Technology has been both the boon and the bane for humankind. While it allowed us to interact socially, carry our jobs, learn and play through the pandemic, it also suffocated the planet and continues to.
The impact of a digital new normal on the planet is not entirely perceivable right now, but it does not look good so far. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2021, climate action failure is one of the environmental risks posing the second most imminent threat to our society, only after infectious diseases.
Therefore, we can’t delay the shift to green digitalization anymore. As large organizations such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft make strides in becoming greener and cleaner, startups are joining the cause.
Sustainability through innovative digitalization and sustainable digitalization are different avenues that technology startups can explore.
Why is Sustainable Digitalization Urgent?
The UN 2030 Climate Report warns us that the pace of progress is not enough to meet climate goals. We need to make shifts within years and not decades by transforming economies and businesses to green.
From a business standpoint, customers, investors, employees and regulators are increasingly pressing for sustainability. And, all parties need more than lip service to know that your business is strategically prioritizing sustainability.
Sustainable digitalization is urgent from the planet’s perspective and from a profit perspective for startups.
Read the full report – Sustainable Digitalization the Next Normal for Startups
Sustainability Practices for Technology Startups
In no defined order, here are a few practices startups can start following to contribute to the cause of a sustainable digital economy.
Engage green software engineers
Green software engineering is an emerging field of software development with a set of principles, philosophies and competencies that lead to defining, developing and running sustainable applications.
Green software engineers build software code, architecture and other features keeping the planet in mind. Green applications are cheaper, exhibit high performance, resilience and are better optimized.
Agreed upon factors in green software engineering include carbon, electricity, carbon intensity, embodies carbon, energy proportionality, networking, demand shaping and measurement & optimization.
Read the principles of green software engineering here.
Design UX for sustainability
Digital consumption causes pollution. Just as UX designers centered the user in the designing processes once before, they now can center sustainability and the planet. A simple form of this could be raising awareness.
UX designers can include information about sustainability in their software product designs to instigate responsible software use. It can be difficult to see how sending an email, for instance, harms the planet.
But if we know it does, we could send fewer emails and tie email etiquettes around planet conservation so that not receiving an acknowledgment doesn’t translate into rude behavior. This would require a cultural change which will begin with awareness.
Another way could be to include all living beings in the UX strategy and move away from human-centeredness. UX designers can become advocates for living systems so that every living being’s needs are considered in the design process.
Make the cloud greener
The exponential growth in cloud utilization has led to an accelerated expansion of power-intensive data centers, which consume 2% of the world’s electricity today but could consume as much as 8% by 2030.
Until today, solutions to make data centers green have involved hardware optimization by reducing overheated server incidences and carbon reduction by increasing the use of renewable energy that powers them.
Newer efforts in making the cloud greener can involve software interventions in the form of eliminating duplicate data or compressing data to save energy. Installing graphics processing units at the edge can mean more efficiency by breaking up gigantic tasks into smaller ones and assigning them to multiple processors.
Another way to make the cloud greener could be adopting virtual servers instead of enterprise data centers to conserve energy and scale on demand. Finally, serverless computing can help share infrastructure resources and improve code efficiency, which conserves energy.
Use advanced mobility solutions
For businesses in the automotive, transportation or mobility industry, sustainability is an understood responsibility. According to a publication by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), 75% of global CO2 emissions come from cities, while 40% of those emissions are generated by urban freight.
As we face an urgent need to reduce carbon consumption, vehicle electrification and advanced mobility solutions can help in this area. With more users leveraging online shopping and delivery services, smart mobility solutions become more critical.
Smart mobility may include using EVs for urban freight, utilizing IoT for several use cases where efficiency of vehicles can be increased and using AI for autonomous self-driving EVs.
For an e-commerce business, smart mobility may mean making operations more efficient and using a delivery partner who is more sustainable and planet-conscious.
Measure, demonstrate and improve
Just like any other business goal or objective, sustainability is measurable. Sustainability software help organizations control their impact on the environment, promote social responsibility and comply with regulations on recycling, renewable energy and emissions.
A sustainability software can help assess related data, measure the environmental impact of your operations status quo and prioritize areas that most impact the environment that could also hold strategic business significance.
When sustainability metrics get measured, they can be demonstrated for business growth and improved upon.
The concept of sustainability is based on three key pillars- the ecological, economic and social impact of actions. We believe that startups can gain a headstart on sustainability which will pave their way to greater and cleaner success.