Harnessing technology for climate change and sustainability | HCLTech

Harnessing technology for climate change and sustainability: The road to net zero goals

As businesses adapt to the rapidly evolving digital landscape, CIOs must act as catalysts for organizational transformation and integrate sustainability into every aspect of the company.
5 minutes read
Andy Packham


Andy Packham
Chief Architect & SVP , Microsoft Business Unit, HCLTech
Neetha Ravikumar


Neetha Ravikumar
Global Director- Sustainability, Microsoft
5 minutes read

The urgency of addressing climate change has never been greater, with ambitious net zero goals set by governments and organizations worldwide. However, the scale and speed of efforts required to achieve these goals are only possible by leveraging technology. So let's explore how technology can help companies achieve their net zero targets, reduce their carbon footprint, and comply with rapidly evolving regulations.

The necessity of technology in achieving net zero targets

Companies aiming to achieve net zero targets must address their Scope 1 and 2 emissions from their in-house operations and energy consumption. Companies may consider product or process substitution options to reduce these emissions. However, evaluating these options involves complex decision-making processes considering multiple variables, such as supply and demand, cost implications, potential risks, and carbon footprints of alternative products and logistics.

Given the short time frame to achieve net zero goals—usually by 2030 or 2050—companies don't have the luxury of time or resources to address these challenges manually. Instead, they must rely on trusted, secure technology that provides traceability and real-time insights at a fraction of the long-term cost.

Advanced Technology Platforms empower businesses with emissions tracking and decarbonization strategies for net-zero achievement. By providing near real-time insights, these platforms enable companies to make data-driven decisions to reduce emissions, optimize their operations, and ultimately achieve their net-zero targets.

With the release of the IPCC's AR6 Synthesis Report and the implementation of new regulations like the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the regulatory landscape for sustainability is evolving rapidly. As of January 1st, nearly 49,000 companies operating in the EU must start reporting on their sustainability efforts. Technology is crucial in helping businesses adapt to these new requirements, ensuring compliance and timely reporting of their sustainability data.

Challenges in adopting technology for sustainability

In the rapidly evolving technological and sustainability landscape, businesses recognize the imperative to adopt innovative solutions to reduce their environmental impact and drive sustainable growth. However, this journey entails overcoming many challenges, such as ensuring long-term commitment, managing complex data sets, integrating new technologies into existing frameworks, and addressing the expertise gap.

  1. Ensuring long-term commitment: Adopting technology for sustainability is not a one-time effort; it requires continuous improvement and optimization. Companies must work with long-term partners who can help them throughout the process.
  2. Managing complex data sets: Organizations often need help managing data from disparate systems and locations. Effective data management is crucial in solving sustainability problems and making informed decisions.
  3. Integrating new technologies into existing frameworks: Implementing new technology can be challenging due to compatibility issues with existing systems and processes. Therefore, companies need a holistic approach and a partner that can help them scale and fit the new technology into their operations.
  4. Addressing the expertise gap: Many organizations today recognize the importance of sustainability and have set ambitious goals to reduce their carbon emissions. However, they often struggle with the knowledge and resources to implement the right technology. For example, they might have a clear sustainability goal, such as reducing their scope one and two emissions by 30% or 50% by 2030, but may not know how to achieve it.

The CIO's role in driving climate change and sustainability initiatives

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns are no longer the exclusive domain of chief sustainability or diversity officers. All individuals must prioritize ESG objectives and contribute to making a meaningful positive difference. This encompasses CIOs as well as external partners.

As organizations embark on this transformative path, they must seek strategic partners like HCLTech to help them navigate these obstacles and unlock the full potential of technology to pursue a greener future. Working with a partner who understands an organization's business and data architecture is critical. Additionally, the right partner should generate valuable insights to propel the business further.

The CIO (Chief Information Officer) is critical in helping organizations address climate change and sustainability challenges. As technology increasingly becomes a key enabler in achieving net-zero goals, CIOs must adapt and act as change agents within their organizations. Here are the CIOs’ top three focus areas in driving sustainability efforts and fostering organization-wide change.

1. Collaborating with the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)

The first step for CIOs is establishing a solid partnership with their organization's CSO. By working closely with the CSO, the CIO can ensure that the company's digital transformation strategy aligns with its sustainability goals. In addition, this collaboration will enable the organization to set realistic and achievable targets, as the CIO will better understand the practical implications of various sustainability initiatives.

2. Data management and analytics

Data management and analytics are essential tools for CIOs in executing their organization's sustainability strategy. By implementing the correct data management and analytics tools, CIOs can compare the performance of various locations or plants, helping the CSO identify best practices and areas for improvement.

By leveraging data analytics, CIOs can create a sense of friendly competition within the organization, driving all locations to perform at their best and ultimately contribute to the company's overall sustainability goals. This approach emphasizes the importance of data-driven decision-making in driving sustainability efforts.

3. Internal measures and policies

CIOs can also take action within their sphere of influence to drive initiatives. They can consolidate data centers, virtualize applications, and transition to more energy-efficient hardware. CIOs can directly contribute to their organization's net-zero goals by implementing policies that reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption.

Moreover, CIOs can adopt sustainable practices within their data centers, reducing the organization's carbon footprint.

Sustainability as a shared responsibility

As businesses adapt to the rapidly evolving digital landscape, CIOs must act as catalysts for organizational transformation and integrate sustainability into every aspect of the company. This shift highlights the growing recognition that sustainability should be everyone's responsibility, not just that of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO).

By providing data insights to all employees, companies can help their workforce understand the impact of their roles in advancing sustainability goals. Moreover, addressing the knowledge gap around sustainability is crucial for creating a more environmentally conscious business environment.

However, the complexity of global supply chains, the need for harmonized standards, and the absence of regulatory policies can all act as barriers to sustainable business practices. Additionally, the current geopolitical climate and concerns around energy security can make it difficult for companies to prioritize decarbonization goals.

Despite these challenges, businesses must recognize the long-term benefits of embracing sustainability. By leveraging technology and fostering a culture of shared responsibility, organizations can drive positive change and ensure a more sustainable future. The key is to act now, learn from the experiences of others, and keep pushing for accelerated progress.

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