Why the CIO is key to driving business sustainability

Global, Oct 5, 2023

Published by Forbes 

Amid the global call for action on climate change, no business can afford to treat its environmental responsibility lightly. While at one time corporate social responsibility (CSR) may have been a nice-to-have, I believe sustainability initiatives are now a business requirement and key to future success. But to make a real impact, sustainability needs the full force of the organization behind it, and the CIO is a pivotal player.

Technology As An Enabler For A Sustainable Future

Central to any business’s ability to execute its sustainability strategy is technology. From adopting renewable energy sources and optimizing data centers to deploying smart building systems and promoting remote work, the right technology-driven initiatives can significantly reduce carbon footprints while increasing productivity and cost savings. However, to be able to realize technology's full potential as a sustainability enabler, technology investments need to be aligned with carbon reduction goals and strategy.

From Cost To Investment

My company recently conducted research with 1,000 CIOs and found that 92% see a clear link between environmental, social and governance (ESG), sustainability and enterprise value. This recognition of sustainability as an investment rather than a cost is a milestone moment, but it’s important that CIOs move beyond advising on tech investments and step forward to take a leading role in shaping the sustainability program. With their unique position at the intersection of technology and business strategy, CIOs not only know how to create business impact, but they also have the power to champion sustainability initiatives and spearhead transformative change.

Three Steps To Start Taking Control

While a lot of progress has been made in embedding sustainability across functions, IT is still on the periphery in many organizations. When that’s the case, there are three steps CIOs can take to play a more active and strategic role to drive the sustainability agenda.

1. Data-Driven Decision-Making

How can you know where to improve if you don’t know where you currently stand? It’s critical to benchmark your business to understand your current position and see what adjustments you can make to reduce your environmental impact. As IDC commented in a recent white paper for the Logicalis CIO Summit:

Data is at the heart of a successful sustainability strategy. Organisations must aggregate data from a variety of sources to understand their sustainability impact and effectively manage their ESG compliance management process.”

By harnessing data on energy consumption, resource usage and environmental impact, CIOs can gain insights into areas for improvement and identify opportunities for sustainable practices. This data-driven approach enables evidence-based decision-making, allowing organizations to implement targeted initiatives that maximize environmental benefits.

2. Onboard To Deliver

After setting the benchmark, it’s time to onboard everyone in the process. Building an internal network of supporters is critical. By leading from the top, you send a clear signal that sustainability is a priority, but it also needs to be fully embedded in team culture, incentives and metrics and executed at all levels.

The cross-functional position of the CIO can also be used to facilitate collaboration across the organization, which can result in a much greater impact.

3. Onboard The Right Partners

Meaningful progress, particularly when it comes to carbon reduction, can't be made in isolation. IDC predicts that

by 2025, 40% of ESG services engagements will require a managed services component to better address the long-term nature and intense data needs of sustainable transformation and ESG reporting."

The tech ecosystem is highly interwoven, with downstream emissions coming from every vendor and partner.

Fortunately, there's growing recognition of this: Our global CIO report revealed that nearly half of CIOs take into account carbon output and energy efficiency when selecting new suppliers.

All CIOs need to consider their full tech supply chains and identify partners and vendors that hold similar sustainability commitments. This won't just help them avoid suppliers that perform poorly on sustainability but will also help them identify partners that can make an active contribution to driving down their organizations' emissions.

CIOs have always been agents of change, and I don't believe we've ever needed a change more urgently than the environmental one we're facing now. By harnessing technology, fostering collaboration across the organization, embracing data-driven decision-making, and working with the right partners, CIOs can take a leading role in driving their organizations to a more sustainable and prosperous future.



Related Insights