The Wave of a Joint Effort Makes All the Difference in the Grand Challenge of Sustainable IT

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Today, it is more important than ever that cloud and data center providers such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and us at IBM, are frontrunners in implementing sustainable IT solutions. This means introducing strategies to reduce carbon footprints and consequently cut waste. Thankfully, there is already great focus and consensus around the vitality of addressing the environmental concerns, as market-leading cloud providers continuously develop green IT initiatives. Among others, these entail the use of renewable energy, in-house innovation to improve efficiency, and identifying datacenter locations with minimized energy.  

A recent report from the IDC addresses this trend with positive data and insights from not only cloud vendors, but also companies and governments that have committed to this global necessity. The UN’s SDG #13 climate action aims to combat climate change’s impacts by targeting to upgrade infrastructures and align industries to become more sustainable, whixh has caused interesting market developments and dynamics to emerge.

IBM Cloud’s sustainable efforts

At IBM, we are proud of our commitment and initiatives to fight climate change with key sustainable solutions within the tech sector. The IBM Cloud is essential to technologies such as analytics, IoT, AI, and blockchain, and key in helping clients ensure an efficient use of IT and to meet sustainability KPIs. From a numbers perspective, the IBM Cloud also excels in terms of carbon reduction. In 2019, IBM saw a reduction of its operational CO2 emissions by 11.1% and 4.5% in total energy consumption, comparatively to 2018. Furthermore, IBM aims for 55% of worldwide electricity consumption to come from renewable sources by 2025, reducing operational CO2 emissions by 40%.

IBM's 30 years of environmental leadership
IBM as sustainable frontrunners for the tech industry through the years.

In fact, IBM won two awards from the European Commission in 2018; the European Code of Conduct for DCs award and a special award at the 10th Anniversary of the EU Code of Conduct Awards. In March 2019, IBM received a Climate Leadership Award for “Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management — Goal Setting” from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and the Climate Registry. Read more on IBM’s green IT developments over the years here.

A strong European commitment

In Europe, fortuntately, climate change and sustainability increasingly go hand in hand – perhaps best exemplified by the EU seeking to become the first carbon neutral continent by 2050. What is more, the EU has introduced several new policies and initiatives that affect cloud computing usage; e.g. the European Green Deal, European Climate Law, and European Climate Act. Moreover, the EU’s key targets for 2030 include a reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions from the 1990 level, a 32% share of renewable energy, and a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency. To reach this goal, it is instrumental that all European governments will:

  • invest in environmentally friendly technology
  • support the industry to continuously innovate
  • introduce cleaner, cheaper, and healthier forms of private and public transportation
  • decarbonize the energy sector
  • ensure buildings are more energy-efficient
  • collaborate with international partners to improve global environmental standards

Lastly, in the time period of 2021-27, the EU will mobilize at least €100bn in a new initiative to provide financial support and technical assistance to businesses, people, and regions most affected by the shift toward a green economy.

Companies and governments heading in the right (sustainable) direction

Tangible cases of European businesses and governments adhering to the green agenda are appearing on a consistent basis. As an example, Nestle UK has reached 100% renewable energy usage by signing a 15-year deal with Danish power company Ørsted. Likewise, AP Møller Mærsk plans to have net-zero CO2 emissions from its operations by 2050. The British government too aims to reduce its emissions to net-zero by 2050 through its Government Digital Service unit and has formed a Sustainable Network to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Italy, the government drives a reduction of black carbon emissions with an increased focus on the transportation sector, whereas Spain also plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The point of no return

The recipe for success is not simple, but rather complex and diverse, as IT is critical to all business operations nowadays, prompting companies to apply a holistic approach in reducing carbon emissions. Accordingly, enterprises must improve the energy efficiency of their IT equipment, datacenters, and servers. Still, the entire ICT industry is under scrutiny for energy efficiency and electronic waste creation. This especially concerns hyperscalers and large datacenter providers that are obligated to prove a green transition carries substantial effect, e.g. illustrated by an improved PUE ratio.

The IDC concludes its report with two recommendations for tech service and cloud providers in their attentiveness to climate change:

  1. Sustainable companies are increasingly favored in the finance community
  2. Regulations require commitment to meet the SDGs – e.g. the European New Deal

Similarly, vendors and cloud providers must project a consistent message through transparent actions directed at their customers as well as their staff. This should be done by extending sustainability strategies throughout all supply chains, as well as regional and local operations to ultimately put pressure on organizations that do not take climate change seriously. Yet.

If interested in discussing sustainable IT further, please feel free to contact me at

Country Manager Iceland, IBM

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