Opportunities and Challenges for Becoming More Sustainable in the Tech Industry: Part Two

Sustainability brings more than environmental benefits

Sustainability measures can bring more than environmental benefits to tech companies, they can help attract talented new staff, boost loyalty and provide a ‘feel good factor’.

By teaming up with skilled partners, technology companies can achieve more as they share sustainability knowledge, skills, and resources.

These are some of the important points we cover in part two of our summary of a new webinar, Opportunities and Challenges for Becoming More Sustainable in the Tech Industry, hosted by Thought Leadership specialist, iResearch Services.

The hour-long live webinar featured guest panellists, Bruno Sarda, Principal of Climate Change and Sustainability Services at EY, Alexandra Nicholson, Senior Director of Social Media and Impact at Pegasystems and Emanuel Kolta, Senior Analyst in GSMA Intelligence’s consulting team, led by iResearch Services Editor in Chief, Rachael Kinsella. Part one discussed how the technology industry has been moderately successful in adopting sustainability measures but can achieve even more over the next few years. It also exploredhow sustainability measures can benefit the planet as well as improve business efficiencies and profitability.

Ethics and other benefits of sustainability

The How Sustainable is the Technology Sector? report reveals that 89% of respondents believe sustainability is an important factor when choosing an employer. The ethics of an organization, clear vision, purpose, and values are very high on the agenda when deciding where to work in an increasingly competitive marketplace and to attract and retain talent, says Rachael. What other benefits does sustainability offer beyond environmental advantages?

People and community

Citing the findings of an impact report, Alex says the last few years have been rough for people, and they feel a lot of things are out of their control. We spend half our waking lives at work and want to know that colleagues value what they value. “What we’ve been seeing a lot is that people are asking for more because they need to see more good in the world.” Pegasystems has a vibrant grassroots program covering inclusion and sustainability, “and making sure that we can tell those stories helps our employees to see themselves in the absolute best light.” She adds, “Because sometimes it’s not about selling software. Sometimes, it’s about enabling coding skills in a community that really needs them. So I think that letting people see their work come forth in your ESG efforts is important from a business perspective.”

New Frontiers

One of the New Frontiers with tech at the forefront is this notion of measuring or understanding impact, says Bruno. Technology companies are trying to push themselves to understand all the things we do. What works and why? Then there is more of an internal focus. Historically, the tech sector was relatively male-dominated and struggled with some issues of sexism and discrimination against women and minorities. But it has been exciting to see the industry shift to focus on being embracing; not only inviting but truly welcoming to people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and new ideas. This is the fuel that powers innovation.

The power of partnerships

Another area of opportunity for the sector is the power of partnerships, Rachael points out. The How Sustainable is the Technology Sector? report shows that two out of three technology companies are partnering with companies in the sector to improve sustainability.

Alex highlights two areas of partnership. “It’s really important to work with the best out there who have specific expertise and to share knowledge. But I also think it’s really, really important to be in membership organizations and coalitions. Sometimes I may need to know something from a competitor, but we’re not going to have a natural opportunity to align. But being part of some type of consortium where we can share knowledge, I think is really critical.”

A global collaboration

Bruno says partnerships combine strengths. “If you’re all trying to solve similar things, you’re usually better off trying to solve them together, not just because it lowers cost and there is a kind of safety in numbers.” You can reduce the burden of compliance and increase the coverage across the space.

“I think sustainability has been a great platform for collaboration. You’ve seen companies that would not be in the same room on any topic other than sustainability, whether it’s to reduce HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons) gases and in refrigerant, vending machines, and so on; all kinds of other standards. So it’s been encouraging to see that level of pre-competitive collaboration for the sake of the desired outcomes, but also each company actually benefits. And so it is truly a win-win.”

Emanuel says such partnerships are important for two reasons. One of them is that sustainability is a global concern that doesn’t stop at country or continent borders. And secondly, sometimes the solution is outside a company’s comfort zone, and they don’t own the necessary knowledge or expertise or the capacity. “This is actually a win-win-win for everyone, so for the globe as well. Partnerships are essential, and I think they are going to be even more important in the future,” he adds.

What prevents tech businesses from becoming more sustainable?

In another instant online poll, webinar participants were asked what stops businesses from becoming more sustainable and top of the list are prohibitive costs and lack of resources. This reflects the findings of iResearch Services’ How Sustainable is Tech? report.

Emanuel believes the biggest barriers to sustainability progress in the technology industry are harmonisation of reporting and data gathering. Everyone assumes sustainability requires new work and a new cost base, says Bruno. They can tell you what certain measures cost, but it is not so easy to say what they are worth. Sometimes the immediate return on investment is difficult to measure. It is not just a linear calculation. For example, using a more expensive sustainable packaging may seem like an additional spend, but if it results in less material being used, there can be dramatic cost savings.

Greenwashing

Another major challenge to sustainability in technology is ‘greenwashing’. Nine out of 10 (91%) technology leaders in the How Sustainable is Technology? report say some or all companies in the industry are guilty of greenwashing – claiming a product or service is more environmentally friendly/sustainable than it really is.

Alex says that in the United States a lot of issues can be tackled through false advertising regulations. In addition, if the claims are not included in a company’s impact or sustainability report, then they should not be making them. “If you want to speak on the topic, then stop, take six months to write a report, and then get that out there.”

There is going to be more EST and sustainability marketing as part of the company’s core marketing, according to an upcoming study from Pegasystems. “EST marketing is going to become more and more important, but it’s as an expression of the things that you’re already reporting on. So I think it’s really critical to make sure you have your metrics in place that you’re communicating those and that we were putting out in the marketplace ladders back.”

Education is key for consumers and investors, says Emanuel. A marketing campaign using marginal data, which has a bigger budget than the cost of collecting the data, could be an easy target for disgruntled customers and investors. So the proper metrics and KPI (Key Performance Indicators) should be in place before a social media campaign is launched.

As a final thought, Alex points out that governmental requirements can be inconsistent. “To really drive change, we need to do it from an enterprise perspective, through businesses and partnerships.” It is also important to ensure that we all stay focused on the long-term goal.

Emanuel says this and similar webinars are very important to increase understanding and knowledge and highlight sustainability issues.

Watch the webinar to know more about the opportunities and challenges in becoming sustainable in the tech industry.

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