Skip to main content

Making a Business Case for Sustainability in Digital and IT

How well-prepared are organizations to start their sustainability journey in digital and IT?

It’s often difficult to start, either through a lack of awareness about the problem or engaging in too much talk and little action.

However, with a greater understanding of how sustainability will make organizations’ and other people’s lives better – while supporting their business goals – we realize that it’s a problem to solve now, not in the future.

Equally, many companies associate sustainability only with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. But there are three sustainability pillars: social, environmental, and economic. And there are numerous areas connected to each pillar: e-waste, responsible sourcing, digital poverty, fair salaries and digital carbon footprint – topics that still surprise many business leaders.

ITIL® 4: Sustainability in Digital and IT is a professional guidance to help digital organizations start with sustainability.

The book follows the steps of the ITIL continual improvement model. This is because sustainability activities should form a continuous journey, rather than being a one-off initiative. The model’s steps are:
  • What is the vision?
  • Where we are now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • How do we get there?
  • Take action
  • Did we get there?
  • How do we keep the momentum going?
  • Let’s delve into the first step: “What is the vision?

Digital technologies and sustainability

The first step is to define your organization’s vision for sustainability, ensuring that it’s aligned with the overall business vision and supports the widely accepted sustainable development principles and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

To define the sustainability vision, you should know the major sustainability issues, especially those deeply connected with digital technologies:
  • Digital poverty 
    • The more that digital becomes ubiquitous in our lives, the more digital inequality and exclusion appears because of age, lack of access to IT resources and networks – such as families sharing devices during Covid-19 – knowledge and money We have to take this into consideration when designing digital products and providing services.   According to a UNICEF and ITU report, 1.3 billion children between three and 17 years old do not have an internet connection at home. Digital companies may help to solve this challenge or make it worse.
  • E-waste
    • We generate about 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste per year through televisions, phones, office equipment and laptops. But it’s not only about what to do with this amount of waste, but also how to avoid mining the Earth for precious metals needed for gadget production.  Other issues and concepts include sustainable consumption and production, responsible sourcing and general greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Conducting a materiality assessment
    • Organizations can't contribute to every digital sustainability issue at once. Instead, they should prioritize actions according to their business vision and capabilities. And a materiality assessment can help to do this. The materiality assessment – one of the major tools in the ITIL 4: Sustainability in Digital and IT module – helps the organization “to define, agree and execute a sustainability strategy based on the organization’s sustainability vision and principles.” It involves the process of identifying and assessing potential environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues that affect the business and stakeholders. It’s an important step in the definition of the sustainability vision and development of the sustainability strategy. As a result of a materiality assessment, your company will be able to define opportunities, mitigate business risks, improve stakeholder engagement, and ensure the integration of sustainability into your business strategy. It also helps to consider the organization’s position and influence within the organizational ecosystem. 
Alongside the output of a matrix capturing the most important topics, a materiality assessment report may include material issues and risks identified across the organization’s supply chain and KPIs identified and adopted.

What’s the return?

For many organizations wrapped up in day-to-day operations, it’s easy to postpone taking long-term actions – not least when it comes to something on the scale of saving the planet and civilization.

It’s less avoidable when Governments and financial institutions compel businesses to act – and this has certainly increased.

But when the push to be more sustainable is based on recommendations, what is the incentive for organizations to respond?

Apart from thinking about what type of life on Earth we want our children to inherit, investing in sustainability also makes good business sense today: improved brand reputation, cost optimization, and innovative solutions that may enable new markets and other benefits.

As well as reducing an organization’s exposure to unsustainable practices and supply chains, being a sustainable business today enhances your chances of recruiting and retaining top talent and keeping customers who choose to spend their money with suppliers that care about sustainable products and services.

Originally posted on The Axelos Blog, August 17, 2022 and written by Antonina Klentsova, Digital and Sustainability Expert & Co-Author/Lead Editor, ITIL® 4: Sustainability in Digital and IT

To learn more; consider the following ITSM Academy certification courses:
ITIL Specialist: Sustainability in Digital & IT (SDIT) - Accredited


Popular posts from this blog

The Four Ps of Service Design - It’s not all about Technology

People ask me why I think that many designs and projects often fail. The most common answer is from a lack of preparation and management. Many IT organizations just think about the technology (product) implementation and fail to understand the risks of not planning for the effective and efficient use of the four Ps: People, Process, Products (services, technology and tools) and Partners (suppliers, manufacturers and vendors). A holistic approach should be adopted for all Service Design aspects and areas to ensure consistency and integration within all activities and processes across the entire IT environment, providing end to end business-related functionality and quality. (SD 2.4.2) People:   Have to have proper skills and possess the necessary competencies in order to get involved in the provision of IT services. The right skills, the right knowledge, the right level of experience must be kept current and aligned to the business needs. Products:   These are the technology managem

What Is A Service Offering?

The ITIL4 Best Practice Guidance defines a “Service Offering” as a description of one or more services designed to address the needs of a target customer or group .   As a service provider, we can’t stop there!   We must know what the contracts of our service offering are and be able to put them into context as required by the customer.     Let’s explore the three elements that comprise a Service Offering. A “Service Offering” may include:     Goods, Access to Resources, and Service Actions Goods – When we think of “Goods” within a service offering these are the items where ownership is transferred to the consumer and the consumer takes responsibility for the future use of these goods.   Example of goods that are being provided in the offering – If this is a hotel service then toiletries or chocolates are yours to take with you.   You the consumer own these and they are yours to take with you.               Note: Goods may not always be provided for every Service Offe

What is the difference between Process Owner, Process Manager and Process Practitioner?

I was recently asked to clarify the roles of the Process Owner, Process Manager and Process Practitioner and wanted to share this with you. Roles and Responsibilities: Process Owner – this individual is “Accountable” for the process. They are the goto person and represent this process across the entire organization. They will ensure that the process is clearly defined, designed and documented. They will ensure that the process has a set of Policies for governance. Example: The process owner for Incident management will ensure that all of the activities to Identify, Record, Categorize, Investigate, … all the way to closing the incident are defined and documented with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, handoffs, and deliverables. An example of a policy in could be… “All Incidents must be logged”. Policies are rules that govern the process. Process Owner ensures that all Process activities, (what to do), Procedures (details on how to perform the activity) and the