Sustainable Technology

Sustainable Technology

by James G. Barr

Docid: 00018046

Publication Date: 2212

Publication Type: TUTORIAL


Sustainable technology is combination of technology and technology
practices designed to mitigate an already existing environmental issue,
like the continuing accumulation of CO2 and other heat-trapping
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; or increase the useful life of
technological systems and devices, reducing replacement or upgrade costs,
preserving precious raw materials, and curbing electronic waste. Examples
of sustainable tech include solar panels, electric vehicles,
energy-efficient PCs, and smart power management systems.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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Sustainable technology is a combination of technology and technology
practices designed to:

  • Mitigate an already existing environmental issue, like the continuing
    accumulation of CO2 and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases
    in the atmosphere; or
  • Increase the useful life of technological systems and devices,
    reducing replacement or upgrade costs, preserving precious raw
    materials, and curbing electronic waste.1 

Faulkner Reports
Advances in Battery
Technology Tutorial
Carbon Management Software
Energy Efficient Computing
Smart Buildings Tutorial

The pursuit of sustainable technology, also known as “green” or
“eco-friendly” technology, has broad implications for enterprise adopters:

  • Enabling an enterprise’s “environmental, social, and governance” (ESG)
    initiatives; and
  • Curtailing runaway technological spending. 

Examples of sustainable technology include:

Solar panels and wind turbines
(as substitutes for non-renewable power generation systems featuring
fossil fuels)

Carbon capture (collecting CO2
emissions from industrial processes)

Video conferencing (as an
alternative to energy-expensive employee travel)

Cloud services (raising the
utilization of shared IT resources in lieu of pricier on-premises

Electric vehicles (as a
replacement for internal combustion engines)

Energy-efficient computing
(selecting ENERGY STAR-certified PCs and monitors, for example)

Equipment recycling (to avoid
the disposal of still-viable hardware)

LED lighting (as a means of
cutting electrical consumption)

Vertical farming (growing
food in a limited space and controlled climate)

Smart power management
(leveraging artificial intelligence and data analytics to improve
electrical utilization)

Environmental, Social and

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In today’s enterprise, there are three basic forces driving the
transition to sustainable technology:

First, as good corporate citizens, the need
for enterprise officials to do their part to combat climate change and,
perhaps cynically, to be seen doing so.

Second, from a competitiveness viewpoint, the
need to reduce – or, at least, stabilize – technology expenditures.

Third, from a policy perspective, the need to
embrace “environmental, social and governance” (ESG) investment standards.

As described by Investopedia, “Environmental, social, and governance
(ESG) investing refers to a set of standards … used by socially
conscious investors to screen potential investments.

  • Environmental criteria consider how [an enterprise]
    safeguards the environment, including [enterprise] policies addressing
    climate change, for example.
  • Social criteria examine how it manages relationships
    with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it
  • Governance deals with [an enterprise’s] leadership,
    executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.”2

Technology investment, specifically sustainable technology, touches all
three elements.  For example:

  • Cloud services, including software and infrastructure, permit
    enterprises to reduce their local IT spend, as measured in both dollars
    and kilowatts (Environmental).
  • Zoom and other video conferencing technologies enable employers to
    manage their relationships with remote workers, which was particularly
    crucial at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (Social).
  • Advanced, including AI-powered, data analytics allow enterprise
    executives to apply sophisticated controls and conduct comprehensive
    audits (Governance).

Analyst Lucas Mearian reports that “In May, a Gartner survey found that
environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives are now a top three
priority for investors, after profit and revenue.

“‘As business leaders feel the pressure from key stakeholders to do more
on environmental sustainability, they are now treating the needed changes
as opportunities to drive business efficiency and revenue growth,’ Mark
Raskino, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, said in a

“Seventy-four [74] percent of CEOs agreed that bolstering ESG efforts
attracts investors. Of the 80% of CEOs who intend to invest in new or
improved products this year and next, environmental sustainability was
cited as the third largest driver, just behind functional performance and
general quality.”3

Emphasizing the importance of ESG and its sustainability imperative,
analyst Sandra Mathis reminds us that “Consumers look to recycle, minimize
waste and make greener choices. This behavior also influences decisions
around finances and investment choices. As a result, investors want to use
their money to finance [enterprises] committed to these practices. ESG
investing, also known as sustainable investing, has seen exponential
growth as investors seek to provide capital for [enterprises] whose values
on environmental sustainability and social responsibility align with their

The Sustainable Technology Market

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Enterprise interest in sustainable technology is reflected in the global
Green Technology and Sustainability market.

As revealed by Fortune Business Insights,
the market is expected to grow from $13.76 billion in 2022 to $51.09
billion by 2029, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of
20.6% during the 2022-2029 forecast period.5 

Grand View Research is even more optimistic,
valuing the market at $15.85 billion in 2022 and projecting revenues of
$79.65 billion in 2030, a 2022-2030 CAGR of 22.4%.6

Market Drivers

Among the factors propelling the market are:

The pursuit of environmental, social and
governance initiatives.

The green data center movement.

The accelerated production and distribution of
solar panels.

The increasing adoption of electric vehicles.

The contribution of sustainable technology to
waste management and recycling.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential
for energy conservation.

The pressure exercise by various governments
to affect zero carbon emissions. As Grand View Research reports, “With the
ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the EU aims to speed up its green transition
to lessen its reliance on Russian fossil resources. For instance, the
European Commission is expected to propose a new legislative package to
increase renewable energy use and energy savings, albeit it will continue
to rely on gas imported from other nations. It will also shorten the
license processing time for renewable energy projects, which will not
exceed one year.7

Market Leaders

The consensus leaders in the sustainable technology space include:

  • General Electric (USA)
  • Wolters Kluwer (Europe)
  • Salesforce (USA)
  • Microsoft Corporation (USA)
  • Schneider Electric (France)
  • Engie Impact (USA)
  • Sensus (USA)
  • Enviance (USA)
  • Tesla (USA)
  • SpaceX (USA)

Creating a Sustainable Enterprise

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“[Enterprises] that take the lead on
environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues also outperform
financially, generating up to 2.6 times more value for shareholders than
their peers.”

– Paul Daugherty, Peter Lacy, Sanjay Podder,
and Shalabh Kumar Singh8

The following constitute prominent best practices for creating a
sustainable enterprise through sustainable information technology.

Appoint a Chief Sustainability Officer   

To ensure progress on the sustainability front, the enterprise chief
executive officer should select among his or her fellow executives a chief
sustainability officer.  Among other duties, the chief sustainability
officer would be responsible – and accountable – for working with the
chief information officer and the chief security officer to plan and
manage a transition to sustainable technology, in concert with the
enterprise’s environmental, social, and governance goals and objectives.

Extend the Technology System Lifecycle

In a culture where technology is often discarded prematurely – think
smartphones and PCs, for example – the essence of sustainability is
ensuring that enterprise technology is used – and re-used, as appropriate
– until its natural end-of-life.

To illustrate, consider a fleet of aging PCs.  Originally acquired
to support data-intensive scientific research, the PCs are deemed too slow
to accommodate present-day applications. Before declaring these devices
electronic waste (or e-waste), and relegating them to the enterprise scrap
heap, enterprise asset management officials should examine the various

Repair – Can the PCs be
outfitted with additional memory to provide satisfactory
performance?  Is the process affordable (relative to purchasing new
PCs)?  If the answers are yes, repair the units.

Repurpose – If repair is not
an option, can the PCs be redeployed to administrative areas, where high
performance is not essential?  If the answer is yes, repurpose the

Donate – If neither repair
nor repurpose is a reasonable option, can the PCs be donated to schools or
other worthy – and, incidentally, tax-deductible – organizations? If the
answer is yes, scrub the PCs of all enterprise data and donate the
devices. (As an alternative to donation, permit employees to buy the PCs
for a modest fee.)

Eliminate – If the PCs cannot
be repaired, repurposed, or donated, engage a reputable IT Asset
Disposition (ITAD) vendor to sell or recycle the devices.

Importantly, the technology lifecycle should not be extended at the expense
of superseding sustainability goals. For example, if the current PCs consume
more energy than newer models, then elimination is probably the correct

Establish Sustainable Technology Procurement Standards

Before securing any new technology, develop and apply relevant
sustainability filters. As suggested by analyst Candice Batista, these
might include:

Vendor histories and tendencies
– “Google and Sony are much better than brands like Blackberry or Samsung
when it comes to sourcing conflict minerals. While Huawei holds up much
better for upholding workers rights and toxic chemical management. Apple
is generally good for all three.”

Eco-friendly certifications
“TCO Certified and Fair Trade are both great sustainability certifications
for IT products.”

Repair and return policies
“If you can easily repair your tech devices without hassle, chances are
they will last longer! Try and look for companies that offer these kinds
of services and products.”9

Contain Artificial Intelligence Energy Demands

While artificial intelligence, or AI, is revolutionizing enterprise
business, increasing operational capabilities while decreasing personnel
costs, sustainability is often sacrificed.

According to Accenture, “The amount of computing power needed to train
large AI models has risen dramatically in recent years. From 2012 to 2018,
it increased by a factor of more than 300,000. Most of this power is used
to create small, incremental gains in accuracy by throwing more compute at
the AI models – a concept known as ‘Red AI.'”

The firm advises that enterprise AI developers can “turn ‘Red AI’ green”
by focusing on three questions:

  • “How can [we] optimize usage of input data to train AI models?
  • “How can energy decisions help [us] make wise processing choices?
  • “Can [we] make a trade-off between business output and energy

Migrate Applications to Public Clouds

From a sustainability standpoint, the decades-long debate between
on-premises and public cloud deployment is over. Public cloud, as
illustrated in Figure 1, is the more sustainable technology.

Figure 1. Typical Public Cloud

Figure 1. Typical Public Cloud

Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to Accenture, “It’s estimated that migrating to public cloud
could reduce the annual global CO2 emissions from IT systems by
59 million tons. That’s an impact equivalent to taking 22 million cars off
the road.”

“In fact, 34% of CIOs in [a firm] survey said that failure to migrate to
cloud from on-premises data centers is a major barrier to sustainable
technology. This tells us that cloud is a proven path to sustainability
gains – and that it still has considerable room to grow.”11

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About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst
and business writer with more than 40 years’ IT experience. A member of
“Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business
BY Really Trying
, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a
senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices.
Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at

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