Is sustainability ‘enough’ from a Cloud perspective?

In technology, moving to the Cloud is now well known to come with a whole host of benefits, a less obvious one being sustainability. Moving to the Cloud is seen as a sustainable alternative to having your own huge server rooms pumping out emissions.

But does it go far enough?

Let’s consider first of all what sustainability actually is. It’s almost overused now as the term to describe any measure that goes towards saving the planet. But in reality, sustainability means sustaining our current way of life. It means keeping the world the way it is without the climate crisis getting any worse. This doesn’t necessarily reflect what people try to convey when we talk about sustainability.

Therefore, we should turn towards the second option: regeneration. This is a far less passive approach, and one that Cloud providers and users should be reflecting on when discussing how ‘sustainable’ the move to the Cloud really is.

Pushing past sustainability

The idea of uprooting entire sustainability initiatives that took years to formulate and deploy is unsettling for businesses but, in truth, it doesn’t have to be so revolutionary. It’s more about using existing strategies as a baseline to then improve upon and take the next step.  

Listen to your markets. If the general sentiments of consumers are changing, then pay close attention to what they’re calling for. Past sustainability strategies were driven in part by consumers who are naturally swayed by a company’s eco-credentials. In fact, research by Hearts & Science reveals that 52% of consumers take a brand’s sustainability efforts into consideration when choosing products, and a fifth have stopped buying from certain companies due to their lack of eco-credentials. 

However, while sustainability so far has served a purpose, the concept of sustaining the world’s current state doesn’t necessarily align with the latest consumer, business and government intentions and objectives. 

As the reality of the climate crisis continues to send shock waves across the globe, people are realising that we need to go that one step further. 

Defining regeneration

First, let’s be clear about what we mean by ‘regeneration’ in this context. Rather than sustaining, there’s more of a call to ‘develop and improve something to make it more active, successful, or important, especially after a period when it has been getting worse.’

Consumers are pressuring companies to go beyond sustainability. According to a study by ReGenFriends, nearly 80% of US consumers gravitate towards ‘regenerative’ brands over ‘sustainable’ brands. Regeneration evokes action – it is naturally more aggressive, aiming to restore the environment to its former state. 

A regenerative business is one that can do more with less across all business stages, underpinned by the drive to go beyond general offsetting towards complete net zero.  

It isn’t a huge leap from sustainability to regeneration: but it starts with a change in mindset. 

How Cloud fits in

Naturally, technology will play a significant part in helping organisations make this transition. A ‘regenerative’ business model is not yet widely featured across markets, but the majority have already bought into ‘green’ solutions that are currently available for Cloud platforms and other services. 

Emerging technologies and continual innovation are a catalyst for these regenerative models; encouraging businesses to take one step further than the sustainability efforts we’ve become so familiar with. Not only is this contributing to the global efforts, but it also opens up huge competitive benefits for organisations prepared to take full advantage of the opportunity. 

Regenerative agriculture is one such example where data and technology are used to help companies protect and improve the environment and optimise their business. This is done through enhanced soil carbon sequestration, optimised water use, and other practices that improve soil health, increase biodiversity, upcycle by-products, and reduce synthetic chemicals.

Using the Cloud for regeneration practices

We’re moving past the point where Cloud can merely be a sustainable solution. It certainly helps in reducing an organisation’s on-premises carbon footprint, but it simply shifts the footprint to servers in a different location. It’s more sustainable, with less maintenance and cooling required per company, but it’s still generating carbon.

That’s why organisations need to get ahead of the curve. We need to base the future of Cloud on the concept of regeneration, reversing damage done rather than settling for what we have now.

And it doesn’t require huge transformation. Small changes in processes and technologies go a long way in making the shift in conversation go from sustainable to regenerative.

A great example of this is Cloud technology being used to reverse environment damage in agricultural tech companies through enhancing soil health. This paints a clear picture of how innovation in the Cloud, using the benefits of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, predictive insights and advanced data analytics go a long way in making the Cloud a force for good in the face of the climate crisis.

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Eamonn O’Neill is the Chief Technology Officer at Lemongrass Consulting. Eamonn is a thought leader in the IT and software space, frequently voicing his expertise and opinions to those in the sector within influential and reputable publications. Eamonn has contributed to titles including Computing, IDG Connect, Cloud Computing Insider, ERP Today, and Networks Europe and has participated in podcasts with eweek, The Cloudcast and CloudSkills.fm.

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