Most enterprises ‘advanced’ in their ESG journeys, but struggling to cut company-wide digital pollution


Nearly two thirds (63%) of UK IT leaders believe their organisations are advanced on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) development, according to new research from Citrix.

The OnePoll survey of 500 UK-based IT decision-makers within organisations employing over 250 people quizzed leaders around their business’ stage of development in terms of sustainability, as well as IT processes that enable such progression.

The findings were encouraging – with just one in 10 (11%) IT leaders reporting their businesses are at the early stages of their ESG journey. Of those who said they were advanced on their development, nearly half (43%) are also helping their clients become more sustainable as well, as part of their business models.

Over a third (37%) of IT leaders consider the environmental impact of the digital solutions they provide to their customers to a large extent. However, over half (54%) only do so to some extent, believing it’s only considered in some departments across their business. IT teams are consulted on and input into ESG reporting in the vast majority (89%) of businesses.


Cloud now the de facto infrastructure enabler

 On average, 61% of data and applications are currently hosted and managed in the cloud. As part of this, nearly half (49%) of the data and applications running in the cloud are within public clouds provided by the hyperscale players (for example, the likes of Azure, AWS, Google, Oracle and IBM). This is the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly way of hosting and managing IT infrastructure.

More than two in five (44%) organisations deploy a hybrid cloud model to access and manage their data and applications – with a quarter (27%) doing so via a private cloud. The survey also found 15% are reliant on public clouds and just 13% are now using on-premises IT infrastructure, indicating clear progression.

“The pandemic has changed the way we live and work. With remote and hybrid work reaching unprecedented volumes, there may be significant environmental impacts from our digital lifestyles.” said Gerard Lavin, Field CTO, EMEA at Citrix. “Today, as we stand on the brink of a climate emergency, cloud computing when used wisely, has the potential to minimise the environmental impact that going digital has had upon our planet.”


Long term sustainability processes

When compiling ESG reporting, nearly half (45%) of enterprises deploy in-built mechanisms that track exact carbon emissions based on usage from electricity consumption of the full lifecycle of the products/devices they manufacture or services they deliver (e.g. SaaS) to customers. A similar number (51%) estimate based on typical usage over an average product lifespan.

The research found 42% even track the environmental impact of their employees working remotely, i.e. the electricity tariff they use, with a further 39% planning to do this. Just 16% of respondents said their business has no plans to do this.

Georgie Barrat, technology journalist and presenter of The Gadget Show, said: “We so often take technology for granted. It’s now the norm to go from one video conference call to the next or logon from anywhere in the world to work. But as we access these technologies how many of us consider the effect they are having on the environment? Unlike the way we think about recycling or travel, it’s easy to think that what happens in our virtual worlds has no repercussions on the real world, but this is far from the case.”

Two in five (40%) enterprises provide regular, formal training around sustainability practices and processes. A similar number (38%) also provide training but in a more infrequent basis. The vast majority (78%) of enterprises also always or often dispose of their IT solutions in a sustainable way.

“As businesses review every aspect of their ESG strategies, analysing the environmental impact of the technologies that they use should be high-up on their agenda. This is about fine-tuning every aspect of your business so that it hits those sustainability targets and lets your organisation become the change that the world so desperately needs,” Barrat said.

Gerard Lavin added: “These research findings are encouraging, with organisations managing their data within the most energy efficient and sustainable cloud infrastructures, as well as placing a clear emphasis on broader sustainability practices. While this is a step forward, there is still work to be done to increase this figure. Alongside this, there is still a challenge in ensuring such sustainable practices are rolled out organisation-wide and are not just occurring in pockets – with technology playing a key role to enable increased efficiency and reduced impact on the planet.”