Sustainability Cannot Exist Without Innovation – Here’s Why CIOs are at the Heart of This Sustainability Drive

President Asia Pacific and Japan, Dell Technologies

The clock is ticking for businesses to progress in their sustainability efforts. The recently released 2030 Asia Pacific Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Progress Report revealed that now, as we near the deadline for the 2030 agenda, the region has made less than 15% of the necessary progress toward the SDGs. The report also predicts that if current trends persist, it will take an estimated 42 years for the region to achieve the 2030 agenda, failing to achieve 90% of the 118 measurable SDG targets. 

Accelerating sustainability is not just beneficial to the planet but also to organizations. In Accenture’s research, 48% of companies say technology-led sustainability initiatives lead to increased revenues. This positions CIOs to play an increasingly pivotal role in leveraging technology to drive sustainability efforts. IDC estimates that through 2027, 80% of CIOs will provide governance in selecting clean information technology, holding partners accountable and managing systems with sustainability metrics.

With the urgent need to multiply efforts and accelerate progress, adopting an innovation mindset will be the lever that helps organizations accelerate sustainability efforts. The Dell Technologies Innovation Index, which polled 1700 senior IT decision makers (ITDMs) and business leaders across APJ, reveals that more than one-third of companies (35%) in the region consider climate change as an accelerator of innovation. 

The research also suggests that there is sustained momentum for sustainability innovation – 52% of companies in APJ are actively reducing their overall IT carbon footprint and 40% of businesses are turning to technology to gain greater visibility into their carbon impact. 

How CIOs can innovate for sustainability 

In today’s dynamic economic landscape, the imperative for organizations to maintain their competitive edge and enhance their resilience has never been more pronounced. While technology has emerged as a potent tool in addressing some of humanity’s most pressing challenges, it is essential to approach its deployment with a keen awareness of its potential ecological ramifications. Notably, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector produced only 1.5% of CO2 in 2007 before rising to 4% today and potentially 14% by 2040. Sustainability drives innovation forward, but businesses need to tread the path of progress with a delicate balance between efficiency and minimal environmental impact, and CIOs will be leading the charge. 

For one, innovative technologies such as edge computing, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and as-a-Service (aaS) models can help organizations manage energy consumption effectively, improve energy efficiency, save costs, and act upon data insights to drive sustainability. Encouragingly, 56% of companies in APJ are already progressing in this space, embracing technology as a powerful tool for sustainable practices. In terms of aaS or on-demand technology solutions, nearly half (49%) of companies in APJ are actively exploring such solutions.  

Additionally, as digital transformation accelerates, the greening of data centers is crucial for CIOs to consider when optimizing energy consumption. Data centers are business critical for data access and operations but are responsible for significant power consumption and energy cost. Currently, 47% of companies in APJ are actively exploring methods to reduce energy use in their data centers. This is even more important, especially in a region home to many tropical countries, as they consume a lot of energy. 

By investing in energy-efficient and smart-cooling infrastructure, reducing energy waste, prioritizing renewable electricity sources and adopting best practices in the data center, organizations can lead the way in sustainable data management, setting a positive example for the industry.

While technology can help drive efficiencies, these devices will eventually reach their end of life, and businesses have the responsibility to retire and recycle their end-of-life IT equipment, minimizing electronic waste and fostering a circular economy. Dell Technologies’ Asset Recovery Services, for example, helps businesses properly dispose of and recycle IT assets to reduce the environmental footprint of the technology industry.

CIOs can help to move the needle on sustainable innovation

The benefits of sustainable innovation are twofold, generating value for both our environment and the bottom line. By integrating sustainability into their innovation agenda, companies can reduce environmental impact, enhance resilience, and improve operational efficiency. Embracing sustainable practices has become a priority for businesses to attract customers and investors and engage current and future employees. 

CIOs must remain front and center of an organization’s sustainability drive to harness technology for impact while minimizing its environmental impact. Despite the challenges, the growing momentum for sustainability innovation is encouraging. Businesses in APJ should continue to embrace sustainable practices and leverage cutting-edge technologies to make significant contributions to sustainable development.