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IT and data centre industry at beginning stage of sustainability journey

Schneider Electric has revealed the results of three reports focused on sustainability in IT and data centre operations.

The results reveal a disconnect between intent and action, indicating most of the industry is still at the beginning stage of its sustainability journey.

The three commissioned studies were conducted, separately, by industry leading analysts at 451 Research, a part of S&P Market Intelligence, Forrester Consulting, and Canalys. They collected data from nearly 3,000 global participants, including the largest colocation and cloud providers, IT solution providers, and IT professionals across many segments and organisation sizes.

The 451 Research paper revealed a perception-versus-reality dilemma with enterprise organisations believing their sustainability programs are more advanced than they are as “the maturity evaluations of nearly half (48%) of respondents did not match a previous answer.”

The Forrester Consulting paper focused on colocation and found that 73% of respondents reported sustainability as a business priority for their organisation, their #2 priority overall, but only 33% say their organisations have created a strategic sustainability plan.

The Canalys research determined that IT Channel partners are investing in sustainability strategies but are struggling to translate the investment into action and lack a clear answer on how to accomplish this goal. With 61% of partners having dedicated personnel for sustainability, only a third have set ESG targets.

“The research clearly demonstrates that across the data centre and IT industry, there is a sustainability action gap – the intention appears to be there, but action is lacking,” says Natalya Makarochkina, Senior Vice President, Secure Power Division, International Operations for Schneider Electric. 

“Of course, IT professionals understand and have taken steps to address sustainability. But what we lack, with some exception, is comprehensive and supported sustainability action plans and measurable targets to create the change required to address the climate crisis. 

"These three research papers have documented a sustainability action gap and that is our collective challenge to address.”

Understanding the status of industry-wide sustainability initiatives

Schneider Electric commissioned the three independent research studies, and they were designed to help the industry better understand the maturity of sustainability initiatives. 

451 Research Special Report: Sustainability at the Edge – The Gap between Enterprise Plans and Sustainability Programs for Core and Distributed IT. The paper surveyed more than 1,150 medium and large enterprises worldwide representing more than 20 verticals and their sustainability efforts with distributed IT resources.

Analysts determined many enterprises believe they are further along in their sustainability journey than they actually are. For this group, the main driver of sustainability is business value and firms start with measuring energy usage then expand into other sustainability metrics and tools. The greatest challenges in their sustainability journeys include optimising energy usage, followed by obtaining consistent data and metrics (for leaders/advanced firms) and lacking skilled staff (for starter organisations).

The thought leadership paper from Forrester Consulting: Reimagine Colocation Strategy With Sustainability Front of Mind. Researchers polled 1,033 global sustainability decision-makers at colocation providers worldwide with the objective of exploring sustainability drivers in the colocation provider industry. The study also explored the major challenges for colocation players and where they are investing the most across the technology stack.

The paper found organisations lack a strong comprehensive strategy for the sustainability programs with only 33% saying their organisation has created a strategic sustainability plan. This indicates that the industry is still at the beginning of a sustainability journey. The paper determined that moving forward, a key piece of sustainability success will be finding the right partner to help organisations succeed. It also found that organisations that hired an outside sustainability consulting firm as part of their sustainability initiatives are 33% more likely to be high maturity.

Canalys: How can partners develop sustainability strategies? sought to understand the readiness of the global IT Channel Ecosystem in the sustainability journey by surveying 500 IT Solution Providers. The research defines the IT channels’ readiness and role in the wider ecosystem.

Canalys found that 60% of those surveyed have dedicated ESG (Environmental Social and Governance) resources and 40% expect revenue from sustainability solutions. While IT Channel partners are investing in sustainability strategies, they struggle to translate this into action, according to the eBook. The market research validates the need for sustainable end-to-end practices and solutions delivered by the IT and technology vendors.

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