overlooked. Most people are now aware that LED lighting is more energy-efficient than conventional lighting – at least 50% more efficient, in fact – but the full potential of what can be achieved remains unrealized.

For a start, connecting LEDs and managing them via a software-based lighting management system increases energy savings up to 80%. Cities account for 78% of global energy consumption, with 40% of that being lighting related. If every city in the EU27 switched to energy-efficient connected LED, the member states would save enough energy to power 55 million electric cars every single year.

But energy savings are just one side of the coin. The scenario described above would generate cost savings of over €65 billion. Imagine how much good that money could do for families struggling to stay afloat.

These are lofty figures, and perhaps too big to fully comprehend. But even if you scale the scenarios down, the potential is too obvious to ignore. Switching all lighting to LED in a city of 200,000 inhabitants, for example, would prevent around 18,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere per year – roughly the amount of carbon sequestered in a year by 850,000 trees.

Switching to energy-efficient LED is truly the most immediate and significant impact you can make in the fight against climate change.

2. Increased funding opportunities for infrastructure projects

City budgets are tight. Whether it’s the strain of post-pandemic regeneration or the global impact of the war in Ukraine, many economies are at the breaking point. City decision-makers may have the ambition to develop and improve their infrastructure, but without funding it’s simply not viable.

Luckily, governments are starting to take action. Slowly but surely, funding programs are being established that promise to support infrastructure projects and help cities achieve the goal of becoming sustainable while at the same time improving the health and well-being of citizens.

Take the EU Green Deal, which pledges to make trillions of euros available for cities looking to enhance the energy efficiency of their public buildings, improve mobility, or create jobs for future generations. In the US, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) represents the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, enabling America “to tackle the climate crisis and advance environmental justice.” The ASEAN Infrastructure Fund has been launched in Asia.

All of this means that as cities start to consider how they can modernise their infrastructure and explore IoT solutions to help in the fight against climate change, funding is one less barrier to overcome.

3. More accessible EV charging

The transportation industry has set itself the target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. It’s an ambitious goal, and one which appears even more daunting when you consider that 72% of all transport-related greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and trucks. There are billions of vehicles on the roads, so how do you radically reduce their emissions? By going electric.

EV adoption has picked up pace in recent years, but the scarcity of charging stations around cities and towns is a serious stumbling block. Consumers value convenience, and the uptake of EVs will stall if they make it more difficult to get from point A to point B than their gas-guzzling predecessors.

Where does IoT technology fit in? For a start, connected LED streetlights can be designed to serve as vertical digital assets for cities to deploy connected capabilities – from public broadband access points to EV charging points built directly into light poles. Electricity savings from both LED street lighting and smart buildings can help balance the increased electrical load, keeping costs low and avoiding the need for additional power generation.

4. Banning of conventional fluorescent lighting

The EU has passed legislation that prohibits the use of conventional fluorescent lighting. The ban has been a long time coming—not only are fluorescent bulbs outdated and inefficient, but they also contain harmful materials like phosphorus and mercury. With the ban comes into effect in early 2023, the shift to energy-efficient LED is set to accelerate even more than it has over the last two decades.

Sometimes doing the right thing is a matter of not having the choice to do the wrong thing. The paradox of choice theory states that rather than providing freedom, having too many options actually complicates the decision-making process and causes more stress in the long run. The EU’s banning of conventional fluorescent lighting has removed that choice from building owners and city decision makers, steering – or rather forcing – them to explore LED lighting as not just the better option, but the only option.

The anticipated surge in LED usage means increased opportunities for connected lighting and IoT solution providers, as thousands of businesses and cities look to retrofit their existing lighting.

5. The year of the smart city — finally?

It feels like we’ve been predicting the new era of smart cities for almost a decade, but is 2023 finally the time that IoT technology adoption in cities explodes?

Smart cities do not only focus on making life comfortable for people — they improve the social, environmental, and financial aspects of urban living. And as city populations grow, smart cities will become a key ingredient in improving sustainability and quality of life.

IoT and smart city technology is developing rapidly. But as with every high-growth market, regulation and certification often has had to play catch-up. Only relatively recently have industry-wide standards, best practices, and coordinated initiatives begun to mature. In tandem with a general increase in experience and expertise, it should now be easier to recognise what a smart city is – and, crucially, what it is not.

AIoT, the combination of AI technology with IoT infrastructure, is promising to accelerate things further. Right now, IoT infrastructure requires a level of human monitoring and management. Imagine how efficient our cities could run with AI pulling the strings. Smart city experts anticipate AIoT solutions to emerge for managing energy and other resource distribution, traffic and other public service management, waste management, and more —all in the near future.

Learn more about IoT systems for smart cities here.

Renewable Energy

The product line is designed to be beautiful as well as sustainable in terms of its durability and benefits for the environment. It’s highly resistant to scratches, abrasions, dry heat, solvents and cleaners, food, ink, makeup, crayons, and much more so that it can stay beautiful for years to come. But what the revolutionary high-pressure laminate (HPL) FENIX® line can’t handle is traditional HPL manufacturing.

A problem more than skin deep

Developed by Arpa Industriale S.p.A. of Italy for interior designs — including kitchen counters and cabinets — FENIX undergoes a unique series of production processes, with a multilayer coating and the use of next-generation acrylic resins. Its thin, mat surface is prone to defects when manufactured traditionally. In the early stages of product development, that vulnerability led to a large amount of scrap material along with wasted water, energy, and other resources. Clearly, this was not good for the company’s bottom line or the environment.

What’s more, with traditional manufacturing, too much time and resources were spent analyzing factory processes, and the company was unable to combine employee best-practice knowledge with operational data. The result? Production delays and stalled production-line innovation.

A fresh approach

Arpa wanted to standardize and optimize its FENIX production to cut costs and improve product quality and innovation — as well as reduce the consumption of resources in the production process. So, instead of modifying an existing factory, the company smartly started from scratch. It created a new manufacturing facility just for the FENIX product line that represents more than 50% of the company’s current business. That’s where the beauty of SAP intelligent solutions comes in.

The new factory runs on SAP. Data from more than 1,600 sensors, in addition to every system and subsystem, throughout the facility is fed directly into SAP software. As a result, Arpa is able to obtain real-time insights and predictive analytics about the state of the operation — where it’s at now and what the future might bring for preventive management.

Arpa can create customized performance dashboards that use the real-time sensor data for monitoring and analyzing every millisecond of daily production, including product quality and waste and for fine-tuning processes. Employee practices that deliver the best results can be identified, and the plant machinery can be programmed to deliver similar results. Wow!

Where design beauty, sustainability, and efficiency meet

Processes can be coordinated with SAP software. For example, sales orders entered into the SAP customer relationship management (CRM) solution automatically update SAP manufacturing and warehouse management software. This results in timely and efficient raw material provisioning and production-line scheduling. Laser-guided vehicles (LGVs) in the factory warehouse work autonomously around the clock to load and reload bar-coded rolls of raw materials, staying in sync with SAP CRM. SAP artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies help Arpa constantly improve performance and sustainability. Wow again!

“With best practice and intelligent automation functionality integrated into the factory’s operation using manufacturing and supply chain solutions from SAP, Arpa’s vision of a reproducible template for operational excellence and sustainability has become a reality,” says Stefano Rossetti, production manager for Arpa.

Beautiful results

Thanks to its employees and SAP solutions, Arpa has been able to reduce energy and water use in its manufacturing process by 80%. It has cut scrap waste by 96%. Productivity has improved more than six times compared to traditional high-pressure laminate (HPL) factories. And all those improvements have helped the bottom line. In the first year of the factory’s operation, Arpa saved €750,000 in production costs.

The FENIX factory has established a best-practice model for operations company-wide. Based on that success, Arpa plans to leverage SAP software to run a multiyear initiative and deploy new production methods and technologies across its other factory operations — a proven design for sustainable success.

These accomplishments have made Arpa a WINNER of the SAP Innovation Awards for 2022. For more information on what they did to achieve this honor, see their pitch deck.

Digital Transformation

Companies across industries are committing to maximizing sustainability within their operations — and IT is at the heart of most of these efforts.

In its Worldwide Sustainability/ESG 2023 Predictions, analyst firm IDC sees digital and sustainability transformations converging. “Decision makers are realizing that technology is essential for reaching their ESG goals,” noted Bjoern Stengel, IDC global sustainability research lead, in the report.

As such, CIOs are taking center stage in sustainability efforts, working closely with business partners on enterprise sustainability initiatives, while tackling the carbon footprint of IT itself —all new territory with few established best practices, frameworks, or standards. And the opportunities for tech-enabled sustainability solutions are wide ranging.

“Many CIOs don’t know where to start,” says Brian Kirkland, CIO at Choice Hotels and founding board member for SustainableIT.org, a nonprofit launched to help create frameworks and standards around sustainability.

Now is no time for sideline sitting, however. If sustainability isn’t already on the IT agenda, it will be soon, says Bryan Muehlberger, CIO at Vuori Clothing. “It’s coming — and anyone not already in the game is going to be left behind.”

Leading CIOs are making strides — individually and in collaboration — by identifying key areas where technology can make a difference today and create a foundation for more sustainable operations moving forward. Following are several ways CIOs can move the needle on sustainability initiatives.

Secure executive support

There are some non-negotiables when it comes to taking on the mantle of sustainability as a CIO, says Kirkland.

“You need a leadership team that is supportive, and a board that will back them up. You need a champion and leader who has the job of driving ESG within your company. You need engineers and technology team members passionate about innovation and change,” he says. “Without any of those three, you will face an uphill battle.”

Most business leaders understand the importance of sustainability, but that may not translate to buy-in when it comes to IT’s role. To secure executive support, CIO’s must first demonstrate value and need.

“The big thing we need to do as CIOs is to show the business value [of sustainability] and give our business partners information to help them understand the levers they have as well,” says Morgan Stanley CIO Katherine Wetmur. “This should not just be a discussion about costs; sustainability should be considered as a business outcome.”

Maximize the cloud

IT has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. A team of researchers from Lancaster University, along with sustainability consultancy Small World Consulting, published a 2021 report indicating that IT contributes to as much as 1.2% to 3.9% of global greenhouse emissions — much higher than previously estimated and greater than the aviation industry. That has the potential to increase dramatically as organizations embrace AI, the internet of things, blockchain, and other resource-intensive emerging technologies. Thus, most CIOs see the greatest benefit focusing on their own function’s contribution to improving sustainability.

Cloud migrations have been on the rise in recent years for a host of business reasons, but CIOs serious about sustainability are pulling out all the stops. On-prem data centers have an outsized impact on carbon emissions and waste. Public cloud data centers, by contrast, are 93% more energy-efficient and produce 98% lower GHG emissions than on-premises datacenters, according to Microsoft and WSP Global. Analysis performed by 451 Research for the Amazon Web Services Institute found that moving IT workloads from on-premises data centers to the cloud could reduce energy consumption and associated carbon emissions by nearly 80%.

At Vuori, everything is in the cloud. Muehlberger is also investing in a serverless environment whereby cloud providers allocate resources on demand to further eliminate computing waste.

Choice Hotels’ Kirkland, who will close the company’s last data centers next year, insists any CIO focused on sustainability should go all-in on cloud. “There’s no way any smaller company can compete with the sustainability impact of the big cloud providers,” Kirkland says. “Let them do the job of efficiently running data centers.”

Minimize consumption

Greater cloud use addresses some of the supply side impact of IT on sustainability, but controlling demand for compute is equally important for CIOs seeking to reduce technology’s carbon footprint.

“When you are in the cloud, you can adopt technologies and approaches that minimize consumption,” Kirkland says. “This will drive down your cost and have a positive impact on sustainability at the same time.”

CIO Wetmur is taking things a step further at Morgan Stanley with a more sustainable approach to application development. How IT organizations build applications impacts their usage, power consumption, and overall impact on sustainability. Traditionally software development has focused on functional requirements, and few IT organizations have a culture in which developers consider the environmental impact of their code. Wetmur leverages her role as CIO to integrate sustainability throughout the development process.

“This will help us address the carbon footprint of our applications as part of the software development lifecycle, by improving measurability and transparency, reducing unnecessary or excess cycles, and better leveraging our hardware,” she says.

Pursue small wins as well

The opportunities for technology-enabled sustainability improvements are vast. That can be daunting for CIOs just starting to explore IT’s role in furthering sustainability goals. The key, say CIOs who have been doing this a while, is to begin with some easy wins and to not ignore these opportunities even as your ambitions grow.

“Everything doesn’t have to be big. Small decision make a difference and they add up,” says Wetmur, noting that helping a business partner make the case for moving from paper cups to reusable containers, for example, can have a significant impact.

“Think about the small baby steps you can take now to play a part,” advises Muehlberger. “That could be as simple as pledging to move a certain percentage of infrastructure to the cloud over the next six months or committing to writing new code that can be leveraged in a serverless manner.”

Harness data for ESG transparency

As a recent Deloitte Insights article points out: “Investors, regulators, customers, and supply chain partners are demanding greater transparency into climate and sustainability reporting and results. So, too, are business leaders. They are looking for data quality and accuracy to measure carbon footprint, supply chain optimization, and green revenue in real time.”

CIOs can help the business find, collect, validate, and analyze the appropriate data and help develop a sustainability reporting platform. Lesley Salmon, senior vice president and global chief information officer at global food manufacturer Kellogg, is one such CIO doing just that.

“Data management, automation, analytics is critical to reviewing our progress in ESG,” she says. “As data is a key pillar in IT, we play a significant role in influencing what we can report and how we report it. Through data governance and analytics, we can also improve the timeliness and accuracy of information reported by all functions.”

Empower business users to uncover opportunities with data

Beyond reporting, CIOs can also employ data and analytics to help the business uncover new opportunities to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint. Here, IT can become a critical partner to the business, providing data and insight to illuminate opportunities for change.

“The advice I give to everyone in IT is the most important thing to do is give people information to make better decisions,” says Morgan Stanley’s Wetmur. “The biggest thing we need to do as CIOs is help our business partners understand the levers they have available to make change.”

Look beyond organizational borders

An organization’s impact on sustainability extends beyond its four walls — and there may be opportunities to improve sustainability beyond the confines of the business.

For example, IT leaders could provide expertise and insight to help suppliers or other business partners in their sustainability efforts. Morgan Stanley’s IT department, for example, is helping nonprofits as part of its Technology Change Makers program. While not all of these organizations have an environmental sustainability focus — the IT organization helped the Child Mind Institute deploy machine learning to examine the impact of COVID on children’s mental health, for example — some do. Morgan Stanley’s IT employees built a digital platform to manage the restoration of oyster beds and to speed oyster growth in New York Harbor.

Pro bono efforts such as these can give nonprofit organizations digital tools to increase their impact and also give the company’s IT professionals additional experience using technology to increase environmental impact in a tangible way.

Learn from vendors

Technology providers are equally focused on mitigating their environmental impact and improving sustainability. Working closely with key vendors can give IT organizations great insight and data for sustainability efforts.

“A lot of our tech partners are very helpful, from hardware vendors who are focused on e-waste, to cloud computing providers,” says Wetmur. “There’s a lot of information we can get from companies in this space.”

Collaborate with peers

While the big tech players take sustainability seriously and have stated goals for carbon neutrality, there may be limits to what they can share for competitive reasons. Other IT leaders can play a key role in sharing acquired insight and coming up with new solutions.

For example, many high-profile CIOs this year signed on as founding board members for SustainbleIT.org. The nonprofit organization, led by technology executives, seeks to define sustainable transformation programs, create best practices and frameworks, set standards and certifications, and provide education and training for IT leaders focused on sustainability.

“It’s not about competition,” says Muehlberger, adding that the goal is to come up with common solutions to help all IT leaders better manage and advance their sustainability efforts.

Green IT

To reduce its carbon footprint and mitigate climate change, the National Hockey League (NHL) has turned to data and analytics to gauge the sustainability performance of the arenas where its teams play. In October, the league, with partner SAP, launched NHL Venue Metrics, a sustainability platform that teams and their venue partners can use for data collection, validation, and reporting and insights.

The new platform furthers the sustainability journey the NHL started in 2010 when it inaugurated its NHL Green initiative to promote sustainable business practices across the league. It followed that in 2014 with the first sustainability report issued by a North American professional sports league and, in 2015, a commitment to counterbalance the league’s entire carbon footprint for three consecutive seasons.

“It’s meaningful for us because the roots of our game are people playing on frozen ponds,” says Omar Mitchell, vice president of sustainable infrastructure and growth initiatives at the NHL. “We need fresh water; we need cold weather. And when it comes to arenas, when you think about it, we play in a giant refrigerator. So, we use a lot of energy, a lot of resources, to play on a frozen water sheet.”

When the NHL began its sustainability journey, Mitchell’s role did not yet exist. He joined the league in 2012 as its first sustainability director with a mandate to find ways to embed sustainable business practices across the league and its member clubs.

“The most important thing about any sustainability platform is you cannot impact what you cannot measure,” Mitchell says. “That’s consistent across whatever your functional role, whatever your industry focuses on. The only way you can really advance change is by measuring, and then from measurement, impact. Sustainability is all about continuous business improvement. Sustainability is all about innovation and business optimization. The only way for you to speak in the language of business is to have the data that help you derive those insights.”

Benchmarking best practices

Driving sustainability practices in the NHL has unique challenges given the league’s structure. The NHL consists of 32 franchises across North America (seven teams in Canada and 25 in the US), each of which is owned and operated by separate entities, most of which also own and operate a venue. Washington, DC-based Monumental Sports & Entertainment, for example, owns the NHL’s Washington Capitals, NBA’s Washington Wizards, WNBA’s Washington Mystics, and the Capital One Arena in DC. The NHL can influence and promote practices among its franchisees but cannot mandate them.

Mitchell notes that it often helps to showcase the business benefits of various initiatives in addition to their environmental benefits. For example, more than two-thirds of NHL arenas have converted to LED game lights, leading to substantial energy savings in those facilities.

“These are the lights that illuminate the ice surface,” Mitchell says. “The old technology was 1,000-watt metal halide lights.”

Mitchell notes the new LED lighting technology actually makes the ice sheet look brighter, making the surface pop.

“We’re not telling the venues, ‘You must change your lights,’” Mitchell says. “We’re showing them all of the examples and best cases for why this innovation is so important and successful, as well as the benefits from an environmental standpoint. So, the majority of all of our buildings now have LED lights.”

Mitchell says the league is thinking of NHL Venue Metrics in the same way.

“We are using our technology and our platform to write the rules of how they should be measuring their venue operations and reporting against those venue operations and providing insights into benchmarks of how they should be operating their venue,” he says.

From there, the league can gather and collate those results to spot trends, gain insight into where venues are doing better or worse, and share best practices.

“Benchmarking, analyzing, and then showcasing those best practices, that’s the power of this tool,” Mitchell adds.

IT-driven sustainability

The league released sustainability reports in 2014 and 2018. In the process, it determined that venue operations comprise about 70% of its overall carbon footprint. That finding led it to ask SAP for help creating a technology solution that would allow it to track the carbon output of venues and ultimately start moving the needle in the right direction.

NHL Venue Metrics is an end-to-end, cloud-based platform to help venues measure and analyze the carbon footprint they generate across areas such as energy, water, waste, and recycling. It consists of three main components:

Data collection: An interface platform sits between the clubs and their venue partners, allowing them to share relevant resource consumption and environmental data with the league.Data calculation and validation: A processing and verification engine enables the league to track data consistency and identify reporting errors and calculation formulas to create the league’s carbon inventory.Data reporting and insights: A visualization dashboard shows environmental, consumption, and financial metrics.

The operational data is processed using SAP HANA Cloud and visualized with SAP Analytics Cloud.

SAP is the technical lead on NHL Venue Metrics. Mitchell’s team also works closely with the NHL’s club business and analytics group for data capture and the processing of ticketing and premium concessions, for example. Mitchell’s team also works closely with the IT group to ensure the platform and its data are secure.

The league launched the NHL Venue Metrics platform in October, so it’s still in the early stages. At this point, Mitchell says the team has learned a lot about data collection.

“This is an iterative process where we’re getting constant feedback from the venues about things like units of measure and what’s important for verification of the data that’s reported,” Mitchell says.

As more data comes in, the league will be looking to identify resource consumption reduction opportunities and operational enhancements such as increasing diversion of waste from landfill to recycling. Mitchell’s hope is to glean insights from venues that are doing well, build those insights into best practices, and share them with other clubs to be adopted at their venues.

“That’s what success will look like,” he says. “That’s where we will move the needle on really embedding environmental stability across the league.”

Analytics, Green IT, SAP

Sustainability now challenges executives on several immediate fronts—as concerns from investors, consumers, and employees, and as a regulatory issue. Sustainable practices have also become integral to both efficiency gains and long-term business value. But achieving sustainability requires more than a shift in mindset. It also takes a lot of work. Perhaps that’s why, as part of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27, the World Economic Forum made the connection between digital technology and corporate sustainability initiatives.[1]

Quite simply, technology can serve as a force multiplier in the effort to create a greener economy and society. Notable gains are already being made across industries and companies using artificial intelligence (AI) to overcome very real challenges and concretely meet sustainability goals.

A recent McKinsey Global Survey found 83 percent of C-suite leaders and investment professionals expect an increase in shareholder value from environmental, social, and governance programs.[2] Add to that, significant shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviors around environmental and ethical values.

Yet, as companies aim to make good on their net-zero pledges and circular economy promises, they must also show sustainability’s impact on their company’s bottom line. This means reporting on how initiatives will improve productivity, reduce costs, and increase revenues. All while measuring progress against benchmarks and over time, transparently, to stay credible and accountable to customers and shareholders. It’s a tall order and a global imperative at this point. 

How AI Can Benefit Sustainability

In AI’s various incarnations—from machine learning to computer vision—the technology is already helping leaders manage their company’s environmental impacts and mitigate climate risks. AI sustainability applications span industries and business needs from energy and agriculture to supply chains, environmental monitoring, and disaster prediction and response. Some recent notable examples include:

Adding Precision to Agriculture: In the agriculture sector, Nature Fresh Farms is one of the largest independent greenhouse produce growers in Canada. Data collected from sensors and high-resolution video at the edge enable growers to create optimal conditions to enhance produce quality and yield. To reduce overall water usage, spoon-like devices under each plants measure how much water doesn’t get used so they can adjust irrigation as needed.

Making Buildings Smarter: Companies in many different industries are using AI to control new smart buildings that make better use of energy. For example, Siemens is helping customers reduce their buildings’ carbon footprints by leveraging edge and AI technologies to address building performance issues in real time. And AI is helping data center operators make predictions on energy demand and supply. It then identifies the best next steps to minimize energy use at each data center while maintaining safety standards.

Tracking Food Waste: Research shows nearly 15 percent of purchased food ends up being wasted. By applying an AI-based computer vision tool, chefs in commercial kitchens can pinpoint waste, cutting costs and contributing to sustainability goals.[3]

Making Renewables Viable: Utilities can take an AI approach to resolving a key issue with solar and wind energy—intermittency. Through data-driven predictive modeling of weather patterns as well as power supply and demand, AI gives utility operators insight to plan for spikes and make adjustments.[4]

Reducing Environmental Impact of Production: Emerson is relying AI running on data collected from sensors on the factory floor to help provide a single pane view of operations. This allows customers to automate operations for increased efficiency and decreased energy use.

Potential Drawbacks and Proactive Solutions
While AI moves companies closer to their sustainability goals, it could also set them back by increasing their energy and resource consumption. A recent study found AI to be an enabler for 79 percent of targets related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, but reported that in 35 percent of targets across all SDGs there may be a negative impact.[5] 

Given this additional constraint, forward-thinking executives are investing in cleaner technologies. Often this means developing models that can run at a responsible scale. It could also include sourcing data centers with renewable energy or running AI workloads during off-peak hours. Of equal importance, working with companies that are making good on their pledges to lower emissions and use sustainable materials. 

Dell Technologies, for instance, has committed to engineering products with energy efficiency and infrastructure optimization as a priority. The company has used close to 400 million pounds of sustainable products and packaging, and reused or recycled more than 2.5 billion pounds of used electronics since 2007. The same concern for sustainability goes into its products to help customers reach their own initiatives. Dell’s PowerEdge servers are 83 percent less energy intensive than servers from 2013[6], and new PowerMax 2500 storage systems provide 80% power savings per terabyte compared with previous models.[7]

Attention is also paid to reducing the heat generated from Dell’s powerful machines to avoid energy wasted cooling the data center. The new layout of the PowerEdge creates air flow channels that release heat quickly, and Dell Direct Liquid Cooling reduces energy costs by up to 45% relative to cooled air and helps extend the life of existing air infrastructure.[8]

Thanks to advances in AI and the hardware needed to run it efficiently, advancing sustainability using AI is no longer a paradox. Companies can now take advantage of digital technology to answer demands from stakeholders while reducing their use of the Earth’s precious resources and maintaining long-term profitability. 

Learn how Dell Technologies is helping our customers drive positive solutions to achieve their sustainability goals through the power of innovative products and services designed to reduce waste, energy use and emissions by visiting Dell.com/Sustainability. To learn more about AI solutions, visit Dell.com/AI

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/10/cop27-3-ways-ceos-next-level-sustainability-programmes/

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/mckinsey-global-surveys

[3] https://datatechvibe.com/data/the-food-industry-has-a-waste-problem-can-ai-solve-it/

[4] https://www.powermag.com/predict-optimize-synchronize-control-how-ai-can-fulfill-the-promise-of-sustainable-energy-resources-and-reshape-the-future-of-utilities/

[5] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-14108-y

[6] Based on internal analysis, June 2022

[7] Dell Technologies Claim No. CLM-004322

[8] Based on Dell internal analysis, March 2021, comparing hypothetical air-cooled data center with a cooling PUE of 0.62 to a hybrid data center with a cooling PUE of 0.34. A PUE of 0.21 was assigned to all overhead not attributed to cooling. Operating costs and other factors will cause results to vary. RS Means industry standards cost basis was used to measure typical cooling infrastructure costs and determine projected savings.

IT Leadership

No matter how reliable their sources, IT analysts’ technology adoption forecasts are fundamentally interpretive – opinions based on received data. This is particularly true when predicting deployment trends in tomorrow’s cloud market.

Predictive viewpoints from cloud service providers, meanwhile, are informed by direct interactions with client IT teams experienced in projecting their organizations’ technology needs.

“Predicting cloud requirements is now a core competency for IT strategists,” says Oscar Garcia, Global SVP of Strategy and Technology at NTT. Garcia’s role makes him well placed to cast perspective on cloud trends for 2023 – notably, upshifts in the areas of cloud verticalization, hyperscale edge computing, SaaS management and cloud sustainability.

First of these, the rise of cloud platforms pre-engineered for an industry or sector, reflects the continued adoption of multicloud in high-value organizations.

“When organizations want ‘horizontal’ clouds tailored for a business industry, reengineering is needed to prep the cloud for that industry’s requirements, such as foundational services and compliances,” Garcia explains. “This results in duplicated effort.”

Increasingly, organizations want clouds preconfigured for necessary compliances, says Garcia: “Clouds that come with sector-specific features don’t have to be set up from scratch each time, thus streamlining cloud onboarding. They save time and money, and have inbuilt continuity with a given industry’s standards.”

Hyperscale edge computing gains traction

Cloud trends are rarely attributable to one driving force. Take demand for managed hyperscale edge computing services, which Garcia tips for estimable growth.

“Across sectors, enterprises increasingly look to distribute their workloads,” Garcia reports. “This is resulting in a need for distributed compute and storage that bring instantaneous response times at the edge.”

Associated benefits include the reduction of data processed in centralized clouds. This avoids network latency and other operational overheads. It also improves data security by limiting its exposure across networks.

Edge as a Service options make it possible to implement networks, operations and edge computing that deliver real-time automation and processing,” adds Garcia. “Unified operating models simplify operations and allow IT chiefs to focus on business imperatives.”

SaaS management services demand

The number of businesses that have outsourced the management of their applications is on an upward trend that will steepen through 2023.

“The need for SaaS management is the result of enterprises moving workloads to SaaS applications and the emergence of new complexities associated with this delivery model,” Garcia says. “SaaS solutions are precisely charged for. When cost leakage due to ineffectively managed SaaS solutions is revealed, it can come as a shock.”

Another reason why more organizations are outsourcing their top-level application monitoring and management is to free-up their IT expertise to focus on tech-enabled business initiatives, Garcia adds.

Measurable cloud sustainability

A desire for improved cloud sustainability will form another 2023 trend.

“While moving to cloud might not automatically make an organization’s IT greener, cloud can create conditions that make transformation possible,” says Garcia. “This means transforming IT to be more environmentally high-performing, but also transforming business through IT, using IT to drive positive change in the organization.”

NTT works toward delivering a “sustainability budget” that quantifies sustainability in the form of values rather than direct costs.

“When we propose operational right-sizing for altering CPU usage scale-out, or projected requirements for storage, or other compute parameters, we scale the budgetary expenditure of a potential change to a sustainability impact,” Garcia explains.

IT decision-makers may not always recognize sustainability metrics presented as quantitative methodology benchmarks, but they will respond to financial indicators, adds Garcia: “They can say, ‘well, this isn’t the least costly option, but it delivers the best sustainability outcome’. They can then apply a ROI value. So, if it’s 10 percent more expensive, say, that 10 percent will be an investment in improving their organization’s sustainability posture.”

How Multicloud as a Service can help

Even the best-run cloud environments can prove complex, and multiple clouds bring multiple complexities. A Business Impact Brief from 451 Research found this complexity is driving organizations to service providers to implement effective multicloud management.

No service provider is better qualified to meet this requirement than NTT. Their multicloud solutions address those complexities from infrastructure to edge. It’s still cloud as you know it, but simplified, more connected, and delivered as a managed service.

Discover how Multicloud as a Service from NTT can enable you to get more from your strategic cloud investments.

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