As if a CIO’s role wasn’t tough already. For starters, being the gatekeeper for data and systems security is dynamic trench warfare against known and unknown threats that can cripple availability, revenues and productivity.
Add in new requirements to be a strategic advisor to the business amidst accelerating digital transformation; a responsibility walking a fine line between managing stability and creating disruption while simultaneously creating demand for new skills that are in short supply.
- Learn more: Discover the Fastest Route to Carbon Neutral IT Operations
All these challenges have landed on the IT organisation’s plate amidst the usual demands to do more with less, reduce connectivity costs and complexities, create outstanding customer experiences, cultivate innovation and, be more flexible and agile with reduced technology complexity.
Now, adding to the work stack, climate change is driving a sharper focus from all stakeholders – customers, investors and employees – on environmental sustainability just as energy consumption and carbon emissions are increasing rapidly from all the accelerating digitisation.
Not simply a matter of compliance
A report from McKinsey in 2019 highlighted five ways that Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) can create value for organisations. According to McKinsey, sound ESG compliance leads top line growth, reduced costs, minimised regulatory and legal interventions, increasing employee engagement and productivity, and optimised investment and capital expenditures.
Therefore, CIOs should expect more scrutiny of the impact their infrastructure has on ESG objectives even though Gartner revealed in its 2021 CIO Agenda report, that 62 per cent of CIOs already have some involvement in their organisation’s sustainability agenda.
Gartner now advises clients to look at changing how they assess digital transformation and start including sustainability-first questions into strategy.
Therefore, IT leaders, long considered purveyors of corporate growth and success, are once again being asked to unlock this new driver of growth by identifying and building what NEXTDC CEO, Craig Scroggie calls a “social value proposition”.
Transformation driving emissions growth
Data centres represent one of the economy’s fastest growing sources of carbon emissions, creating a brand and investment risk for enterprises as sustainability moves closer to the centre of decision-making for boards, consumers and employees.
While the focus on sustainability is growing, accelerating digital transformation means the amount of power being used to run infrastructure is increasing proportionately — as is the volume of carbon emissions. Globally, data centres currently account for around 3 per cent of the world’s electricity usage and as digital transformation accelerates, the problem will only get bigger, faster. It is estimated that data centres will account for as much as 20 per cent of energy used on the planet by 2025.
This growth is creating new complexities for CIOs in calculating carbon emissions from their IT operations. Tools like NEXTDC’s NEXTneutral carbon offset program will be critical in helping CIO’s simplify the way organisations tackle this challenge.
Supporting customers to achieve sustainable digital growth and meet ESG objectives is at the heart of NEXTDC’s thinking for the future and the motivation behind NEXTneutral.
“The acceleration of digitisation in the economy feeds into growth in demand for cloud and data centre services, which in turn represents a commensurate uplift in energy consumption, and carbon emissions,” says Scroggie.
Read more: This issue is discussed in a new whitepaper from NEXTDC called Discover the Fastest Route to Carbon Neutral IT Operations
“To put their data centres onto a sustainable footing, CIOs need innovative partners who will deliver the most efficient use of power to keep costs down — and increasingly, to identify and deliver carbon offsets that neutralise the IT department’s carbon footprint in our facilities.”
Rising tide of emissions
According to Accenture, the number of large-scale data centres is increasing by 14 per cent each year — often fueled by rising demand for hyperscale public cloud services.
For CIOs, taking a leadership position early on the issue — such as ensuring their data centres operate on the most sustainable footing — represents a huge opportunity to help deliver successful ESG outcomes for their organisations.
For instance, Accenture’s analysis suggests that in migration to public cloud platforms alone, global carbon emissions can be reduced by about 53.5 million metric tonnes per year. In the report, the authors note; “This represents a 5.9 per cent reduction in total IT emissions — the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road.”
Partnering wisely and taking opportunities to offset carbon emissions wherever possible is an area where IT can play a key role.
Scroggie says “We recognised early on that spending millions of dollars to build and operate data centres is only financially viable for the largest of organisations. For most, this is neither a priority nor a core competency.
“This is the reason that data and the infrastructure it lives on has increasingly started to migrate out of on-premises computer rooms and privately run data centres, and into specialist colocation facilities like NEXTDC’s.
“Our data centres are designed, constructed, and operated to world’s best practice with flexibility, scalability and sustainability in mind. This not only helps CIOs meet ESG compliance objectives. It also drives greater customer experiences and builds business continuity resilience to face a future where we know further change is inevitable.
“CIOs will play a crucial role in limiting the size of the organisational carbon footprint of that. NEXTneutral provides a zero-complexity pathway to managing that — freeing up more time to focus on core competencies and innovation.”
This article was produced for NextDC by Which-50’s paid-content division, the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit