The climate crisis is one of the largest challenges of our time.

This is echoed in the recent State of the Environment report which reveals the health of Australia’s environment is poor and has deteriorated over the past five years due to pressures of climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, and mining.

Australian businesses’ priorities are reflective of these findings with boardrooms dominated by conversations around setting ambitious environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

New research from Deloitte commissioned by Google Cloud found 40% of businesses identify sustainability among their top three priorities.

Yet the same research revealed 34% of businesses still don’t have a climate strategy, and of those that do, 60% have not seen significant reductions in emissions levels.

What this tells us is that there is an opportunity available to support businesses in converting their ESG goals.

And with the announcement that the Australian Government has passed legislation enshrining a pledge for Net Zero by 2050, businesses need support to achieve their goals.

Despite a staggering 97% of businesses that use cloud technology reporting positive environmental impacts, only one in five businesses saw ‘improving sustainability’ as a key benefit of adopting cloud systems, suggesting that the emissions reduction dividend from cloud is not being given the recognition it deserves.

Cloud technology can not only improve productivity, efficiency, and cyber security while reducing cost and risk, but can support businesses in achieving ESG goals and reducing strain on the environment.

How cloud can support a low emissions future

Technology has rapidly become the bedrock of modern businesses. The ability to store, recall, and organise data at the drop of a hat drives global innovation.

However, many organisations fail to recognise the environmental impact of technology and data storage.

Energy consumption from enterprise-grade on-premise and legacy data solutions is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

With businesses running their own data centres, there is massive amounts of individual-use energy consumed, both in the utilisation of the technology and in maintenance to keep them stored and cooled to run efficiently.

Alongside the financial and environmental costs of maintenance and upkeep – such as purchasing new parts or upgrading outdated systems – businesses can expect to pay a high price, both literally and figuratively, to keep their data accessible.

This is one of the many advantages of leveraging sustainability climate-conscious cloud providers.

With electronic rubbish growing at three times the rate of any other waste stream, shifting to cloud will support businesses in reducing this wastage. By removing the need for hardware updates when systems become outdated or break, cloud enables businesses to become more environmentally friendly.

With leaders searching for opportunities to quickly and efficiently reduce their environmental impact, cloud offers an attractive and beneficial solution.

Tracking ESG impact with data

While many business leaders have ESG goals in mind and actions in place, businesses are struggling to understand the true impact of their efforts.

According to recent Harris Poll research, only one-third of the 1500 global executives polled on how sustainable their businesses are had measurement tools in place to quantify their efforts.

This indicates that businesses are having difficulty determining the effectiveness of their actions.

So, how can leaders be certain they are influencing real change if they are unable to reflect on and accurately measure impact?

With cloud, this data is measurable.

Cloud technology enables organisations to measure impact and in turn, encourages accountability.

As ESG and emissions reporting continue to gain traction within Australia, the ability to accurately showcase change will be crucial to organisational success.

Beyond this, Australians are increasingly sustainability aware, with 40% of consumers believing a company's social and environmental efforts are very or extremely important when purchasing products or services.

As the strain placed on the environment continues to rapidly increase, we need to make changes quickly. Facing a challenging future where global warming is set to continue, business leaders are under increased pressure to set ambitious ESG targets, but are failing to meet these goals.

The reality is that cloud technology can offer Australian businesses a clear way forward to a greener future, by helping convert intentions to actions.

Beyond the day-to-day benefits of cloud, including greater productivity and cost-effectiveness, the cloud offers unique opportunities for sustainability – and a few basics can set you on the path.