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Blog · 22 Apr 2022

The role of digitalisation in the race to net zero

Legally binding targets are shaking up sustainability drives across businesses, bringing digital technology to the forefront of a more environmentally friendly future.

Sarwar Khan
Senior manager, global digital sustainability

On the back of COP26, the race to hit net zero has intensified. Carbon reduction and renewable energy sources are top of board agendas as governments worldwide steadily increase regulation around carbon emissions.

Net zero targets now cover approximately 90% of the world, and mandatory reporting is shining a spotlight directly on how organisations’ sustainability strategies are contributing to climate targets.

Alongside regulatory pressures, Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) decision making means investors are divesting from organisations that are heavy users of fossil fuels, while 88% of consumers would rethink purchasing from companies that aren’t ethically or environmentally sustainable. Facing combined pressure from investors, consumers, supply chain partners and employees, organisations need to get a handle on their emissions and set firm sustainability commitments.

A shift to science-based targets

What sustainability targets look like is also shifting. Carbon offsetting, once the go-to sustainability solution, is becoming increasingly expensive, and its effectiveness is facing scrutiny. Experts predict that the voluntary carbon market will have to expand substantially – 15-fold by 2030 and 100-fold by 2050 – for us to achieve net zero. We’re seeing more rigorous strategies like the Science-based Target Initiative (SBTi) starting to take over from a pure carbon offsetting strategy.

SBTi is driving ambitious corporate climate action with targets that illustrate exactly how much and how quickly an organisation needs to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change. With these clearly defined targets for cutting emissions in place, organisations know they need to act quickly, but it’s not always clear what the best course of action is on a journey to net zero.

Twin transformers – digital technology and sustainability

The intersection of digital technologies and sustainability is at the heart of successful, sustainable business. Companies leveraging digitalisation to enhance technology and sustainability are 2.5x more likely to be among tomorrow’s strongest-performing businesses. Digital transformation can go far beyond optimising operations and creating more agile business models – it’s also a powerful part of the sustainability toolkit.

The three digital sustainability levers

At the core of the target-driven sustainability mission is the drive to use and waste less at the same time as future-proofing operations so any savings continue in the long term.

There are three key ways that technology can help organisations to accelerate their sustainability journey:

1. Minimising energy use

On premise legacy equipment is more energy hungry than a shared, virtualised environment. By retiring these & moving to a hybrid cloud environment you also shift to sharing the costs of powering and cooling the infrastructure. Plus, you lose any associated carbon emissions. Capabilities like data centre colocation services from leading providers like Equinix who are creating innovative sustainable operations can help lower PUE, access renewable energy and reduce your GHG emissions.

2. Reducing waste

A managed service that includes Lifecycle Analysis is an efficient way of creating a circular economy that chooses products that can be reused, repaired and remanufactured. Introducing intelligent network monitoring as part of this can help equipment to operate as efficiently as possible. Identifying a fault early increases the likelihood that it can be fixed remotely, which avoids travel emissions. It also minimises the extra energy consumption that often comes with faulty equipment. What’s more, a circular economy approach will include strategic end-of-life planning, identifying when it’s worth upgrading to more sustainable equipment and when it’s better to extend the lifespan of the asset. 

3. Creating a digital workplace

Digitalising the workplace is another powerful sustainability driver that can reduce scope 3  travel-related emissions and decrease the resources needed to build and maintain business premises. Technology and infrastructure like cloud-based contact centres and optimised voice and video conferencing tools secure both productivity and sustainability, keeping employees working where they live, rather than commuting into an office. At the same time, Internet of Things (IoT) and edge compute can reduce scope 2 GHG emissions by enhancing the efficiency of operational assets and resources

Partnering you towards greater sustainability

These three sustainability levers are available to every organisation, and we’re committed to helping organisations to harness them. Our BT Group Manifesto outlines our commitment to be net zero by 2030, as well as committing to help our customers save 60m tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) by 2030. We also aim to be a circular business ourselves by 2030, with this goal extending to our customers through our products and services by 2040.

Part of our sustainability initiative involves creating an enabling environment for our customers. Our managed services, alongside an ecosystem of partners, seamlessly integrate cloud and digital capabilities. The ecosystem brings a vast array of cloud service providers, partners, suppliers and customers all on-net with their existing BT network, so you can easily access the technology you need to grow your sustainability profile.

And we’re proud that our efforts have led to a Platinum rating from EcoVadis, placing us among the top 1% of companies worldwide in terms of social and environmental responsibility. This prestigious award not only evidences our commitment to the environment, social policy and human rights, business ethics and responsible purchasing, but also highlights that we’re a sustainable partner for others looking to build responsible supplier ecosystems.

To find out more about the digital solutions that can drive sustainability in your organisation, take a look at here

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