Sustainability has become a key focus for many businesses around the world. Between climate change and dwindling natural resources, people are more aware than ever of their impact on the wellbeing of the planet.

In South Africa, 98% of adults are willing to make changes to combat sustainability issues. Meanwhile, 76% of people believe businesses should do more for the environment, and they’re willing to pay a premium for goods from brands that act responsibly.

In this spirit of global awareness, the sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations – and many governments – include measures to protect the earth’s environment and climate.

These calls for greater sustainability have also given rise to Green IT, a set of environmentally and socially responsible information technology systems. Green IT is an umbrella term for ensuring environmentally and socially sound information technology systems, applications, and practices

The goal of Green IT is to minimise the negative impact of digital operations on the environment and society, through eco-friendly design, manufacturing, operation, and the disposal of e-waste.

This is crucial, as IT operations currently contribute 5% to 9% of global electricity consumption, with this projected to increase to 20% by 2030.

The IT sector’s global greenhouse gas emissions share is around 1,8% to 2,8%, potentially rising to 3,9% when considering the entire supply chain and lifecycles of IT products.

“Technology contributes greatly to CO2 emissions, but used in the right way, it also has the power to help South African businesses meet their sustainability goals faster,” says Langa Dube, regional director of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) South Africa and rest of Africa. “As businesses increasingly align with ESG goals, understanding and prioritising sustainable technologies is crucial.”

With that in mind, he shares six green IT trends that can influence sustainability on a technological level:

* Digital enablement – Digital processes can make measuring, reporting, and verifying emissions reductions more efficient. By relying on digital solutions for real-time monitoring, businesses can have more accurate insights into their environmental impact.

* Green data centres – It’s crucial to take a life-cycle approach that considers everything from procurement and operations to end-of-life. By focusing on metrics like power usage and data-centre infrastructure – and optimising areas such as capacity planning, utilisation and health monitoring – the overall operational efficiency of each data centre can be improved.

* Green software – Adopting a green approach to software development involves tangible efforts like coding for energy efficiency and intangible considerations such as user experience, security, and performance. Integrating energy efficiency measures in the software development lifecycle, using containerisation for infrastructure-agnostic deployment and employing agile methodologies contribute to reducing the carbon footprint.

* Optimising procurement – Procurement practices should actively consider the environmental impact of end-user devices and networking components. Prioritising e-waste recycling, using refurbished hardware made from recycled materials, and considering the carbon emissions associated with manufacturing devices also help to support sustainability.

* Green workplace – Creating an environmentally sensitive, resource-efficient, and socially responsible workplace reduces energy consumption, minimises unused hardware, enhances brand reputation, and boosts employee satisfaction. Green workplace practices include minimising unnecessary video streaming, turning off plugged-in devices not in use, going paperless with collaborative tools, and regularly purging unnecessary data on a green cloud service.

* Accessibility and inclusivity – Creating accessible and inclusive digital technology involves designing, using, maintaining digital assets, and measuring effectiveness in ways that cater to everyone, including those with different physical or cognitive abilities. Diversifying the workforce and ensuring representation of digital minorities contributes to creating intentionally inclusive products.

“From data centres committing to reduce energy consumption, to individuals instilling behavioural changes, to powering off devices that are not in use, green IT is multi-faceted and involves multiple decisions at every level,” says Dube. “Sustainability must therefore be ingrained in a company’s work culture.”