“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” — Proverb

From a business perspective, innovation is good. It makes new things possible, pushes the limits of our abilities, and fuels our imaginations so we can do more — faster, cheaper and better than before. And technology is, of course, a major driver of innovation.  

But from a climate perspective, innovation – and the technology behind it – can be seen as both helpful and detrimental. There’s an entire set of climate technologies, such as drought-resistant crops, early warning systems and sea walls, that help us adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. But our quest for innovation has also led us to embrace other technologies, practices and priorities that may be doing the environment more harm than good. 

In 2019, digital technologies made up 3.5% of global emissions, and projections put that growth at more than 6 percent per year. As our pursuit of innovation grows, so does the amount of damage we’re doing. 

How can we better align innovation with sustainability?  

So far, in our modern information management blog series, we’ve discussed information overload and how to overcome it; using AI to uncover insight and drive automation; and the benefits of simplifying cybersecurity while enhancing our ability to detect and protect from threats and recover from incidents. In this blog we’ll examine how the technology choices we make can foster innovation while reducing negative environmental impacts.   [BC1] 

Innovate sustainably 

If we make the right technology choices, sustainability can become an integral part of our innovation goals. In other words, we can be innovative and sustainable at the same time.  

From connecting with our suppliers and partners to managing our cloud and IT infrastructures to the way we code applications, advanced technologies in information management can help us reduce our carbon footprint and take us from pledge to program to results. Here are just a few examples:  

  • Build sustainable supply chains – Gain an end-to-end view of the supply chain network to identify areas of friction, monitor transportation costs and analyze trading partner performance.  Digitize and automate processes to make supply chains more efficient and competitive while significantly reducing reliance on paper. 
  • Evolve FinOps to GreenOps – Optimize the efficiency of cloud deployments while minimizing the environmental impact. FinOps solutions track cloud, software and asset spend and usage, and are well-positioned to track and manage environmental impacts as well. This means being able to measure the carbon footprint of your operations, identify areas where sustainability can be improved and make informed tradeoffs between cost and carbon. 
  • Develop code responsibly – All code development creates a carbon footprint, but creating efficient code that consumes less energy, optimizes data usage and reduces electronic waste helps minimize the impact. 
  • Transition from paper to digital processes — Decrease business requirements for paper by making electronic documents readily available to people from anywhere on any device; create a paperless environment through the active management of enterprise content assets; and access and collaborate on digital documents or online media help improve operations while minimizing your environmental impact. 

Compete sustainably  

When it comes to sustainability, it’s not just what we’re doing that’s changing, it’s also why we’re doing it. Corporate sustainability has moved from a feel-good initiative to a must-have mandate for organizations to stay ahead in business: When IDC’s recent Sustainability Technology Survey asked what business outcomes respondents have achieved by implementing sustainability into existing business operations, 60% cited improved operational efficiency, 58% cited improved customer loyalty, and 57% cited improved employee engagement.  

According to IDC’s survey data, sustainability factors have become critical selection criteria for IT buyers’ vendor selection process, in the context of purchasing technology that is more sustainable (e.g., for more-energy-efficient IT infrastructure) or enabling their sustainability indirectly (e.g., through the ESG-related functionality that software can provide). 

Figure 1. Sustainability Considerations for IT Buyers

Sustainability is a competitive differentiator that can improve operational and financial performance, which helps give it greater weight amid corporate priorities.  

Modern information management 

Sustainability is a key outcome of modern information management, which combines advanced technologies and innovative cloud strategies to connect data, secure knowledge and apply intelligence for any user, any data type, anywhere, at any speed, for any rules. Organizations that take advantage of modern information management don’t have to sacrifice sustainability to innovate, solve their business challenges and achieve digital success. OpenText solutions protect information at the scale that today’s businesses need, helping them to work smarter and gain the information advantage. Learn more about how your organization can benefit.