What is Sustainable Software and How Does it Help You?


Green technology has been around for over two decades now but has gained traction more recently due to rising climate change and global warming concerns. The sustainability and green tech market was worth $11.2 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $36.6 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 26.6%.

There’s a growing interest from consumers, investors and industries to use clean energy resources – driving business interest in enterprises and startups to employ more sustainable development practices.

COVID-19 positively impacted carbon emissions throughout the world but it was a short-term gain. Post the pandemic, the industries looking to recoup financial losses will contribute to much higher carbon emissions, damaging the environment.

So while the hour is ripe for more innovation and development in green initiatives, sustainable software has its place and time- right now.

What is Sustainable Software?

Sustainable software and sustainable software development are becoming the talk of the digital town because of the software industry’s growing carbon footprint and social responsibility. Many business and social functions are increasingly dependent on software and digital technologies- which further enhances the industry’s responsibilities.

Broadly, sustainable software addresses the following areas :

  • Ecological sustainability – The impact a piece of software- in the running and in development- has on the environment.
  • Economic sustainability – The economic impact of cost-effective long-term solutions on buyers.
  • Social sustainability – The societal impact of software platforms and applications.
  • Human sustainability – The continuous impact of software on the well-being of an individual.
  • Technical sustainability – The future-proofing of digital systems for long-term use and sustainability.

In a nutshell, software development or a piece of software is sustainable when its social, economic, ecological, human and technical impacts are minimal and it’s poised to weather changes and developments in circumstances in the long run.

The Status Quo of Sustainability in Software Industry

Organizations may often look at their networks and communications systems or IT sustainability initiatives (the manufacturing, management, use and disposal of IT devices). However, the application landscape of sustainability is often ignored.

Only 19% of organizations recently surveyed measure the energy impact of the pre-production environment- which includes the development and testing of applications. And, only 21% of companies measure the sustainability of the production environment (live applications).

A piece of software can be both a problem and a solution to the sustainability issue. For instance, blockchain technology drives advanced green technology such as microgrids to use and trade environment-friendly energy. 

However, blockchain is also behind the creation of Bitcoin, which according to a University of Cambridge research, needs more energy to maintain than the entire nation of Switzerland.

Sustainability concerns around cryptocurrencies also compelled Elon Musk to stop accepting them to purchase Tesla.

That’s just one example of how leading technologies can be the bane and the boon to sustainability- depending on how responsibly they are leveraged.

Therefore, developing sustainable software is an urgent need to respond to climate change and other major sustainability issues.

The tech giants of the world have begun already. Microsoft plans on becoming carbon negative by 2030. Additionally, 70% of Microsoft’s data centers will run on renewable energy by 2023.

Amazon has invested in 6.5 Gigawatt of solar and wind energy projects to power AWS data centers and fulfillment centers. Amazon is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

Google became carbon neutral in 2007 and wiped out its entire carbon footprint by investing in high-quality carbon offsets. It aims to run its data centers on carbon-free energy by 2030. 

Apple uses renewable energy to power all of its data centers and plans on becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Consumers and investors are growing awareness around sustainability and prefer brands that take steps toward a healthier planet. However, sustainability needs to be a strategic business initiative for small and medium-sized business owners to see ROI from efforts.

Let’s see how sustainable software helps a business.

Download the full report- Sustainable Digitalization the Next Normal for Startups

How Does Sustainable Software Help a Business?

Enough has been said to prove that sustainability in digitalization will help the planet. However, we still need to talk about how it helps a business.

Let’s dig deeper-

  • Sustainable means cost-effective – For instance, moving to public cloud could lead to better resource utilization and help businesses save costs. Factors such as better workload flexibility, server utilization and energy-efficient infrastructure make public clouds more cost-efficient than enterprise-owned data centers.
  • Sustainability leads to high product quality – The early and increased scrutiny of software products for sustainability can help create higher quality software that is leaner, cleaner and more fitting to its purpose. These qualities in a software product offset the upfront costs required for sustainable development.
  • Meet ESG targets – Green software can help businesses meet increasingly critical ESG targets and measure performance idealistically for involved stakeholders, customers and investors.
  • Employer branding – Finally, HBR research has shown that minted software engineers are now actively looking for employers focusing on sustainability, so your efforts can be persuasive for employer branding.
  • Customer satisfaction – Organizations that built a comprehensive roadmap toward accelerated sustainable IT saw improved customer satisfaction (56%) as per a recent report. Therefore, customer satisfaction is built into sustainable software development.

The bottom line is that sustainable software development isn’t contrary to business benefits and profit optimization.

Learn more about sustainable digitalization through our latest white paper- Sustainable Digitalization the Next Normal for Startups.

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