The technology helping businesses go green

With a scorching two-month heat wave following the icy cold Beast from the East, it’s been hard to avoid climate change in the UK. Globally, forest fires in California, Cape Town’s water shortage crisis, and an abnormally heavy monsoon season in Kerala are further signs that the weather is becoming less predictable. While awareness about climate change and the environment has been steadily rising, it’s only been in the last few years where we’ve seen governments and enterprises take serious action. The introduction of 5p shopping bags, electric cars, the replacement of plastic straws with green alternatives, and WeWork not expensing meals that contain meat are just a few examples.

But it’s not just large corporations and governments jumping on the green bandwagon. Smaller businesses and entrepreneurs are also playing their part, with cycle to work or public transport schemes being offered, energy saving light bulbs installed, and employees being encouraged to recycle.

Often overlooked in favour of these more traditional processes, is the impact of technology in cleaning-up the enterprise. In fact, with the energy footprint of technology already accounting for approximately seven per cent of global electricity, a number which is set to rise further, it’s critical that businesses understand where technology can be a force for good, and how it can be used to go green and reduce their carbon footprints instead of increasing them.

Here are three ways technology can help business leaders adopt a more eco-friendly work environment:

Cloud-based computing

Businesses are increasingly adopting cloud-based solutions in favour of on-premise systems, in order to make the most of a range of benefits including scalability, pay-as-you-go pricing, and the ability to pick and choose applications without having to purchase an entire infrastructure. In other words, companies are able to create bespoke systems at a fraction of the cost. But another, less talked about benefit of cloud computing, is that it’s on the whole far greener.

Managing, storing and processing data on a local server consumes far more energy, so switching operations to a public cloud will reduce the company’s electricity consumption, and in turn, their carbon emissions. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated that moving business software such as CRM, ERP and email to the cloud would lower the total energy consumption of these applications by 87 per cent.

Paperless offices

Switching to the cloud can also reduce the amount of paper printed in offices, as the technology encourages a more digital environment. Even with recycling schemes in place, using paper translates to cutting down trees, which is a key factor in keeping the earth green.

As well as cloud computing, there are several inexpensive tools that businesses can invest in to cut down the amount of paper they use. Project management software like Asana, Trello and Evernote can help do away with to-do-lists and notepads while having the added impact of fostering a more collaborative working environment. Similarly, e-signature solutions like DocuSign and OneSpan Sign allow companies to securely bypass the need to print paper for a signature while remaining compliant with regulations.

Not only can these tools help companies to be more green, but they can also boost productivity among employees and reduce running costs for businesses.

Remote working

Going paperless and adopting cloud technology also give employees the opportunity to work remotely, as long as they’re supported by the right tools.

The way we work is changing, and won’t slow down any time soon. 9-5 working days and in-person meetings are fast becoming a thing of the past. The gig economy is also booming, and more companies than ever are adopting flexible working schemes and remote-first cultures. Collaborative workspaces are a by-product of this change in working culture, as smaller business and entrepreneurs no longer feel the need to have a permanent workspace.

To encourage remote working, many enterprises are investing in video conferencing tools, allowing them to span geographical borders and international time zones, as well as bringing together far-flung remote working employees. Collaboration tools are already fostering remote working, but as they become more advanced, this small shift has the potential to become seismic, so companies need to keep their fingers on the button to stay ahead.

Not only are these trends providing employees with a better work-life balance, but they’re also having a huge impact on carbon footprints. Working remotely, be it every day, or once a month, means employees are commuting less and cutting down on carbon emissions. And, if employees are working from home, energy costs within an office can be reduced. Smaller office spaces can be rented, which in turn means less energy on lights, heating, air-conditioning and so on. Introducing a scheme whereby all employees work from home on a Friday would cut the weekly office energy consumption by 20 per cent, which is a significant amount.

A recent study revealed that growth topped the list for CEO business priorities in 2018 and 2019. And part of this involves looking forward and understanding that the nature of how we work is evolving. Business leaders are already changing and upgrading the structure of their companies; remote first organisations and decentralised companies are becoming more common. Similarly, investment in technology to support these changes is becoming more urgent for companies who don’t want to fall behind their competitors.

For the environmentally conscious entrepreneurs, these changes are also allowing them to make a difference to climate change not just in their personal lives, but in the workplace too. Video-conferencing technology, collaborative workplaces, on-demand webinars, not only allow businesses to digitally transform, but also contribute to the fight against climate change and global warming.

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