6 steps in technology that can change your business and the planet

6 steps in technology that can change your business and the planet

23.02.2024
5 min.

Technologies that reduce carbon emissions are used by many of us on a daily basis. Examples include meeting with a foreign client via video call instead of a business trip by plane, or the much-loved remote working. But we should still pay attention to how much technology contributes to overall energy consumption, which has a direct impact on the environment. We have therefore put together 6 tips on how companies and individuals in the IT environment can effectively support the principles of sustainability.

The good news for the planet is that more and more entrepreneurs are trying to bring ideas based on digital tools and processes to market. Digitalisation is also enabling new business models such as energy-as-a-service (EaaS) financial schemes and virtual power plant services for distributed energy resources. Large technology companies are also taking the responsible step, becoming major investors in clean energy start-ups.

However, despite significant efforts to save energy efficiently, experts have noted a negative impact in recent years, a consequence of the workload of large data centres. This has led to an alarming increase in energy consumption in the IT segment by 20 to 40% annually. The combined electricity consumption of Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Meta has more than doubled between 2017 and 2021.

There is also a need to raise awareness about the serious water footprint created by commonly used technologies used by the public. One of the reasons why IT companies consume huge amounts of water is to cool data centres, without which it would be impossible to use the internet. But it is even worse with artificial intelligence. For every 20 to 50 tasks, ChatGPT consumes about half a litre of water.

But it’s never too late to change. After all, the eco-friendly label is no longer a matter of voluntary marketing efforts to differentiate a brand from the competition, it is a relevant market requirement. According to a Deloitte survey, 67% of consumers are willing to pay extra for sustainable products. The choice of sustainable strategies by businesses is therefore crucial not only for the future of the next generation but also for staying relevant in the current market. Inspiration can be found, for example, in the following six points recommended by the members of the Forbes Technology Council.

Alarming increase in energy consumption in the technology segment leads to global warming crisis.

1. Move to cloud technology

Digitalising processes and adopting the cloud for easy storage of company data reduces paper waste. Another benefit is that it improves the protection of sensitive materials. The cloud is also cheaper and produces fewer carbon emissions, unlike legacy data centres that are powered by fossil fuels.

2. Adopt an extended producer responsibility approach

The goal is to mitigate the environmental impact of products throughout their life cycle. This approach includes building awareness and education in the industry, working with governments, NGOs, and other technology waste recycling programs, as well as encouraging consumer participation in technology waste recycling programmes.

In addition to high-quality training for employees, you can organise competitions related to green initiatives. But don’t forget the practical side. To motivate people to commute to work by bike, it’s a good idea to consider, for example, setting up bike parking facilities or installing showers in the office. Even working from home can reduce emissions – in some cases by up to 80%. To support individuals and teams working remotely, you can pay them a percentage of the installation of solar panels in their homes. Alternatively, make sure their IT equipment has energy-efficient settings.

3. Establish renovation and repair programmes

You can extend the life of equipment by trying to diagnose and fix problems instead of automatically having broken or outdated hardware replaced. This approach also saves resources and reduces waste.

4. Donate used laptops

Consider donating company laptops, in a cybersecure way, of course, to socially disadvantaged children. Not only will you reduce e-waste, but you’ll help vulnerable communities bridge the digital gap.

With modern technologies even working from home can reduce emissions - in some cases by up to 80%.

5. Prefer cleaning hard drives

Disk shredding is the most secure disposal method available today to ensure that your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The Circular Drive Initiative, which promotes the safe reuse of storage hardware, estimates that 90% of hard drives are destroyed instead of erased and reused. However, if you erase a hard drive properly and overwrite the data, it can only be recovered under near-laboratory conditions. Such drives can thus be reused in new computers.

Another recommendation is to switch to SSDs. Hard disks, which are slower and more obsolete, can be dismantled so that their parts can be sent for recycling. Conversely, SSDs, which are faster and more enduring, can be reused as new thanks to cryptographic erasure techniques.

One of the sustainable practices for a company is the adoption of a hardware-as-a-service model. Instead of buying and later scrapping equipment, companies can lease it from providers who maintain, upgrade, and responsibly recycle it at the end of its lifecycle.

6. Introduce energy harvesting technology

Companies could also adopt technologies that capture small amounts of otherwise wasted energy and convert it into electricity. Examples include light, vibration, or thermal differentials. This can extend the life of equipment, reducing the frequency of hardware replacement and e-waste.

Localised energy systems such as solar panels, wind turbines, and microgrids even allow companies to generate clean energy on-site. In addition, they reduce transmission losses, reduce carbon emissions, and increase energy efficiency.

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