Sustainability is defined across three dimensions: social, economic and environmental. As businesses continue to adapt their operational models for post-pandemic planning, environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives are becoming more important for present and future employees, stakeholders and customers.
But what does this mean, exactly?
ESG is a wide-ranging topic, and in the information technology field, it encompasses everything from the employee experience to ethical IT. For the purpose of this piece, let’s focus on the concept of sustainability. When we talk about tech, we’re thinking about hardware — the personal and enterprise devices that are omnipresent in our daily lives — and the software that runs behind the scenes to keep all those devices from becoming expensive paperweights.
First and foremost, organizations must talk about change alongside practicable efforts to enact it — and validate and ensure accountability for those efforts by measuring them against standards like the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and CDP's disclosure standards. Today’s customers want to see that businesses are doing what they say they’re doing — and they’re putting their decision-making muscle behind those desires.
PwC research found that 79 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that stands up for ESG practices, and 84 percent of workers are more likely to work for those companies.
At our annual BMC Exchange customer event, I recently moderated a panel of BMC decision-makers in a session about how to practice and plan for ESG within the enterprise. Here are some of the takeaways from that discussion.
Security and governance go hand in hand, and they’re bleeding into societal concerns because breaches go beyond the business to also affect the individual consumer. Organizations can face significant fines, lose customers’ confidence, or ruin their brand if they have a security breach that exposes corporate and customer information.
And that security lapse extends to customers who can then face phishing attempts, credit fraud, stolen credentials, identify theft and more. Part of ensuring a secure environment across a business and for everyone the business touches means putting secure practices around governance, and implementing real-time, ongoing vulnerability detection solutions. These measures create the assurance (never a guarantee!) that companies are intent on protecting their customers and communities.
Another area where employees, customers and stakeholders are weighing their ESG business considerations is whether, and how, the companies they engage with are actively working to reduce their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. They want to know that companies are planning for the future state of the world beyond their business.
Take, for example, today’s data centers — they have servers running, HVAC systems to keep them cool and significant electricity requirements, and all of these things generate carbon emissions. By adding sensors and monitoring solutions to that environment, organizations can monitor and measure emissions, and analyze that data to better optimize their infrastructure and reduce its footprint.
Migrating to the cloud, or scaling or rightsizing that environment, is a solid first step but only part of the equation. Businesses can also expand the scope of inquiry to include transportation, supply chain and other partners — and focus on collecting and analyzing those complex data streams. That’s where automated solutions come in handy to orchestrate data pipelines, ingest the data, and correlate, optimize and understand it.
In doing so, organizations can leverage those insights to guide decision-making on smarter infrastructure and better business processes that reduce greenhouse gases. Once the necessary steps are identified, it also helps to have a methodology in place to forecast the carbon footprint going forward over the next five to 10 years and beyond.
In the world of hardware — whether you build it, sell it or use it — being mindful of its entire lifecycle and making ethical decisions at every step has an impact. Some of the ways every business can support ethical IT include selecting products that are designed with recycled or ocean-bound plastics, maximizing the product's working life, and recycling and upcycling devices at end of life to keep them out of landfills when they’re replaced.
As a personal consumer, keep those same considerations front of mind. According to a recent study by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the WEEE Forum, 5.3 billion of the 16 billion mobile phones possessed worldwide will become waste in 2022. If stacked one on top of the other, they’d stretch one-eighth of the way to the moon.
You can help by making responsible decisions at the point of purchase and extending the life of your devices whenever possible. Replace the battery, and move all those images to the cloud or delete unused apps to get back some of your storage space before you go buy another phone.
And when you do replace your phone, don’t put the old one in a drawer or randomly throw it away. Repurpose it with organizations like Medic Mobile, the 911 Cell Phone Bank, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, DV Safe Phone or Community Calling that deploy devices into communities that need them. If you’re planning to toss it, look for a licensed recycler that will ethically, responsibly dispose of both the device and its toxic components that can contaminate the earth, groundwater and waterways — and endanger flora, fauna and people.
In the area of software development, sustainability factors into eco-design principles, such as leveraging modern agile software methodologies and emphasizing modular code and code reuse for cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. Software ownership, which includes development, operation and maintenance costs, also has opportunities for improvement through automation. Automating testing, maintenance and continuous deployment processes can help organizations achieve better sustainability by reducing energy consumption.
For web usage, organizations can consider the data load of the web pages they create to improve the energy consumption involved in the storage of hosting those pages — and for users to access them. Focus on experiences that provide value for end users and the environment.
According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, 58 percent of respondents will buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values, and 60 percent will use that criteria when choosing an employer. With ESG a growing part of a global belief and value system, it’s no longer a nice to have; it’s now a must-have.
Watch the full BMC Exchange 2022 session here.
This article series is sponsored by BMC Software and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.
Image credit: Copernico/Unsplash
Wendy Rentschler, Head of Global Corporate Social Responsibility and Inclusion, BMC Software. Wendy Rentschler is responsible for developing and implementing BMC Software’s global corporate citizenship through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, BMC Cares (philanthropy and volunteerism), sustainability, and ESG initiatives. Wendy has more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare and technology sectors leading talent acquisition, DEI/CSR programs, employer branding, social media as well as advising product and GTM. She is also a founding member of Hacking HR’s Experts Council, speaker and HR tech/sustainability startup mentor. Throughout her career, Wendy has been at the forefront of the culture change movement. With a deep focus on the triple bottom line, analytics, and strategies to identify and disrupt bias in social systems and corporate culture, she uses data to demonstrate the value of CSR initiatives as not only “the right thing to do” but as the business imperative of our time.
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