Can CIOs lead the charge towards NetZero?

As most of Europe experiences record temperatures, spontaneous house fires and water shortages, the issue of climate change is increasingly pronounced. While technology is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, it also offers both an opportunity and solution in tackling the crisis. What do tech leaders need to consider to reduce carbon and support the E in ESG initiatives?

Businessman in atlas pose carrying green globe with seedling plant on his shoulder
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NetZero commitments have always been something of a political football. The UK Tory leadership contest to see who will be the country’s next Prime Minister is a sad example of how it is being used to gain popularity, with either those that believe climate change is real or those that somehow don’t. There is little conviction. The same can be said of a number of large corporations. As a New Climate Institute report found earlier this year, well known brands, such as Amazon, Ikea, Nestle and Unilever seem to be toying with the NetZero idea, perhaps for the sake of marketing and PR.

That’s the problem. How do businesses make real in-roads into reducing emissions and avoid accusations of greenwash? The first step is accepting responsibility and we need leaders that are prepared to stand up and take action. Outgoing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim that the UK has “led the world” in tackling climate change is laughable. This and previous governments have made little, if any impact on tackling climate change.

Now, as most of Europe experiences record temperatures, spontaneous house fires and water shortages, the issue is more pronounced. Something needs to happen now and technology leaders can play a significant role in making the changes that can have a real difference. As McKinsey suggests in a recent article, “CIOs face increasing opportunities—and responsibilities—to lead transformation, particularly in achieving net-zero—or carbon negative—climate sustainability objectives.”

Technology is both an opportunity and solution in tackling climate change but it is also a risk. It comes with caveats. As the article continues, “IoT sensors, AI and advanced analytics, and blockchain-enabled technologies can be used in aggregating real-time data and optimizing processes to reduce environmental impact. At the same time, many argue some technology innovations have a cost of use as they boost demand on the power grid; CIOs need to balance those costs against the benefits of these technologies.”

At the recent IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona, this “cost of use” was discussed widely in open forums. There was recognition that the solution can also add to the problem, particularly in the area of dark data (broadly defined as the data stored by organisations that has little or no analytical value). While some dark data will no doubt be required for compliance purposes, many firms will be storing large amounts of data that they do not require. As we increasingly shift to automation using IoT sensors to collate data, this is a growing problem that needs addressing.

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