UK organisations rank sustainability above innovation and CX. But 95% admit they haven’t completed a review of emissions produced by their IT, and ‘dark’ data remains rife
UK organisations are putting an increased focus on environmental sustainability, according to new research from Veritas Technologies, the global leader in enterprise data protection. 75% of businesses included it in their top three priorities, after revenue and growth, for the next three years.
This places sustainability on an equal footing to business efficiency and resilience, yet a higher priority than innovation (61%), customer experience (58%), and even staff wellbeing (30%).
The Veritas 2021 “Leaving no footprint: an open exploration of sustainability within IT” report surveyed 500 UK-based IT decision makers in companies with 1,000+ employees, across a range of different sectors. It explores the growing importance of sustainability within organisations and the changes that UK businesses are looking to make in order to improve their environmental impact.
The report reveals that sustainability efforts are also being led from the top down, with 65% of businesses saying sustainability is discussed regularly at board level, and 93% reporting that their senior executives categorise it as either a medium or high priority. This attention has already made a significant impact – 52% of organisations say they are set to meet their emissions reduction target in the next 12 months, while 5% have already met their targets.
Sustainability also features as an important consideration in decision making and overtakes several other key factors. When researching or purchasing new technology, over half (57%) of respondents say sustainability or environmental impact is an extremely important factor in reaching a decision.
This falls just behind other more pressing considerations for businesses, such as cybersecurity (68%) and efficiency/scalability (66%) but seems to be a more important factor than performance (50%) and cost (44%).
Despite this, almost all (99%) respondents still feel that their business could be doing more to reduce its impact on the environment. And, although 96% claim that their organisation has a strategy to measure the emissions produced by the business, 95% of these organisations admitted they have not completed a review of emissions produced by their IT department.
This indicates emissions reduction targets may have been hastily established and lacking in detail when it comes to individual departments.
The environmental cost of dark data
Digitisation can play a significant role in business’ sustainability efforts but storing ‘dark’ data – that is, data that businesses have no idea of the content or value of – can also consume an enormous amount of energy. Previous research from Veritas found that as much as 6.4m tons of CO2[i] was unnecessarily pumped into the atmosphere last year as a result of powering storage of this kind of data.
The “Leaving no footprint” report finds that although most organisations have yet to complete a review of the emissions produced by their IT departments, 91% of respondents felt their organisation would be likely to change how it identifies, manages, and deletes non-relevant data if that would help reduce their environmental impact.
But cost is the biggest inhibitor to this. Two-thirds (66%) admit their organisation would be less likely to identify, manage and delete non-relevant business data if it meant they faced increased costs.
“While the financial cost of dark data is regularly discussed, the environmental cost is often overlooked. For businesses looking to reduce the carbon emissions produced by their IT departments, dark data is a great place to start,” said Ian Wood, Head of Technology UK&I, Veritas Technologies. “As much as 53% data within UK businesses is dark, while a further 28% is considered redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT), and can be deleted. This is hugely damaging for both the company and the environment.
“The rewards of identifying and removing non-relevant business data far outweigh the potential costs and risk of keeping it. This data might sit quietly on servers or in the cloud, but if it falls into the wrong hands, it could wind up costing the business dearly in regulatory fines and reputational damage. Eliminating data waste not only helps strengthen regulatory compliance and reduce cost in the short- and long-term, it can also help reduce emissions and protect our planet.”
Digital transformation can improve sustainability
Although most organisations admit they have a way to go to improve their sustainability efforts, businesses have shown a desire to instigate positive change. Nine in ten (90%) organisations said would likely change how they back up their data if it helped to reduce the company’s environmental impact, while 95% of companies said they would move data and critical applications to the cloud if it would help to make the business more sustainable.
Despite this, cost continues to be a crucial barrier to change. Of those that said they would change how they back up their data if it helped to reduce their environmental impact, most also admitted they would change their mind if it meant an increase in costs (79%) or management (58%). Similarly, of those that said they would move data to the cloud if it would help to make the business more sustainable, most agreed that increased management (63%) or increased costs (54%) would change their mind.
“Becoming more environmentally friendly is often viewed as a burden– an additional challenge to consider on top of other business needs, that many firms often have little time or budget to accommodate. But digital transformation goals and sustainability goals can go hand-in-hand,” added Ian Wood. “There are significant business benefits to be attained from improving backup strategies, migrating critical applications and data to the cloud, and eliminating non-relevant data, which are changes many businesses are already making as a part of their digital transformation journeys. The added bonus is that all of this can also help companies reduce their carbon footprint and preserve our planet.”
Methodology: Veritas commissioned independent technology market research specialist Vanson Bourne to undertake the quantitative research upon which this report is based. A total of 500 UK IT decision makers were interviewed in May and June 2021. Respondents were from organisations with at least 1,000 employees across a range of different sectors.
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