5 ways to modernize applications for a sustainable future

By | 3 minute read | July 27, 2021

Sustainability is a key focus for many organizations—even more so in the last year. In a recent study from the IBM Institute of Business Value, 93% of global consumers said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their views on environmental sustainability and many are willing to pay a premium for a sustainable future. As IBM Global Business Services Senior Vice President Mark Foster pointed out in his blog, “The pandemic has reminded us how connected we are to each other and our planet.”

Across industries, many organizations are already taking significant steps toward becoming more sustainable. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ we should implement sustainable practices; it’s the ‘how’ that challenges today’s enterprises. As a technology leader, how can you take even greater action? How can you incorporate sustainable practices into new ways of working to support long-term environmental sustainability?

Key areas of sustainable transformation include:

  • Sustainability strategy: Embed sustainability into your business and use data insights to operationalize at scale.
  • Climate risk management: Enable sustainable development and prepare to respond to unexpected challenges.
  • Electrification, energy and emissions management: Enhance grid efficiency, safety, reliability and resilience with intelligent asset management for energy and utilities. Implement consistent, apples-to-apples monitoring and reporting methodologies across multiple sites
  • Resilient infrastructure and intelligent operations: Create more resilient, sustainable infrastructure and operations.
  • Sustainable supply chains: Reduce waste and cost by providing greater supply chain visibility with near real-time inventory views and performance insights. Require your suppliers and distributors to have the same high environmental sustainability standards as your own company.

Perhaps one of the greatest untapped opportunities for sustainability lies in application modernization. The energy consumption footprint of digital technology is vast—for example, running applications with Python consumes over 75 times more energy than on C. As modernizing enterprise applications becomes an increasing priority for organizations around the world, it presents a unique opportunity to create more sustainable code and coding practices.

Coding tends to focus on functional requirements—does the app do what it’s supposed to do?—while building sustainability in coding is what’s known as a non-functional requirement. Important, yes, but not essential to the actual performance of the application. As a result, many organizations don’t yet have a culture where developers are even aware of the environmental impact of their code, let alone discussing ways to reduce it.

What does responsible code look like?

  • Developers and architects consider environmental impact and make conscious choices about the technologies they use.
  • Designers and product owners make design choices that help with accessibility, energy consumption and economic sustainability.
  • End users are aware of the societal impact and energy consumption of the technology they use.

Whether your organization is just embarking on a sustainability journey or you’re well on your way, here are 5 ways you can adopt and embed sustainability into your application development, modernization and architecture decisions, and weave sustainability into the very fabric of your organization’s design principles.

  1. Build sustainable technology infrastructure
    Enable significant efficiency gains by moving workloads to cloud and using edge devices that consume less energy.
  2. Promote sustainability culture in your teams
    Reimagine your workflow processes and company culture to align and accelerate business sustainability goals.
  3. Make sustainability core to your ecosystem
    Balance environment needs with market demands by transforming your enterprise experience with open architecture, data and AI.
  4. Drive better energy management using DevOps
    Continually optimize software using DevOps processes with the goal of more efficient energy usage.
  5. Sustainable application development with cloud native
    Configure your applications natively for the cloud to unlock faster development and refresh cycles.

All around the world, we are making great strides in the field of sustainability. IT sustainability and building sustainability in coding is just another step in a larger journey. Your choices—both those of your organization and your individual choices—will have long-term impacts on future generations. When we all find ways to practice sustainability in our respective industries and roles, we move toward a more sustainable future for everyone.­­­­­­­