On the back of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the race to hit net zero has intensified.

Carbon reduction and renewable energy sources are on 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 40 per cent of Australian consumers believe a company’s social and environmental efforts are very or extremely important when purchasing products or services.

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 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 the future-proofing operations so any savings continue in the long term.

There are three keyways 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 and 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 co-location services from leading providers like Equinix who are creating innovative sustainable operations can help lower power usage effectiveness (PUE), access renewable energy and reduce your greenhouse gas (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 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.

These three sustainability levers are available to every organisation to accelerate growth through tech that is responsible, inclusive, and sustainable.

In nearly every aspect of life the pace of change is accelerating.

Standing still isn’t an option. We can – and must - harness the pace of technology change for good.

To survive, businesses must keep pace with change. But to really thrive, businesses must lead it but in the right way.

Sarwar Khan is Head of Global Digital Sustainability at BT and is responsible for integrating sustainability into the way BT designs, builds, sells, markets, and measures the performance of digital products and propositions.

This content has been written by a topic area expert and is not a sponsored post or advertisement.