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The IT journey to reaching net-zero emissions

Climate change has the potential to impact economies, ecosystems, foreign relations and food and water security, and with just nine years remaining to meet the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, it is imperative that organisations set climate targets that align with the science.

The Paris Climate Agreement set the target to limit global temperature rise to well below a 2°C, preferably a 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. Five years in, it’s clear that there is still a significant amount of work to be done. For example, the UK is at risk of missing its 2023 target, with a widening gap between aspirations and the policies to back them up. With continuing use of fossil fuels and with the world losing an area of forest the size of the UK each year, action has to be taken to reinforce commitments to change.

Governments across the world have a significant task on their hands, and in response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a ten point plan for a ‘green industrial revolution’, building ‘green jobs’ and industries for the future, as well as introducing mandatory disclosures for large organisations. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has developed a framework to assist companies with their disclosures of climate-related risks and opportunities which start to become compulsory in the UK this year, with full mandatory climate-related financial disclosure requirements coming into force by 2025.

At HPE we have carried out a TCFD analysis which links climate-related risks and opportunities with the financial stability of an organisation. This modelling confirms that the opportunities from developing technology solutions to address climate change and facilitate a low-carbon operation outweigh the risks.

The UK Government has set itself some pretty ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions faster than any other major economy. Late in 2020, they announced a 68% reduction of annual carbon emissions by 2030 (compared with 1990) setting the UK on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050. Keeping on track is a shared responsibility, and it’s crucial that organisations understand the plan for net-zero emissions by 2050 and how they can play their part in achieving it.

Climate risk evidence has also become a compelling factor for potential investors. Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of global investment manager BlackRock identifies climate risk as investment risk in an open letter to CEOs – climate change is the top issue their clients raise when seeking to modify their investment portfolios. Sustainability is at the centre of investment, so an organisation with a robust sustainability stance is more likely to hold on to and attract strong investors. Indeed, investors are starting to demand this from companies.

The benefits of IT sustainability to organisations

Embarking on a carbon reduction strategy may sound like a huge amount of additional work to load onto an already stretched workforce, however considering IT and ensuring IT efficiency can have a significant impact on reducing an organisation’s carbon emissions.

Carbon reduction strategies identify significant opportunities for cost savings. The Harvard Business Review has developed the ‘Return on Sustainability Investment’ analytic to measure the financial returns on sustainability activities. These savings will vary across industries, depending on sector-specific actions, however increasing IT efficiency using as-a-Service solutions, looking at the IT product’s lifecycle alongside improvements in waste, energy and water management will provide savings for all.

Additionally, technology can play a key role in carbon reduction. Innovations that allow more efficient industrial processes (accounting for around 40% of global energy demand) will benefit energy, transportation and agriculture sectors, making systems and processes more efficient and opening doors for developments in hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence and edge computing. As-a-Service solutions offer efficiencies, cost savings and simplified operations as well. HPE GreenLake offers a simple and efficient as-a-Service cloud solution, providing financial flexibility and scalability. Having modelled the energy consumption of HPE GreenLake against a traditional capital expenditure model over five years, we discovered a 33% energy saving, demonstrating the value that this as-a-Service solution provides in contributing to carbon reduction.

Where to start

The weight of reducing carbon emissions lies heavy on our shoulders as climate aware and responsible organisations, and it can feel like an insurmountable climb. But every journey starts with a single step, and we have identified three initial steps that any organisation can take to improve their IT sustainability stance.

  1. Educate yourself to become aware of your organisation’s IT position; you can’t do anything without data. What is your current IT carbon footprint? Carry out a benchmarking exercise across the organisation and analyse your results against scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Ensure you look at your entire value chain for a comprehensive dataset. Understanding your IT footprint will help you identify where you can minimise your emissions.
  2. What changes will achieve the greatest result fastest, in line with your time and budget? Product efficiency accounts for two thirds of carbon emissions for enterprise-grade IT solutions, so look at the environmental footprint of your server, as the use-phase creates the largest footprint, rather than the manufacture of it. Can you optimise your server energy consumption and/or run your infrastructure on renewable energy?
  3. Educate your partners and suppliers. Your supply chain needs to be on board. Assess their sustainability stance and ensure it falls in line with your own aspirations and strategy. Partnership working is key. At HPE, we collaborate with suppliers to ensure ethical sourcing – find out more about supply chain responsibility.

To help you get started, HPE has designed a sustainability calculator, providing a set of questions to assess an organisation’s ‘sustainability maturity’ and offering advice based on the results. A consultancy service is available to help with the next steps.

Where to go next

As a technology company, HPE prioritises climate change when developing solutions, aligning our goals, targets and strategies across our value chain to climate science as it emerges. Our innovation and product development are carried out with climate concerns at the forefront, and our teams promote a low-carbon stance in all the work they do. You can see our HPE Climate Policy reference guide for more information and to give you some ideas about planning your next steps.

Last but not least, for public sector organisations willing to start consuming technology more sustainably, Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) have negotiated a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for them. Through this new agreement, public sector organisations can take advantage of the agreed discounts of between 8-12% on a range of HPE technologies, including HPE Greenlake cloud services, Aruba Enterprise networking and security offerings, as well as HPE’s storage and compute technologies.


About the authors:

Sue Preston Vice President & GM UKIMESA- Services, Software & Consumption at Hewlett Packard Enterprise 

Darren Howe Deputy Director - Digital Future (Technology) at Crown Commercial Service 


Sue Preston
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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About the Author

suepreston

Sue is the Vice President & GM of HPE Pointnext Services in the UKI. With over 28 years' experience in IT, Sue delivers key industry insights and helps organisations accelerate ROI and digital transformation.

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