For IT organizations, the need for sustainability should be nothing new. Over a decade ago, the concept of “green IT” was popular, although this was usually driven by the IT organization rather than a corporate strategy. Now corporate sustainability strategies are in force, with a 2022 AXELOS sustainability survey finding that 87% of organizations have included sustainability across at least one of their strategies, priorities, and metrics. This focus on sustainability might be the case for your organization, but how well have any corporate sustainability strategies been reflected in IT strategies, priorities, and metrics?
To help you understand whether your IT organization has done enough, in both business alignment and sustainability effort terms, this article considers more of the AXELOS sustainability survey results from an IT perspective.
A quick sustainability 101
Before jumping into the sustainability survey findings, it’s worth mentioning what sustainability is and why it’s important. Feel free to jump ahead if this is “old news” to you (but please don’t miss the sustainability bottom-line impact statistics included here).
The 2021 AXELOS “ITIL 4: Sustainability in Digital and IT” publication defines sustainability as “A business approach focused on creating long-term value for society and other stakeholders, by addressing the risks and opportunities associated with economic, environmental, and social developments.”
Sustainability might also be called a different name, with corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) both popular terms.
Corporate sustainability strategies might be seen as “the right thing to do” and a collective push to change businesses, and the world, for the better by addressing global issues such as:
- Fossil fuel dependency
- Species extinction
- Water cleanliness
- Atmosphere damage
However, sustainability has corporate benefits, too – with the improved public perceptions of organizations and their brands driving sales and improving financial results.
To validate this, the AXELOS sustainability survey asked respondents, “Do you think your organization’s sustainability investments will aid its financial bottom line?”
As shown in the table below, sustainability is overwhelmingly seen as financially beneficial, especially when the data is adjusted to consider just the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
Here 86% of respondents think their organizations’ sustainability investments will aid their financial bottom line.
IT organizations and sustainability
The AXELOS sustainability survey also examined IT’s support for corporate sustainability strategies.
On the face it, all looked good – with 80% of IT organizations including sustainability across at least one of strategies, priorities, and metrics.
This figure is similar to the corporate levels of sustainability focus, with IT organizations aligning with corporate sustainability strategies and needs.
However, a different survey question queried whether IT organizations could be doing more (in terms of sustainability).
This question produced what might be a more accurate view of IT organizations and sustainability – that 68% of respondents thought IT could do more on sustainability.
When the “don’t know” responses are removed, this is 91% of respondents.
This statistic is worrying, but it should also be noted that a similar question that asked whether organizations could be doing more also found respondents believing more is needed – with the equivalent percentages 61% and 91%, respectively.
What this all means for IT organizations
In some ways, making conclusions from these data points involves a little “joining the dots” because of the stark difference between the respondents’ views on their IT organizations’ sustainability focus and the need to do more.
For example, the survey data could indicate that “IT is saying the right things but not actually doing anything.” Or it could be that much has been done by IT, but there’s still much more to be done.
At least both of these “joining the dots” perspectives recognize the need for IT’s involvement in sustainability, though.
While the issues that are likely preventing the desired level of sustainability action – at both a corporate and IT level – are nicely summed up in the answers to another AXELOS survey question that highlighted the top-three challenges to corporate sustainability investments:
- Competing priorities for resources (51%)
- Missing knowledge and skills (39%)
- Insufficient education and training (38%)
The first of these challenges could cover a variety of corporate “resources” For IT organizations. But, given the second and third-placed challenges, while funding is likely an issue, the lack of suitable people could be viewed as a common theme across all of the top-three challenges.
The potential for funding issues can also be considered in light of the earlier survey question that looked at the bottom-line view of sustainability, where 86% of respondents viewed sustainability investments as aiding the corporate financial bottom line.
This is likely a perspective that’s either influenced by or can influence financial investments in sustainability-improving initiatives.
From an IT perspective, people believing that the focus on sustainability is “good business” and has a positive impact on the corporate bottom line should be used to validate IT expenditure on sustainability-related initiatives.
Hopefully, this blog and its shared data will help you to understand your IT organization’s current sustainability “position” relative to others.
More importantly, though, it should lead to questions regarding your IT organization’s current and future support for corporate sustainability strategy needs.
With IT’s sustainability focus and investments not only “a good thing to do” but also offering a business-level return on investment (ROI) that justifies the change.
Tell us what role your IT organization is playing in corporate sustainability initiatives.