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Blog » Sustainability, a surprisingly successful KPI: GreenOps survey results

Sustainability, a surprisingly successful KPI: GreenOps survey results

If you want to save money in Enterprise IT, it turns out that sustainability as a KPI is more important than cost – this is one of the key findings coming from the recent GreenOps Survey, some research made possible by the recent ClimateAction MiniGrants fund 

We first conducted this survey in 2022 and wanted to refresh the results with the aim to see whether the bold climate action claims by leading tech giants are reflected in the reality of how IT professional are building and consuming their services. More importantly, we wanted to establish if our sector is moving towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.  

To get to the bottom of this, we embarked on a journey to gauge the real sentiment and actions of IT professionals across the board regarding the reality of their sustainability practices. Our focus was on the area of KPIs and targets in enterprise IT, with the goal to identify whether IT professionals are pivoting towards sustainability-focused objectives over traditional cost-centric metrics in enterprise IT. The burning question we wanted to answer was: “Within the world of IT, are environmental concerns like carbon reduction now taking precedence over the usual cost reduction targets?” 

The survey got 2,680 responses from all corners of the globe, covering a diverse range of roles.  The results make fascinating reading, highlighting changing priorities, evolving motivations, and importantly showcasing how personal commitments and ethical beliefs are beginning to shape the future of IT. 

Key Takeaways 

Analysis of responses revealed interesting trends, with the majority of IT professionals now prioritising sustainability, often over cost, demonstrating a significant shift towards environmental responsibility. This commitment is not just corporate but deeply personal, with many professionals actively seeking ways to reduce carbon emissions within their operations.  

The most important conclusion we took from this survey is this – If you want to ensure you save money, sustainability as a KPI is more important than cost!

Some key insights worth highlighting were: 

  1. Sustainability Over Cost: A paradigm shift within the tech industry, with more interest on long-term environmental impact over financial savings. 
  2. The Role of Personal Commitment: The driving force behind sustainable IT, underscoring the power of individual actions and beliefs in shaping a greener future. 
  3. Proactive Measures on Carbon Emissions: An emerging trend of measuring and actively reducing carbon footprints within IT operations, highlighting a proactive stance towards sustainability. 

This is only a snapshot of our industry, but the trends it shows will have long-term implications for the IT industry. This isn’t just a snapshot of where we are today; it’s a glimpse into the future of IT, shaped by sustainability and driven by a collective will to make a difference.  

The Shift Towards Sustainability 

Respondents were asked a simple question – “What personally motivates you the most when working towards KPIs or targets for reducing waste in IT (cloud or other IT resources)?”.  

This question alone highlighted one key finding, this being that the majority preference for sustainability over cost, with more than half of respondents prioritising carbon reduction compared to less than 16% choosing cost. This trend indicates a significant shift in the IT field towards environmental considerations. The regional breakdown further highlights this shift: 

RegionPrioritise Sustainability (%) 
Europe 60% 
Asia-Pacific 55% 
USA 35% 

These numbers probably won’t come as a huge surprise, but they do confirm the regional diversity that exists when it comes to sustainability focus, with Europe and Asia-Pacific leading the charge in sustainability efforts, while the USA shows a more conservative approach. 

Personal Commitment at the Heart of Change 

The analysis highlights just how important personal commitment is to sustainability and how it is a powerful motivator, outstripping corporate or regulatory influences. This is evident in the high percentage (75%) of respondents driven by personal values. Personal conviction, especially in technical and operational roles has a larger impact than we possibly realise. 

Leadership’s Role in Encouraging a Sustainable Culture 

Approximately 60% of survey participants feel their leadership supports their sustainability beliefs. This was a surprisingly high number with this perception varying across roles, with senior management more likely to feel aligned with corporate sustainability goals: 

Role Feel Supported (%) 
Senior Management/C-Suite 70% 
Middle Management 60% 
Technical Staff/Operational 50% 

Measuring Impact – The Rise in Carbon Emission Tracking 

A significant portion of IT professionals (59.4%) are already engaged in measuring or are planning to measure their digital carbon emissions. Regional disparities are notable: 

RegionMeasuring Emissions (%) 
Europe & Asia-Pacific 65% 
USA 40% 

The Future Landscape of IT Sustainability 

These findings paint a vivid picture of an IT sector increasingly focused on sustainability. The drive towards environmental responsibility is not just a top-down directive but is deeply rooted in personal values, generally supported by leadership, and varies significantly across regions. 

The preference for sustainability over cost, as indicated by 50.6% of respondents prioritising carbon reduction, is more than a current trend; it suggests a significant shift in the IT sector’s long-term strategy. This evolution towards environmental considerations will hopefully begin to influence the future direction of IT in several ways, with aligned trends we are seeing in practise being the following: 

  1. Innovation and Product Development: As sustainability becomes a central focus, we can expect a surge in innovation aimed at creating more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly technologies. This could lead to new product categories and services that align with green IT principles. 
  2. Investment and Funding Patterns: The growing emphasis on sustainability could redirect investment and funding towards sustainable IT solutions and services. Companies that demonstrate a commitment to reducing their environmental impact might find it easier to attract investors and secure funding. 
  3. Talent Attraction and Retention: With an increasing number of IT professionals prioritising personal values in their work, companies with strong sustainability agendas might have an edge in attracting and retaining top talent. This could lead to a more competitive market where a commitment to sustainability is key to attracting skilled professionals. 
  4. Regulatory Compliance and Standards: As sustainability gains traction, we might see stricter enforcement of current and future regulations and standards, requiring companies to adhere to environmental benchmarks in a more tangible and measurable way. This would further solidify sustainability as a critical component of IT operations. 
  5. Corporate Reputation and Client Expectations: Companies that lead in sustainability efforts are likely to enjoy enhanced reputational benefits, potentially influencing client decisions and partnerships. This might create a ripple effect, encouraging more companies to adopt sustainable practices. 
  6. Global Collaboration and Standardisation: The regional variations in sustainability focus could lead to increased global collaboration, as companies and regions work together to establish standardised practices and benchmarks for sustainable IT. 

These long-term implications suggest a future where sustainability is deeply integrated into the fabric of the IT industry and impacts decisions at all levels.  

While our survey provided valuable insights, it also raised important questions about the future. Are the actions of the tech industry enough to meet global sustainability goals? How will individual commitments translate into collective action? These are ideas we’ve begun to explore, drawing both from our survey and from broader industry reports 

My personal hope is that as companies, governments, regulators, and our business leaders increasingly prioritise environmental responsibility, that we can expect to see a significant transformation in how IT operates, adopting sustainability as a standard operating procedure and non-functional requirement. 

In the interests of transparency and supporting further research, we have made a full snapshot of the dataset and original questions available on the CAT website for your own analysis. Follow the link to download: (XLS).

About Mark Butcher | Founder of Posetiv, an advisory firm specialising in GreenOps, FinOps & DevOps, spanning all aspects of IT from data centres, infrastructure, end user devices, cloud services and software development. These days most of my time is spent helping large organisations modernise and transform their IT services, helping them accelerate towards net-zero targets and reduce their digital carbon emissions. Contact me at [email protected]

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