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New research
from Accenture has found organisations are more likely to
achieve their sustainability commitments through the power
of technology, but few are utilising it to enable and scale
sustainability projects or making the technology itself more

92% of global companies surveyed aimed to
be Carbon Zero by 2030. While all cited the importance of
technology to sustainability, just 7% had fully integrated
their technology and business strategies.

Groleau, Managing Director, Sustainable Technology,
Accenture ANZ said most companies have a long way to go in
designing, implementing and achieving a sustainable
technology strategy.

“The survey shows that as
businesses set ever more ambitious environmental, social and
governance goals (ESG), their sustainability and technology
strategies need to become more tightly integrated. The
problem is very few are doing this effectively and there are
a number of reasons for this.

“About a fifth of
executives are not aware of the unintended consequences of
technology, or whether the technology they currently use is
sustainable. A third struggle with the complexity of
transforming their legacy systems sustainably while 40%
believe the right solutions are not available or are yet to

“This leads to what we call the
‘intent-action gap’. That is, it’s easy to make
promises but its much harder to implement changes to
manufacturing and sales processes. Many companies set
ambitious net-zero targets but they find themselves making
trade-offs between their business and sustainability

“Advanced technologies such as AI,
blockchain, IoT, cloud computing and data analytics can help
businesses achieve both goals with much less need for

Mr Groleau said an effective sustainable
technology strategy helps drive business growth and ESG
performance and accelerates transformation by integrating
three connected but disparate elements.

Sustainability by technology
– This
uses technology innovation to drive sustainability
initiatives and transform the business model.

Sustainability in technology
– This
measures the ESG impacts of the technology itself, and works
to ensure it’s designed, developed and deployed

3. Sustainability at
– This orchestrates an ecosystem of businesses,
technology companies, startups, non-profits and government
organisations to harness technology in completely new ways,
very often by working together. It enables the ‘wicked
problems’ of this decade to be

Sustainability by


Accenture identifies
five key areas for organisations to prioritise their
deployment of technology.

1. Accelerating net-zero

2. Moving toward sustainable value

3. Promoting sustainable choices for

4. Measurement, reporting and performance
on ESG goals.

5. Building a sustainable

“The use of technologies such as AI,
cloud, blockchain, data analytics, IoT are powerful
sustainability tools,” Mr Groleau

“70% of surveyed companies
said they have used AI to reduce emissions in production and
operations. One great example of this is a global building
materials company that launched a groundbreaking application
powered by machine learning to predict cement strength in
real-time during production. This meant fewer raw materials
need to be used to test cement strength yielding a reduction
of 13,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per plant per

Sustainability in tech

It is
estimated the ICT sector’s share of our world’s carbon
footprint has expanded from just 1.5% in 2007, to 4%

However, ICT’s global carbon
footprint is heading towards 14% by 2040.Left unchecked, the
rising tide of data and power consumption, including the
rapid increase in power-intensive technologies such as AI
and blockchain will thrust carbon emissions far beyond their
current levels.

The report also notes that
currently only about 17% of e-waste collected is recycled –
while most organisations recycle less than 10% of their

Accenture says CIOs can make
technology more sustainable by concentrating on three key

1. Think net zero. Embrace green

2. Build trustworthy systems. Incorporate
privacy, fairness, transparency, robustness and

3. Institute the right governance

“A green software framework includes a
green software development lifecycle, UI/UX, AI, cloud and
data centers, data, distributed ledger technology and

“Organisations could also look to
shift the current ‘take-make-waste’ infrastructure model
to a ‘take-make-take-make’ model. This keeps devices
operational as long as possible, then reuses and recycles
the raw materials in zero-waste value

Sustainability at

Because no single organisation can hope to
undertake global sustainability challenges or create impact
at scale on its own, the report says companies will have to
rethink technology use and work together to decarbonise the
entire value chain.

“Already, 43% of
surveyed companies have joined industry collaborations,
alliances and advocacy groups focused on eco-friendly

“But delivering sustainability
at scale will need more focused attention and technology
standardisation, and stakeholders will need to see how
they’ll benefit from participating in these broader

“In turn, technology will
need to be fundamentally reimagined to help change human
behaviour, rethink how we produce and consume resources, and
rebuild entire industry clusters to ensure that United
Nations Sustainable Development Goals are met,” Mr Groleau

The report states most surveyed
companies are focused on reducing Scope 1 emissions (direct
emissions generated by their operations) and Scope 2
emissions (indirect emissions related to their purchase of
electricity, steam, heat and cooling). It concludes that
organisations will need to increasingly pursue
decarbonisation efforts on Scope 3 emissions – the indirect
emissions generated in their value chains, but not by
activities companies own or control.

“Delivering on
the sustainability agenda will be impossible without

“Making the technology itself more
sustainable is often neglected, but is becoming increasingly
important as organisations respond to customer, investor and
employee demands.

“Creating and implementing a
comprehensive sustainable technology strategy must now
become the core mission of purpose-driven CIOs. The
responsibility is huge, but the opportunity is even

The Uniting technology and
report can be accessed on the Accenture
website here.

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