Remote working, outsourcing and the cloud: how to boost your green credentials

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As the UK counts the cost of the latest round of flooding, it’s yet another reminder that climate change is now everyone’s business. Those companies that ignore the problem, or that pay mere lip service to incorporating sustainable practices into their operations, are in danger of looking seriously out of touch.

So what are the implications of this for your IT department? Data storage, systems access, hardware renewal and more: here’s how your technology choices can directly impact your organisation’s eco-friendly credentials…

Going green with your tech: the business case

It’s one of the most important principles of marketing: discover what your customers care about, and deliver the type of service that’s in line with their thinking.

And of course, in terms of customer mind space, the environment is an issue that’s impossible to ignore. Research suggests that 81% of customers expect the companies they do business with to play their part in safeguarding the environment.

The typical buyer is increasingly likely to put their money where their mouth is. More than half of consumers are now willing to pay a premium for economically sustainable goods and services. Six in ten global consumers say they would be less willing to purchase from a company that performed poorly on environmental practices.

Of course, it’s easy to talk the talk about eco-friendliness, but putting mission statements into practice can be a different story. Just be aware that savvy customers can see through attempts at ‘greenwashing’, where companies make inflated or misleading claims to suggest they are doing more for the environment than they really are.

When a business adopts new technology, the aim is invariably to drive efficiency and make better use of existing resources. But who outside your organisation really notices (or cares) if your office has gone paperless, or if you’ve just switched over to energy-saving printers? These days, backroom decisions matter: buyers will increasingly look at how you operate to see how your social responsibility claims measure up.

Here are some examples…

Remote working

Globally, it’s estimated that 70% of people work remotely at least once per week. Employees themselves prefer this way of working: it removes the need for a time-consuming and costly commute, it helps them achieve a better work-life balance, and, (so long as accessible lines of communication remain in place), it can also help to maximise engagement levels.

For employers who enable working from home in full or in part, it can substantially increase your talent pool by making it logistically possible to bring on board recruits who are based beyond your immediate geographic area. The promise of remote working can also be a major pull factor, helping you attract in-demand talent.

Alongside all this, don’t overlook the potential of remote working for helping you to reduce your energy and carbon footprints. More than 90% of the work-related carbon footprint of the average employee is taken up by their commute. Staff working from home are more likely to demonstrate “green” behaviour, switching off lights when they are not needed, making their own lunch and foregoing all those plastic coffee cups.

Equipping your people with effective, secure access to business software and systems remotely could go a long way in supporting your drive towards increased sustainability.

Cloud computing

When businesses replace their on-premise infrastructure in favour of cloud technologies, key organisational benefits include more flexible pricing models, increased scalability and ease of maintenance.

But is cloud computing inherently greener than the traditional in-house tech setup?

According to the major cloud provider Amazon Web Services, when organisations move to the AWS Cloud from on-premise infrastructure, it results in an average carbon emissions reduction of 88%. The major green benefit arises through economies of scale: by consolidating data storage for lots of organisations in a single, often vast location, the net effect is that less equipment is required to run the same workloads, minimising each company’s e-waste footprint. At least, that’s the theory.

But just how environmentally friendly are these remote data centres? This year, ICT will account for 14% of global energy consumption, while 45% of ICT’s footprint is accounted for by data centres. Instead of reducing your carbon footprint, putting your data in the hands of an inefficient, fuel-guzzling data centre might just mean that you are shifting the problem elsewhere. In terms of efficiency, not all data centres are created equal. In fact, research shows that moving your data from a provider with an ‘average’ efficiency to one with market-leading efficiency could reduce energy consumption by as much as 30%.

What percentage of your provider’s power consumption comes from renewables? What concrete measures do they have in place for waste reduction? If you are serious about sustainable tech, these are the types of questions you need to ask.

Outsourcing

For businesses large and small, outsourcing IT functions can be a useful way of bringing on board a level of expertise of capacity that is not readily available in-house. Less obviously, outsourcing can also result in positive environmental benefits.

In broad terms, choosing an outsourced solution can help organisations avoid the need to expend extra costs and resources on developing their own systems. This is especially the case where the outsourced project enables the company to move away from inefficient legacy systems. Data hygiene is a prime example: if your data estate contains large volumes of outdated files, or if your people struggle to get hold of exactly the information they need, productivity is reduced and energy use is needlessly high.

Need help in becoming more efficient and sustainable in your use of data? Speak to Millennium Consulting today.