5 lessons to help you make a case for sustainable IT.

We’ve been doing more and more work on sustainable IT with companies in the early stages of their cloud journey, as well as those who are more cloud mature. As this is an entirely new IT capability for many, common challenges across maturity levels are: 

  • Proving the impact and value of sustainable IT actions at a broader enterprise scale 
  • Driving internal support for projects focused on sustainable IT

Here are 5 lessons we learned through our engagements to help you and your fellow sustainability champions make a case for getting started with sustainable IT projects.

1. Passionate stakeholders and an impactful project scope make a difference

Recently, a group of individuals from Nordcloud and an energy and utilities company successfully made the case for a project focused on sustainable IT. 

The company had just completed a cloud migration, and these individuals were curious about the environmental impact of this move to cloud. 

The project scope was therefore: to explore whether migrating to the cloud was the greener choice for the company. It required a comparison calculation of the environmental impact of the company’s previous on-premises data centres, and their current public cloud setup. 

A clear, impactful project scope helped to drive the internal support needed to get started. 

2. Alignment with the company’s ESG agenda strengthens the sustainable IT business case

External pressure to reduce the environmental impact of business activities is likely to increase over the next few years. For some businesses, factors like the CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive) may bolster the business case for sustainability initiatives. This is because the CSRD involves stricter ESG reporting requirements 

Some companies already have an in-depth sustainability strategy, such as the energy customer mentioned previously. Their strategy involved carbon emission reduction and carbon neutrality goals. 

"A few central questions helped connect the dots between the project and the company’s wider sustainability strategy. The questions were: Is the cloud truly a more sustainable choice? If so, by how much? How might this be quantified? Can this be used as reasoning to move to the cloud? 
And finally, can IT be said to therefore support the company-wide sustainability strategy? Is it significant enough?"
- Tanja Petrell, Senior Advisor, Sustainability & People Change

3. Start with a pilot, take a pragmatic approach and diligently follow through

The team began a bite-sized pilot project to compare the carbon footprint of the company’s SAP environment in its previous on-premises solution and in the public cloud. 

To make an accurate, credible calculation of the environmental impact of the company’s move to cloud, the team needed to gather relevant data in a sensitive vendor landscape.

Nordcloud’s systematic approach to project management was a key success factor.  The team consistently reported progress, visually demonstrating the project’s status and next steps to senior stakeholders at every stage of the follow through to navigate the challenges involved in the project and build trust.

4. Use the right tooling to ensure credible results

Cloud native expertise was vital to driving the project forward. Several calculation methods were used, including Azure tooling. This meant setting up a Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard to determine the emissions impact.

 The project team had the expertise needed to not only use this tooling but also cross-check the outcomes with other calculation methods. They were able to then make the output clear and visual, pulling headline data into a scorecard that audiences with and without a technical background could understand.

5. Contextualise results in the wider company strategy

Despite the challenges associated with obtaining the right data, the team was able to make a credible comparison calculation. 

 The migration of the SAP environment was associated with a 35% decrease in emissions. This meant a 13 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) reduction in emissions. For context, that’s equivalent to the emissions produced by all of the microwave ovens used in Europe for two years, or from driving a car around the world twice.

The pilot project therefore concluded that the company’s move to cloud was associated with a decrease in emissions. The team was able to show that the enterprise IT function could contribute to the company’s wider emissions reduction targets, as well as its goals to improve the environmental impact of its business activities. 

What’s your take on sustainable IT?

As this project showed, sustainable IT can be considered at any stage of cloud maturity. With a different customer, for example, the question of sustainable IT and exploring the potential of GreenOps has come after migration, modernisation and FinOps projects, as the cherry on top of an already-mature cloud set up. 

However, at any stage of a company’s cloud or sustainability journey, it’s always possible to take a step back, view how cloud fits into these goals and then make the case for getting started with sustainable IT. 

Got questions about this project? 

Or, are you interested in exploring your organisation’s sustainable IT potential? 

We can help you get started.

Reach out to Tanja here.

Tanja Petrell
Tanja is a combination of a technology enthusiast and an organisation change strategist. Her ambition is to view things both from the perspective of a single human being and the planet.
Tanja Petrell LinkedIn
Senior Advisor, Sustainability & People Change