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The dark cloud of environmental challenges around the world has a silver lining: rapidly advancing technology is making it easier for organizations to realize their sustainability ambitions by reducing their energy consumption and better managing their resources.

The convergence of IoT devices, private 5G networks and edge computing is providing a wealth of data and insights that organizations can use to achieve a variety of sustainability goals.

For example, smart buildings conserve energy by automatically switching equipment on only when needed.  The same technology can show where and when resources like water and electricity are being consumed, for smarter management of waste and resource costs.

But, while technology offers solutions for sustainability, we can’t allow it to be part of the problem. What happens to defunct hardware? Have you considered the embedded carbon cost of these devices, including the mining of resources and the manufacturing and transportation of components? The answers to these questions lie in authentic conversations about the responsible adoption of technology.

The complexity of ewaste management

Reducing, reusing and recycling are common strategies to minimize energy consumption and emissions. For instance, you can replace desk phones with digital collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, and segmenting employees’ phones allows for personal software installation while protecting work-related software and eliminating the need to buy additional smartphones.

Similarly, eSIMs allow your employees to make and receive work calls through their personal phones’ native dialler without having to keep a second company device charged. The gains made in energy savings add up quickly across a large organization.

However, ewaste management goes beyond these measures. Technology relies on rare-earth metals and minerals, and traditional smelting methods consume significant energy. Innovative new approaches like biomining, which extracts valuable metals using microorganisms, hold promise but are still in their early stages.

With only 15% of ewaste being properly mined, according to NTT DATA’s Sustainability Report 2023, a game changer for the technology sector would be to develop a closed loop for recovering increasingly rare minerals without releasing toxic elements and creating excess energy demands.

Design for circularity

Sustainability cannot happen in isolation; organizations must adopt a holistic approach – and it helps to ask a third-party expert to evaluate your technology environment.

At NTT DATA, we practice sustainability – for ourselves and for our clients – by designing with circularity in mind: we understand our clients’ needs and design solutions that maximize hardware efficiency and reduce costs.

For example, planning for the reuse of devices at the end of their lifecycle can improve data security through efficient data wiping while promoting sustainability, and addressing unnecessary data storage can significantly reduce power consumption. According to our 2023 sustainability report, 60% of organizations say much of their stored data goes unused.

Similarly, software-defined networking can reduce the amount of hardware a client needs through the virtualized, flexible and dynamic configuration of devices. Network analytics can provide insights into energy and incident management as well as the optimal time to upgrade or decommission hardware.

Consider overall impact versus an immediate, short-term need

Rather than seeking quick technology fixes, you should take a step back and assess your technological environment from a long-term sustainability perspective. Reevaluate your resource usage, reduce physical hardware to minimize embodied levels of carbon and find ways of managing your technology sustainably. In doing so, you can make meaningful progress toward your sustainability goals.

When we talk to clients, we focus on practical solutions. Instead of urging them to make grand changes, we address specific issues such as reducing their data footprint or streamlining their device needs (like having one phone per employee instead of two). The goal is to initiate meaningful conversations about their broader objectives while finding ways for them to use less hardware without affecting key operational metrics.

While the journey through sustainable transformation is not easy, the rewards will help us all achieve new heights of prosperity in our industries and communities. We’re ready. Are you?


Read more about NTT DATA’s Technology Solutions to see how technology lifecycle management can make a big difference in minimizing your environmental impact.