As organizations worldwide focus on operationalizing their ESG plans, Cisco and IDC launched a new study, titled “The Role of Technology in Enabling Sustainability: A Global Survey of IT Professionals”. The survey, which sought to better understand the technology trends and best practices that impact sustainability success, surveyed 1,244 IT professionals in 12 countries, while conducting in-depth interviews with IT pros in a variety of industries.
Well-established sustainability policies and mandates, heavy investments in renewable energy, and geopolitical factors have made sustainability a top-of-mind business issue for organizations with 63% of technology professionals worldwide believing that sustainability is a very or extremely important business priority.
Commenting on the results of the study, Reem Asaad, Vice President, Cisco Middle East and Africa, said: “In today’s world, sustainability has become a critical business imperative. Key stakeholders demand it, from customers and investors to employees and regulators.”
She added: “We believe that businesses can play a crucial role in supporting the region’s sustainability goals by accelerating commitment, execution capability, and resource availability. One of Cisco’s key priorities in the region is to support our customers in leveraging the power of technology in driving business impact and sustainability outcomes.”
Five actionable insights from the study that can positively impact any organization include:
Making IT a critical player
Sustainability should be a team effort, with shared contributions across the organization. Given its expertise in digitization and innovation, IT can play a unique role in driving investments and implementations of critical technologies, while ensuring that sustainability is integrated into all business operations. More organizations are grasping this and empowering IT in new ways.
According to the report, IT took a lead role in formulating strategy and ensuring progress toward sustainability goals in 22 percent of organizations during 2022 — compared with 13 percent in 2021. This signals an upward trend but leaves considerable room for improvement.
Shifting from compliance to business outcomes
The IDC InfoBrief reveals a change in priorities from simply following the rules to employing sustainability as a strategic advantage.
In 2021, top sustainability drivers included mandates from executive management (40 percent), regulatory requirements (37 percent), and reputational risk (28 percent). In 2022, however, priorities shifted toward business outcomes, with improving operational efficiency (43 percent) as the top driver, followed by competitive differentiation (40 percent), innovation (39 percent), and revenue growth (37 percent).
Developing a data strategy
Aggregating the data needed to effectively manage and track sustainability performance proved to be the biggest operational challenge for 54 percent of companies surveyed. But it was nevertheless a key attribute for sustainability success.
43 percent of companies deemed “sustainability pioneers” in the study — that is, rated most mature in sustainability — had developed and operationalized a comprehensive data management strategy. Only 30 percent of “sustainability starters” had done so.
Establishing clear KPIs
Sustainability pioneers also stood out in their ability to quantify performance and progress toward their sustainability goals. These organizations implement dashboards that measure and track key performance indicators for sustainability, creating a precise picture of what’s working and what needs to improve. These could relate to goals around energy management, decarbonization, or business impacts related to sustainability, among many other metrics. And in fast-evolving, highly regulated environments, many are measuring their own metrics against industry benchmarks.
Selecting Trusted Advisors
Investments in sustainable IT infrastructure can drive key business outcomes such as energy savings, operational efficiency, and reduced waste. And as we have seen, IT leaders should take a lead role in selecting, purchasing, and, of course, implementing and managing these technologies. But IT can’t do it alone. As many IT leaders have learned, a trusted technology vendor that aligns closely with their sustainability goals is a must.