Dialogue Series

What Tech Companies Need to Know About the Role of Sustainability in Business


Technology has revolutionized every aspect of life — this is no exaggeration. It was not too long ago that paper documentation was the gold standard for logging and storing critical business information, yet it seems like an archaic practice by today’s standards. Even in the last few years, we have witnessed a rapid rise in cloud native computing that allows developers to design and deploy applications faster than ever before.

Innovations such as these are proof that there is no limit on what technology leaders can achieve. However, it is important to keep in mind that the world around us is also undergoing rapid adjustments due to climate change. As the CEO of EARTH 51, a sustainability think tank, it’s my responsibility to ensure that our forward-thinking leaders are just as focused on the health of the entire planet as they are on the success of their organizations.

The truth is that sustainable business practices benefit organizations more than you might expect. In this episode of DevSecTalks, I met with host Ashley Ward to chat about the role of sustainability in business today as well as the steps that technology leaders can take to start lessening their environmental impact.

The Role of Sustainability In Business Success

Many organizations have made a commitment to sustainable computing. This is not merely a PR play or a strategy to address climate change that’s completely disconnected from the organization itself — there is very real evidence that illustrates the benefits of prioritizing sustainable business practices.

1. Improves Profitability

Today’s organizations need to recognize that they play a significant role in impacting local and global communities through their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. While it sounds counterintuitive, thinking beyond profitability in this way can improve your bottom line. According to research from Accenture, companies that are focused on both technology and sustainability are 2.5 times more likely to outperform companies that don’t.

Access to financial capital is also more readily available to organizations that commit to improving their sustainability efforts. Larry Fink, CEO of investment firm BlackRock, made waves a few years ago for clearly stating that climate change is now a key factor used in evaluating investment assessments. This sentiment remains true for the financial founder; in his most recent letter to CEOs, Fink writes, “Access to capital is not a right. It is a privilege”

Consumers themselves are eager to support companies that are focused on sustainable business practices as well. A recent survey from Investopedia found that 67% of polled investors plan to invest more in companies that are prioritizing ESG initiatives over the next five years.

2. Attracts Employees

Similar to the way that salary and benefits are taken into consideration, prospective employees also evaluate a company’s stance on environmental and social justice issues before accepting a new position. A survey of 2,000 UK office workers reveals that 65% of respondents are more likely to work for companies that have strong environmental commitments.

There is even evidence to suggest that focusing on sustainable business practices helps to promote employee loyalty. According to research from Deloitte, purpose-oriented companies, such as those focused on sustainability and social justice, have 40% higher levels of workforce retention than competitors. Knowing many individuals have resigned throughout the “Great Resignation,” this fact cannot be ignored.

3. Breeds Technological Innovation

It is also important to remember that facing resource constraints and complex problems fuels innovation more than just about anything else. After all, there is a reason for the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

We are already seeing promising innovations that can benefit our changing world:

  • Agricultural solutions that use both land and water more efficiently
  • Personal and public transportation that leverage renewable fuel sources
  • Alternative banking and lending tools that enable better financial security for low-income individuals

There truly is no telling what advances could be on the horizon.

How Technology Leaders Can Start Reducing Carbon Emissions

Taking steps to become carbon neutral is a must for today’s technology companies, but it can feel quite intimidating. A huge part of what we do at EARTH 51 is show organizations what they can do to start reducing their carbon footprints.

Typically, we break it down into three categories of greenhouse gas emissions:

Scope 1 — These are direct emissions from your organization, which also means they’re ones you can most easily control. Businesses can reduce these emissions through relatively straightforward tactics such as turning off the lights when they’re not in use and leveraging shades rather than purely air conditioning to offer temperature control.

Scope 2 — These are indirect emissions from sources that are owned by your organization. A few examples of ways to reduce these emissions include incentivizing employees to transition to electric vehicles or sourcing your purchased electricity from a provider that uses renewable energy.

Scope 3 — These emissions are from sources that aren’t owned or controlled by your organization but are related to the activities you do. These very often come from the supply chain and are responsible for a huge portion of an organization’s carbon footprint. Reducing your impact here really requires strategic decisions and establishing best practices to ensure you’re working with suppliers that meet your standards related to everything from fair labor practices to responsible water usage.

Continue the Journey Toward Sustainability With EARTH 51

As you can see, the role of sustainability in business is both to improve organizations themselves and shape a better planet for everyone. EARTH 51 aims to help companies around the world achieve this by using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a blueprint and providing guidance for reaching sustainability goals.

In 2019 and 2020, EARTH 51 helped nearly 40 clients across 14 countries thread sustainability into their organizational DNA. Ultimately, we want to change the way technology and business leaders think about how they operate so that sustainability becomes an intrinsic focus.

To learn more about EARTH 51’s mission, the success clients have seen, and opportunities to get involved, be sure to visit the website.

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