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Sustainability in IT – A Q3 Reflection

Sustainability in IT – A Q3 Reflection

The News: Honeywell and The Futurum Group released the latest installment of their Sustainability Index. This report looks at sustainability trends and sentiment across a broad sampling of global industries. With the highlights from this report as a backdrop, the sustainability trends in Information Technology can be further examined. Find the full Honeywell Sustainability Index here.

Sustainability in IT – A Q3 Reflection

Analyst Take: Honeywell and The Futurum Group have released a series of Sustainability Index reports that have tracked progress and sentiment about environmental sustainability. The reports are done quarterly and provide global coverage across a wide range of industries. Meanwhile, I have been tracking and writing about sustainability trends and topics more narrowly focused on IT and data storage. With the latest version of the Honeywell Sustainability Index being released recently, I thought now might be an appropriate time to once again reflect on the issue of sustainability in IT, while leveraging this broader report for context.

The Honeywell Sustainability Index is quite in-depth, and includes much more detail than I can convey in this Research Note, however, I would highly encourage anyone who is interested in corporate sustainability to take some time to look through it. Some highlights of the recent report, however, include the following:

  • Sustainability Goals was noted as the leading category among the panel of business professionals surveyed when asked about top corporate initiatives. This continued a trend from the previous two quarters, and is notably ranked above other key initiatives such as Digital Transformation, Financial Performance, and Market Growth.
  • Organizations are optimistic about their success in achieving their sustainability goals over the last 12 months, but optimism about longer-term goals has diminished. Optimism about achieving sustainability goals over the next 12 months and 2030 goals have both declined since the previous reports.
  • Energy Evolution and Efficiency ranked as the top sustainability priority over the next 6 months. Emissions Reduction, Pollution Prevention, and Circularity/Recycling initiatives followed, consistent with the past two quarters.
  • North American companies are prioritizing sustainability goals more than other regions, including EMEA, for the first time.
  • The majority of organizations are taking a balanced approach between process-driven changes and technology-driven changes to achieving sustainability goals, but technology-driven changes are trending up.

The Honeywell report is much broader than sustainability in IT, but it provides a lens through which we can view the recent sustainability efforts of both IT vendors and IT organizations.

Sustainability Goals being reported as the leading topic among corporate initiatives puts significant weight behind the dramatic increase in sustainability-related topics in IT. Over the last year, there have been numerous sustainability-driven messages, tools, and product announcements from leading IT vendors – making it clear that sustainability is a key issue for them, and perhaps more specifically, for the IT clients they are selling to. This has been backed up from IT organizations who have required certain sustainability information from vendors before even engaging with them in the sales process. While I might imagine that the topic of Digital Transformation could rival Sustainability Goals in a report more narrowly focused on IT, the point remains that sustainability is regarded as a top-level issue for organizations, and the IT departments of those organizations will not be exempt.

Energy efficiency being the top priority is also very consistent with what we have seen in the data center. IT has come under increased scrutiny for its large environmental impact lately, and much of the focus has been on energy use. Likewise, most of the vendor messaging and solutions around sustainability have also focused on energy efficiency. This includes energy efficiency calculators and sales tools, telemetry-based energy monitoring tools, and energy efficiency SLAs for service offerings.

The fact that North American companies were leading the way in prioritizing sustainability goals is an interesting shift. Much of the focus on sustainability and ESG reporting has originated out of Europe, and more recently caught on in the US. This North American focus demonstrates just how much of a focus sustainability has become in the US – which again is evident in the focus that both IT organizations and IT vendors have recently placed on sustainability in the US.

The balance between process driven approaches and technology driven approaches might indicate what is yet to come for IT. Currently, the approaches are mostly balanced – and I think we can see this, IT is a part of the sustainability conversation, but it is not leading the way. With technology-based approaches trending up, however, IT may become a more central focus in organizations’ sustainability actions.

I think the optimism around current and future sustainability goals can also be seen in the more specific view of IT. Organizations may feel fairly good about their sustainability progress over the past year – a new focus on sustainability has been achieved, and early steps are being taken. Longer term, however, the optimism may diminish. These large-scale changes are difficult, and in many cases, organizations have set ambitious goals to meet. For IT specifically, sustainability goals are now interwoven with other ongoing requirements – maintaining availability, cyber-resiliency, digital transformation, and of course economic goals. While initial steps towards a more sustainable data center are likely underway, more dramatic long-term goals may be more difficult to achieve while simultaneously upholding other IT requirements. Compounding the issue are unclear regulatory requirements and inconsistent vendor messaging around sustainability. With increased vendor focus on sustainability, however, new tools, solutions, and programs will hopefully be developed that can further assist IT organizations with their long-term sustainability goals.

While the Honeywell Environmental Sustainability Index is not specific to sustainability of IT or data storage, such as what I have mostly focused on covering, there are similarities that can be found in many of the trends and observations. While I have written about this many times before, I think that viewing sustainability in IT through the lens of this broader report adds further proof to the idea that IT sustainability is not just a fad – it is here to stay and likely will become a key data center metric.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other Insights from The Futurum Group:

The Cost of the Next Big Thing – Artificial Intelligence

The Environmental Impact of Accelerators

ESG in IT – Here to Stay or the Latest Fad?

Author Information

Mitch comes to The Futurum Group through the acquisition of the Evaluator Group and is focused on the fast-paced and rapidly evolving areas of cloud computing and data storage. Mitch joined Evaluator Group in 2019 as a Research Associate covering numerous storage technologies and emerging IT trends.

With a passion for all things tech, Mitch brings deep technical knowledge and insight to The Futurum Group’s research by highlighting the latest in data center and information management solutions. Mitch’s coverage has spanned topics including primary and secondary storage, private and public clouds, networking fabrics, and more. With ever changing data technologies and rapidly emerging trends in today’s digital world, Mitch provides valuable insights into the IT landscape for enterprises, IT professionals, and technology enthusiasts alike.

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