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Sustainability is not just a trend, but a business imperative in a world where digitisation must become a force for good.

13. oktober 20237 minutter

Sustainability is not just a trend, but a business imperative in a world where digitisation must become a force for good.

The digital revolution, despite bringing numerous benefits to the business world, has also led to significant environmental challenges. The rise of electronic waste, fuelled by the frequent disposal of outdated or underperforming IT assets, is one of them. The UK is the world’s second-largest contributor of e-waste per capita, generating 23.9 kg in 2022. This is despite regulations like the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive enacted to encourage the recovery, reuse, recycling and treatment of electronics.

Moreover, businesses cannot overlook the impact of data centre usage, which continues to grow as organisations become more reliant on cloud computing and big data. Data centres and transmission networks now account for up to 3% of global energy consumption and are responsible for nearly 1% of CO2 emissions. Given that we are generating 2.5 million terabytes of data every day, there’s a huge opportunity for businesses to take the lead by prioritising solutions that reduce emissions.

As we navigate an evolving digital landscape, it is time to understand how we can incorporate sustainability with growth in the corporate world. Sustainability reporting is now a key tool for assessing our impact on the environment and guiding responsible decision-making. It is clearer than ever that the future of business lies in successfully bridging the gap between digital transformation and sustainable practices.

Asset lifecycle management: The key to tackling e-waste

Asset lifecycle management (ALM) is a comprehensive approach to managing IT assets from the beginning to the end of their role in an organisation. Each stage of the lifecycle presents opportunities for businesses to make choices that can enhance sustainability.

An advanced ALM strategy considers circularity even before purchasing new IT devices. The first stage is planning and understanding the right time to acquire new assets or replace existing ones. This depends on factors like asset service history, which businesses can track at scale using asset management software. Procurement teams should also consider factors like energy efficiency and manufacturers’ commitment to sustainability when sourcing assets.

During the deployment stage, businesses should take steps to ensure that devices are set up in a way that minimises energy use. After that, regular maintenance and effective management should focus on maximising the useful lifespan of the assets, thereby reducing the frequency of replacements. Ideally, every device should be used to its full potential before being retired.

Secure IT asset disposition (ITAD) is the last stage of the lifecycle. Disposition should not be confused with disposal. In a circular economy, the priority is to find a way to repurpose the asset. If the asset has come to the end of its useful life, then its components may be extracted and used in a secondary market. This also provides potential revenue streams and total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits to the owner.

In either case, it is crucial to consider the joint priorities of sustainability and security. That is why secure ITAD must always follow a clearly defined protocol that includes a trusted chain of custody, comprehensive data erasure, and where necessary, the responsible dismantling of components for repurposing or recycling.

Data storage and management: A sustainability perspective

As we continue to generate vast quantities of data, the way we store and manage it becomes ever more important from a sustainability perspective. Computing workloads like data storage, processing, and transmission are demanding energy consumers. For example, just saving a terabyte of information to the cloud for a year can create a carbon footprint of 2 tonnes. That said, it is not only the data centres we have to worry about, but also the billions of devices connected to the internet.

Fortunately, enterprises can make strategic decisions to mitigate these impacts. In the era of cloud computing, one of the most impactful steps is choosing data centre partners who prioritise energy efficiency and sustainability. Solutions include energy-efficient cooling systems, improved load balancing, and even returning excess heat to local communities. Iron Mountain is committed to sustainability and achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by building data centres that are 100% powered by renewable energy sources.

On top of the physical storage of data, the way we manage it also contributes to sustainability. Effective information management involves understanding which records and other assets you have, what needs to be digitised, and which workloads can be automated to make them more efficient. For example, by digitising records, businesses can reduce their reliance on physical storage, thus saving space and reducing the associated environmental impacts. By managing data effectively from the moment it is generated to when it is securely deleted, enterprises can also safely reduce their data footprint and thus their storage and hardware requirements.

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) also play increasingly important roles in managing information efficiently. By reducing the need for manual intervention and streamlining routine workloads, these technologies can address the problems of obsolete and duplicate data and help businesses make informed decisions about their data use.

Navigating the path to a sustainable future

As we chart a path to a sustainable future, it has become increasingly clear that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices are business imperatives. By embedding sustainability into routine operations, as well as digital transformation itself, organisations can make a real and lasting impact while appealing to a more sustainability-conscious generation of customers.

To find out more about Iron Mountain’s commitment to environmentally-conscious information management, visit our website.